Evaluation of Evidence-based Practices in Online Learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies.

B. Means
Y. Toyama
R. Murphy
M. Bakia
K. Jones


A systematic search of the research literature from 1996 through July 2008 identified more than a thousand empirical studies of online learning. Analysts screened these studies to find those that (a) contrasted an online to a face-to-face condition, (b) measured student learning outcomes, (c) used a rigorous research design, and (d) provided adequate information to calculate an effect size. As a result of this screening, 51 independent effects were identified that could be subjected to meta-analysis. The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. The difference between student outcomes for online and face-to-face classes--measured as the difference between treatment and control means, divided by the pooled standard deviation--was larger in those studies contrasting conditions that blended elements of online and face-to-face instruction with conditions taught entirely face-to-face. Analysts noted that these blended conditions often included additional learning time and instructional elements not received by students in control conditions. This finding suggests that the positive effects associated with blended learning should not be attributed to the media, per se. An unexpected finding was the small number of rigorous published studies contrasting online and face-to-face learning conditions for K-12 students. In light of this small corpus, caution is required in generalizing to the K-12 population because the results are derived for the most part from studies in other settings (e.g., medical training, higher education).



This report by the Department of Education performs meta-analyses on online-based classes within the existing literature as of 2009. The report also contains implications for K-12 education.

APA Citation

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies., U.S Department of Education.

About the Study

Links to Article https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C50&q=8.%09Evaluation+of+evidence-based+practices+in+online+learning%3A+A+meta-analysis+and+review+of+online+learning+studies+&btnG=
Mode Online
Publication Type Report
In Publication U.S. Department of Education
Type of Research Quantitative
Research Design Meta-analysis
Intervention/Areas of Study Engagement, Student readiness
Level of Analysis Student-level
Specific Populations Examined
Peer-Reviewed No
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest K-12
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=14854806085574797598&as_sdt=5,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en