Comparing Student Satisfaction With Distance Education to Traditional Classrooms in Higher Education: A meta-analysis

Mike Allen
John Bourhis
Nancy Burrell
Edward Mabry


Meta-analysis provides a method of quantitatively summarizing and comparing empirical literature to reduce Type I and Type II error. The meta-analysis described here indicates a slight student preference for a traditional educational format over a distance education format (average r = .031, after the deletion of outliers), and little difference in satisfaction levels. A comparison of distance education methods that include direct interactive links with those that do not include interactive links demonstrates no difference in satisfaction levels. However, student satisfaction levels diminish as additional information is added to the available channel of instruction (e.g., written to audio to video). The findings support those of researchers arguing that distance education does not diminish the level of student satisfaction when compared to traditional face-to-face methods of instruction.



Meta-analysis suggests small student preference for traditional F2F classroom over online but negligible difference in student satisfaction. Articles used needed to compare student satisfaction between online instruction and traditional F2F instruction and 24 articles were used. Along a hierarchy of channels (written-audio-video), students preferred video over written instruction as information in the channel is reduced. This is consistent with the hypothesis that more information including visuals is preferred by students. Overall there was little difference in student satisfaction between online and traditional F2F courses and the authors suggest that students find distance learning just as satisfying as traditional F2F learning.

APA Citation

Allen, M., Bourhis, J., Burrell, N., & Mabry, E. (2002). Comparing student satisfaction with distance education to traditional classrooms in higher education: A meta-analysis. The American Journal of Distance Education, 16(2), 83-97.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Online
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication The American Journal of Distant Education
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Meta-analysis
Intervention/Areas of Study Course design
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Satisfaction
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en