More from the ongoing discussion on the POD listserv (about which, info on the left side of this page)...
1. The paragraphs Ed Neal cites below actually cause me to heighten my celebration. Far from a general "online education is better" conclusion, they give me hope that, in many places, we may be seeing a waning of the "no significant difference" phenomenon that characterized past distance vs. in-person research, and an improvement in the design and facilitation of hybrid and distance education.
As others have noted, online learning environments offer some unique affordances for learning (as do face-to-face). That well-designed and facilitated distance courses offer advantages over "traditional face-to-face instruction" does not seem surprising to me. At SDSU, faculty who choose to offer distance courses (and there aren't a lot) are highly motivated to be excellent teachers and invest a great deal of time in course design, supported by peers and staff. In contrast, the average in-person course (especially among the large lecture general ed courses which SDSU is now also offering online) is, unfortunately, a passive, lecture-and-test, cover-the-content experience.
Again, as others have noted, the question with these kind of "horse race" studies is always what is being compared. The conclusion that a blended approach is superior provides hope to me that many faculty are learning what works very well in online learning, what is best done in person, and are beginning to better take advantage of the affordances of both environments.
2. I am not a meta-analysis expert, but in a fairly quick review of the methodology used in this report, it seemed to me a sound and rigorous approach to a very challenging task. If there are specific criticisms regarding the methodology employed I would very much like to hear and consider them.
Dr. Jim Julius, Associate Director
Instructional Technology Services, AH-1144
San Diego State University