Online learning on par with traditional classrooms

Just a fun gadget or education delivery tool?

One of the big technology trends in education recently has been online learning. Students get a little more freedom in the online environment. Lectures can be delivered via video, and teachers can upload tests to be taken within specific date ranges and still make it timed. But not everyone has been completely on board with the idea. Critics of online learning say quality of education suffers.

For those of you who might appreciate flexibility but don’t want to compromise on quality, a recent report, “Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities: Evidence from Randomized Trials,” says students learn just as much in the virtual classroom as they do in regular classrooms. The study compared university students in traditional classroom environments with students in a hybrid learning environment, where physical classroom time was mixed with virtual classroom experiences.

“We find that learning outcomes are essentially the same – that students in the hybrid format ‘pay no price’ for this mode of instruction in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized assessment of statistical literacy,” the report stated. “We also conduct speculative cost simulations and find that adopting hybrid models of instruction in large introductory courses have the potential to significantly reduce instructor compensation costs in the long run.”

UC-Berkeley joins online learning platform
Many universities are starting to look to online learning solutions to reduce costs and offer flexibility. For example, the University of California-Berkeley recently announced it has joined edX, an online learning initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. EdX is a non-profit initiative designed to offer interactive learning to students worldwide. Both MIT and Harvard have launched programs through edX and have agreed to contribute $30 million to help fund the program.

MIT’s initiative, launched in December 2011, enrolled 150,000 students. EdX has already gained financial support from university alumni and organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Have you ever taken online learning courses? Were you impressed with the quality of education?

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.