Advances in educational technologies in the past two decades have made it possible for institutions to incorporate online learning into their curriculum. During the past 10 years, post-secondary institutions have witnessed a significant growth in enrolment of students in online courses. The estimated number of students taking at least one online course grew from 1.6 million in 2002 to 4.6 million in the fall of 2008 (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010). As online learning became popular among students, a few institutions became interested in integrating online technologies into their traditional face-to-face curriculum. In a comprehensive meta-analysis sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the combination of online and face-to-face learning designs (i.e., blended learning) was found to be more effective than online education alone, thus providing a rationale for the implementation of technology into face-to-face learning environments (Means et al., 2010).
Can the findings be generalized from higher education to corporate settings? Absolutely!! In any organization, learning strategies depend on effective learning systems and in the past few years blended learning has been shown to be the most effective instructional method available today. Blended learning can revolutionize training and learning development in organizations, and can maximize the personal productivity of both managers and employees.
I strongly believe that learning is an investment and not necessarily a cost. Many organizations may view blended learning just as another learning system that may or may not improve their bottom line. Without any evidence, learning consultants may have a very difficult time convincing senior consultants and managers that blended learning can be much more effective than face-to-face or online learning instructions.
Perhaps findings from published studies may turn those senior consultants and managers into believers! However, before jumping into blended studies, I am going to critically analyze the studies that have compared the learning outcomes of traditional students (enrolled in face-to-face classrooms) to online students. Since online and face-to-face environments lay the foundation for blended learning, investigating the effectiveness of each environment may provide insights into the possible benefits and drawbacks that are associated with blended learning settings. The next post will provide a brief overview of learning effectiveness in face-to-face and online learning environments.
Means, B., Toyama,Y., Murphy. R., Bakia, M., and Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-analysis and Review of Online-learning Studies. US Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service: Washington, DC.