More rigorous research needed into student outcomes in online and hybrid courses

March 17, 2015

US-based nonprofit Ithaka S+R has published a new study that claims there are "no significant differences" in student outcomes between courses offered face-to-face and those offered in an online or hybrid format. The report, produced by analyst D Derek Wu, examined 12 recent studies of learning outcomes in online and hybrid courses. Wu notes that "there remains a dearth of rigorous research" in this area, and that just one of the studies he examined employed a randomized controlled trial. In total, 3 of the studies are described by Wu as being "more methodologically robust"; each of these found that students in online or hybrid courses performed no differently or only marginally worse than students in face-to-face sections. Wu argues that future research on the effectiveness of various modes of delivery should concentrate in 4 areas: cost implications, individual features' impact on outcomes; online upper-level and humanities courses; and long-term results such as graduation and retention rates. Inside Higher Ed | Ithaka Summary | Full Report