New report on on-line learning from US Dept of Ed

August 11, 2009 at 10:36 am 2 comments

A new report from the US Department of Education is touting the effectiveness of on-line courses as compared to face-to-face classes.  Note that there’s a significant flaw in the meta-analysis, which appears in the Dept of Ed report (page xvii in the Executive Summary), but not in the “Inside Higher Ed” article: The meta-analysis did not consider failure/retention rates, because too few of the studies controlled for failure rates.  Another meta-analysis that appeared in “Review of Educational Research” a couple years ago found that on-line courses have double the failure rates of face-to-face classes.  If you flunk out twice as many students, yes, you do raise the average performance since you have fewer students left and they’re the ones who scored higher.  Face-to-face classes have the advantage of being a regular constant pressure to stay engaged, to keep showing up.

The grand challenge of on-line learning is how to motivate the students to complete the course without raising costs (e.g., through the teacher spending more time on-line, through production of higher-quality materials, etc.)

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Questioning the report that High School CS is declining Chemistry is to Biology as X is to Computing

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