According to US Department of Education study students who took “blended” courses — those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction — appeared to do best of all.

The study finds this after detailed review of 51 high quality research reports out of over 1000 research studies. Looking at in detail, the key points are:

  • Online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning.
  • The positive results appeared consistent (and statistically significant) for all types of higher education, undergraduate and graduate, across a range of disciplines.
  • Using technology to give students “control of their interactions” has a positive effect on student learning, however. “Studies indicate that manipulations that trigger learner activity or learner reflection and self-monitoring of understanding are effective when students pursue online learning as individuals”.
  • The report attributes much of the success in learning online (blended or entirely) not to technology but to time. “Studies in which learners in the online condition spent more time on task than students in the face-to-face condition found a greater benefit for online learning”.

I personally believe it’s the last two points which give the cues. Effectively, technology enables students to understand where they are and what they need to focus. The “power of knowing” enables people to be more engaged, focused, and effective, resulting in more productive effort and outcome.

The study focuses on higher education. For K-12, I believe similar results can be achieved by leveraging technology as enabler to inform teacher, tutors and parents about where the students stand. The “power of knowing” will bring more engagement from parents, targeted and focused effort from teachers, resulting in similar positive outcome.