Thursday, August 27, 2009

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom....

An article from The NY Times has summarised the findings of a 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education (US). The key findings are:

"Over the 12-year span, the report found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses. The analysis for the Department of Education found that, on average, students doing some or all of the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. That is a modest but statistically meaningful difference."

I must admit that I haven't as yet read the report in full. However, yesterday (26th August 2009) I participated in a really thought-provoking session run by The Centre for Teaching and Learning Innovation: TPA around literacies and the huge range of 'texts' we interact with and, visual, audio, written, academic, multimodal. The conversation covered a variety of topics, and as the session progressed a couple of things occurred to me. Firstly, a lot of the participants seemed to think of digital literacies as basic ICT skills (i.e. turning on a computer, file management etc) - and by doing so, there was little recognition of the potential offered by digital literacy around empowerment, meaning making, scaffolding, communication, and building social networks. Take, for example, the opportunity to encourage, value and celebrate Freshman students' text creation (no matter what media they are using) - their identity, world view, culture, experiences and ideas - and how this might then be incrementally linked through activities such as reflection, to Higher Order thinking skills and research. Also, if words are most effective when they create images which in turn resonate with our emotions, the use of graphics, video and audio could offer opportunities to scaffold learners who are not fluent in print literacy, thereby supporting and embracing those learners who have previously been excluded from further and higher education.

I will, however, be studying the report to see if there are any recommendations around design, facilitation, assessment and evaluation that achieves the level of effectiveness and engagement indicated by the results of this study....

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