Meta-Analysis Summary: Online Education


Online Education Meta-AnalysisOnline education is not new (Harasim, 2000; Mehrotra, Hollister, & McGahey, 2001). However, given recent advances in technology, online education is becoming more prevalent on campuses. Many schools are not offering both fully online classes and hybrid classes. There are two main types of online education synchronous and asynchronous (Hrastinski, 2008). Much like face-to-face communication, synchronous communication happens in real time -- for example chatting. Whereas, asynchronous communication does not happen in real time. Additionally, there are many content management systems (CMS) that are often used to facilitate online classes (i.e., WebCT, Blackboard, Moodle). Overall, online education can have a positive impact on learning (Kim, Hong, Bonk, & Lim, 2009; Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2010; Mehrotra & McGahey, 2012). The US department of education recently conducted a 12 year meta-analysis regarding the effectiveness of online education. They concluded that online students learn as much or more than face-to-face students when taking the same course and that hybrid courses (courses that meet both face-to-face and online) performed better than either face-to-face or online classes (Means et al., 2010). It is possible that the delivery medium (i.e., face-to-face, online, or blended) is not the reason for increased learning, but rather the way the course is structured that leads to more learning (Mehrotra & McGahey, 2012). For example, the combination of guided instruction, type and frequency of feedback, social aspects, time spent on coursework, and other course components, may be what led to the increased learning. Students who participate in online education have different characteristics from traditional students (Diaz, 2002; Wojciechowski & Bierlein Palmer, 2005) -- older, higher GPA, etc. With proper planning, online education can have a positive impact on learning and provide a high quality educational alternative to traditional classes.


  1. Online education is effective, but hybrid classes are the most effective.

Additional Reading

Bonk, C. (2009). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lapadat, J. (2002). Written interaction: A key component in online learning. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 7(4).

Sins, P., Savelsbergh, E., Joolingen, W., & Hout-Wolters, B. (2010). Effects of face-to-face versus chat communication on performance in a collaborative inquiry modeling task. Computers & Education56(2), 379-387.


Diaz, D. P. (2002). Online drop rates revisited. The Technology Source. Retrieved from

Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens: online education as a new paradigm in learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 3(1-2), 41-61.

Hrastinski, S. (2008). Asynchronous and synchronous e-learning. EDUCAUSE Quarterly31(4), 51-55.

Kim, P., Hong, J.-S., Bonk, C., & Lim, G. (2009). Effects of group reflection variations in project-based learning integrated in a Web 2.0 learning space. Interactive Learning Environments, 14(3), 1-17.

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2010). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. Structure. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Mehrotra, C. M., Hollister, C. D., & McGahey, L. (2001). Distance learning: Principles for effective design, delivery, and evaluation. Thousand Oakes, CA: Sage.

Mehrotra, C. M., & McGahey, L. (2012). Online teaching. In B. Schwartz & R. A. R. Gurung (Eds.), Evidence-based teaching for higher education (pp. 59-76). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Wojciechowski, A., & Palmer, L. B. (2005). Individual Student Characteristics: Can any be predictors of success in online classes? Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 8(2). Retrieved from