A Meta-Analysis of Three Types of Interaction Treatments in Distance Education

Robert Berneard
Philip Abrami
Eugene Borokhovski
Anne Wade
Rana Tamin
Michael Surkes
Edward Bethel


This meta-analysis of the experimental literature of distance education (DE) compares different types of interaction treatments (ITs) with other DE instructional treatments. ITs are the instructional and/or media conditions designed into DE courses, which are intended to facilitate student–student (SS), student– teacher (ST), or student–content (SC) interactions. Seventy-four DE versus DE studies that contained at least one IT are included in the meta-analysis, which yield 74 achievement effects. The effect size valences are structured so that the IT or the stronger IT (i.e., in the case of two ITs) serve as the experimental condition and the other treatment, the control condition. Effects are categorized as SS, ST, or SC. After adjustment for methodological quality, the overall weighted average effect size for achievement is 0.38 and is heterogeneous. Overall, the results support the importance of the three types of ITs and strength of ITs is found to be associated with increasing achievement outcomes. A strong association is found between strength and achievement for asynchronous DE courses compared to courses containing mediated synchronous or face-to-face interaction. The results are interpreted in terms of increased cognitive engagement that is presumed to be promoted by strengthening ITs in DE courses.


Distance education, Meta-analysis, Student interaction, Interaction treatment


Meta-analysis gain popularity in the realm of distance education (DE) research as it synthesize comparative studies of classroom interaction (CI) and interactions in DE settings. This study shed light on the significance of DE to DE comparison and shows design and implementation of within DE can make a difference in student learning and satisfaction. Three types of interaction are identified: Student-student (SS), student-teacher(ST), and student-content(SC) interactions. The result of meta-analysis indicates that ST interaction are less effective compared to other two interactions. The authors assume this is because of complicated implementation of ST interaction. They also found that overall interaction treatment improved students’ achievement. Especially combination of SS interaction and SC interaction as well as ST interaction and SC interaction were significant, but SS interaction and ST interaction was not. Asynchronous, synchronous and mixed distance types of distance education made no difference on student achievement but mixed distance education falls behind when it comes to student attitude. Also, meta-analysis indicates that strength of student-content interactions in asynchronous setting affects more than other settings.

APA Citation

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R. M., Surkes, M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of interaction treatments in distance education. Review of Educational research, 79(3), 1243-1289.

About the Study

Links to Article https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/40469094.pdf?casa_token=6tT1ceBZKv0AAAAA:PXJUG70dqW-YDzloeQkfzbQ5xb6JnwGXvPFsqE-uUminN-x7fJ1Lmzu_zFJx_4rqg2wZL1mDQQqPXxUclW2IVb4EiOjz-p2Pti9WQGx7N6CakJi9H40R
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Review of Educational Research
Type of Research Review of Literature
Research Design Experiments, Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study Instructor-student interactions, Student-student interactions
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest Bachelors-granting
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size 500 +
Citing Articles https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=1868103856502601231&as_sdt=400005&sciodt=0,14&hl=en