According to a report by SRI International for the U.S. Department of Education, learners who participated in online learning “performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction” in classrooms. This surprising conclusion is based on research that compared online and traditional classroom education from 1996 to 2008.
The research focused primarily on college students and adult learners, and medicine or healthcare was the most common subject matter studied by the research. Therefore, the report’s conclusions are highly applicable to hospital staff education.
• Learners who took all or part of a class online performed better, on average, than learners who took the same course using traditional face-to-face instruction.
• Compared to online-only instruction, instruction that combined online and face-to-face elements had a greater advantage over face-to-face instruction alone.
• Studies found a greater benefit for online learning because online learners tended to spend more time on task than face-to-face learners.
• Most variations in online learning among studies did not significantly affect learning outcomes. Of the 11 variations studied, only two significantly affected learning: the use of blended learning versus an online-only approach and the amount of time on task for online learners.
• Online learning approaches appear to be effective for many different types of educational content and learners.
• When online instruction and face-to-face instruction varied in their curriculum and instructional approach, the effects on learning were greater.
• In studies that compared blended learning and online-only learning, similar learning outcomes were found. With either method, learning was usually comparable.
• Specific elements, such as video or online quizzes, appeared to have no influence on the amount learned in online classes.
• To enhance online learning, instruction should give the learner control of interactions with the media and should prompt learner reflection.
• Providing guidance for learning is more successful with individual learners than with groups of students.
What The Findings Mean for You
As an administrator armed with the findings in this report, you can make an even more convincing case for investing in online or blended learning for staff education. Colleen Seeber-Combs, RN, MSN, Senior Clinical Editor at Elsevier | MC Strategies, notes “Online and blended learning experiences are often more cost-effective than classroom-only education. They not only yield improved performance among learners, but typically cost less to provide, result in greater educator productivity and provide greater educational continuity and consistency.”
For more on information on blended learning and its application, check out AACN’s Introduction to Blended Learning online course or call 1-866-416-6697 for details.