Three Categories of Studies that Every E-Learning Professional Should Know

In this blog i am going to critically analyze students’ academic performance in online and face-t0-face learning environments.  Research examining the effectiveness of online technology on students‘ learning outcomes has grown dramatically in the past few years. Generally, research in the effectiveness of online technology has been dominated by what is known as comparison studies. These studies compare online learning with traditional face-to-face classroom instructions and usually fall under one of the following categories:

1. Studies that take a neutral stand on the issues of learning effectiveness and propose that there are no significant differences between the learning outcomes of online and face-to-face students.

2. Studies that report online learning is better than face-to-face learning since online instructions allow students to exercise high degrees of control and flexibility over their learning processes.

3. Studies that report face-to-face learning is better than online learning since online instruction may hinder online students‘ academic outcomes. 

In recent years, research has been trying to understand whether environmental characteristics may influence the effectiveness of online technologies in university students. Despite the growth of comparison studies in recent years, very few studies have examined the degree to which characteristics of comparison studies may influence the effectiveness of online or face-to-face learning environments in higher education (Zhao, Lei, Lai, & Tan, 2005). In a comprehensive meta-analysis conducted by Zhao et al. (2005), the authors reported that online education tends to be more effective for undergraduate students who were enrolled in business, computer science, and medical science courses. The authors also added that online learning is much more likely to be effective if the instructor is highly involved in the course. However, the review of research not included in Zhao et al. (2005) failed to support these findings. My next post will critically analyze the course content and level of instructor involvement for studies in each of the above categories. In doing so, the following section will examine whether course content and level of instructor involvement plays role in success of online students in the above studies.


Zhao, Y., Lei, J., Yan, B., & Tan, S. (2005). What makes the difference? A practical analysis of research on the effectiveness of distance education. Teacher College Record, 107, 1836-1884.

This entry was posted in E-Learning, Higher Education, Online Learning, Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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