The Department of Education analyzed 46 studies comparing online learning to face-to-face education and concluded that “blended learning,” or program that utilize both online and face-to-face learning, is more effective than using one method alone.
From the Department of Education press release:
The meta analysis showed that “blended” instruction – combining elements of online and face-to-face instruction – had a larger advantage relative to purely face to face instruction or instruction conducted wholly online. The analysis also showed that the instruction conducted wholly on line was more effective in improving student achievement than the purely face to face instruction. In addition, the report noted that the blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions.
From the authors’ discussion section of the study:
That caution [not to assume that an effect is due to a given medium] applies well to the findings of this meta-analysis, which should not be construed as demonstrating that online learning is superior as a medium. Rather, it is the combination of elements in the treatment conditions, which are likely to include additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for collaboration, that has proven effective. The meta-analysis findings do not support simply putting an existing course online, but they do support redesigning instruction to incorporate additional learning opportunities online.
Read Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies (2009).
The department noted that this new meta-analysis goes against previous studies, which generally found that online and face-to-face education methods were comparable in their learning effectiveness.