Study: Online Education Outperforms the Classroom

Online education is gaining momentum. Advances in technology have allowed for better course presentation and professor communication. Many employers now see online education as being on par with a traditional campus education. Now, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, titled “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies,” suggests that online education may be even more effective than a classroom education.

The study found that learners who either took part or all of their classes online performed better, on average, than learners who were taking the same classes in a classroom setting. Online learning takes students out of the classroom without sacrificing quality instruction. Rather than requiring learners to meet in a classroom at a fixed time every week, those enrolled in an online program participate in their classes at any time and on any computer with Internet access. Instead of sitting in an auditorium with other classmates, the learner can be sitting in a home office and still communicate with his or her professor and classmates through e-mail or instant messages. Lectures and other reading materials are viewed online and assignments are completed online as well.

The success of online education can be attributed to the more relaxed conditions in which students learn, the study suggests. Online students tend to spend more time taking in their material than classroom students as they are not beholden to the professor’s lecture pace or class time restraints. Instructors of online programs are also more likely to spend a great amount of time working on how to design a class in order to ensure that students can grasp the material at home, the Chronicle of Higher Education asserts. This forces instructors to present the material in a clear and concise way, which invariably allows for better learner understanding. This contrasts with classroom instructors who may rely too much on their students to ask for clarification if the lecture material is too complex.

The study shows that online education is indeed an excellent way to provide instruction to adults who cannot sacrifice the time necessary for a traditional educational experience. In fact, online education can also be beneficial to those who simply desire an alternative means of learning. This revelation can be seen in action as traditionally campus-based institutions, including Ivy League and Public Ivy schools, are now offering distance education options. As more people begin to recognize the value of a college degree, online education will be there to help them achieve their higher education goals.

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