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Campus V Online: A Large Sample Comparison

As the advantages of online learning, such as flexibility and financial benefits, continue to draw more and more students, an important question emerges: are student outcomes as good in online courses as they are in face-to-face courses? A large sample comparison of the two instructional modes, published in Online Learning, uses multiple regression analysis to account for the multitude factors that influence a student decision to take an online course.

The study found no significant overall difference in student learning outcomes between online and face-to-face instruction. This should give credence to the claim made by many in the online learning community that computer-mediated instruction can be a powerful tool for learning. However, there is one finding from the study that should lead instructional designers to think deeply about the effectiveness of digital learning platforms. The study showed a trend that already high achieving students tend to perform better, and already low achieving students tend to perform worse in online courses. The authors do not speculate as to why this may be the case, but this finding underscores the need for instructional designers to consider the impact of student experience and perception when creating learning activities.