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Evaluation of Evidence Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Dept of Education 2009

Abstract: A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes-measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation-was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face. Analysts noted that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions. This finding suggests that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se. An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K-12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K-12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).

Broadband Plan Recommendations

Department Seeks Broad Input for New National Education Technology Plan

FOR RELEASE: May 23, 2003

The U.S. Department of Education today announced that it is calling for broad participation and input from a wide array of education stakeholders in crafting a new National Education Technology Plan, as required by the recently enacted No Child Left Behind law.

The department is actively seeking advice from a variety of constituencies in education, especially students, parents, K-12 educators, colleges and university leaders, and business and industry. Individuals and organizations are being asked to identify and communicate to the Department of Education their top issues, priorities, concerns, and barriers that need to be addressed for technology to improve teaching and learning in the 21st century. Interested parties can give their input by visiting the National Education Technology Plan's Web site at, and clicking on the "Participate in the Plan" link.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige said the long-range plan has a sharp focus on students. "The plan will center on how to help students as they grow up being exposed to various technologies," he said. "As technology continues to be an important part of children's lives outside of school, it is shaping their expectations of what school will be like. The National Education Technology Plan intends to explore this trend and the implications for creating digital age educational opportunities to match the expectations of digital age students."

The department's plan will serve as a valuable tool for education leaders to set a strategic direction to meet the demands of life and work in a future that will continue to change as a result of technology.

"This effort will set new priorities and actions that all stakeholders can rally behind to ensure technology is being used effectively to prepare students for their future, not our past," Paige added. "Technology provides new ways of explaining and enhancing educational opportunities for students. When used effectively, technology can help prepare our nation's children succeed in the 21st century."

"But first we want input from a variety of sources," said John Bailey, director of educational technology at the department. "More opportunities to provide comments and recommendations will occur once the priorities have been identified. Ultimately, this feedback will ensure that policymakers at all levels of government can understand how to use technology effectively and how states can employ technology to help meet the goals of No Child Left Behind."

The No Child Left Behind Act charges the secretary of education with developing the nation's third National Education Technology Plan. The plan will establish a national strategy supporting the effective use of technology to improve student academic achievement and prepare them for the 21st century. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the progress our nation has made as a result of a decade of increased federal, state, local and private investments in connecting classrooms to the Internet, providing students with computers, and equipping teachers with the skills they need to use technology as an instructional tool.

No Child Left Behind is the landmark education reform law designed to change the culture of America's schools by closing the achievement gap, offering more flexibility, giving parents more options and teaching students based on proven education practices. For more information on No Child Left Behind, visit

By July 1st, please send any input by email to or by fax to 202-401-3941.

The Distance Education Demonstration Program. Dept of Ed

"Over the past several years, there has been rapid growth in the number of institutions providing courses and degree programs in various modes of distance education. Hundreds of thousands of students are currently taking distance education courses that utilize a variety of methods of delivering instructions from the most basic (print) to the most technologically sophisticated (Internet).

"Currently, the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, and the implementing regulations contain provisions that restrict or limit the provision of Title IV Student Financial Assistance in distance education programs. These include limitations on the amount of distance education (telecommunications and correspondence courses) an institution may offer and retain its eligibility to participate in Title IV Programs. Also, requirements relating to program length are very difficult to apply in programs that are self-paced or offered in time frames that deviate from standard semesters or quarters.

"The Distance Education Demonstration Program is not a grant program. It was authorized in the 1998 Higher Education Amendments to determine the statutory and regulatory requirements that should be altered to provide greater access to distance education programs. In authorizing the Program, the Congress recognized the importance of the growing trend toward distance education as an option to on-campus study and its potential for increasing access for some groups of students. At the same time, the Congress wished to proceed cautiously in amending the statute. Most of the restrictions on the growth of distance education were placed in the HEA in response to perceived abuses of Title IV Student Financial Assistance, particularly abuses relating to program quality. As a result, the legislation establishes that a primary purpose of the program is to test the quality and viability of expanded distance education.

"The program legislation authorized the Secretary to waive specified statutory and regulatory requirements for up to 15 participants selected in the first year of the program, which began on July 1, 1999. Additional participants were selected to join the program in its third year beginning July 1, 2001. Currently there are 24 participants, involving over 100 institutions from 20 states and the District of Columbia."

Report on Copyright and Digital Distance Education   (version: pdf )

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