How much of a change is online learning through open courseware (OCW), etc., actually making? Are there any peer reviewed studies regarding the same?

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    There are so many variables in this kind of study that such differences are extremely difficult to quantify reliably.
    – J.R.
    Nov 22 '15 at 9:48

One way is to assess the performance by a single test of two groups of students, one in the regular classroom atmosphere and the other group using solely online tools. The topic may be chosen at random, with varying levels of difficulty. It would also provide information about effectiveness of using online tools in teaching difficult concepts. This study by Anna Ya Ni is in that direction.

  • One potential problem with this approach is the demographics of the student groups. If the "regular classroom" students are all full-time students, but the "solely online" students are mostly part-time working professionals, it will be hard to tell if any differences are due to the online/classroom delivery, or the full-time/part-time status.
    – J.R.
    Nov 22 '15 at 17:23
  • It is unwise to compare the effectiveness of a particular learning method with two student groups with different demographics, say full time vs part time. The group by default should show common backgrounds in response to the term 'student' (although impossible to be an identical set). Also, have you read the study by Anna Ya Ni in the link?
    – Sathyam
    Nov 22 '15 at 17:33
  • Of course we agree on demographics - the more common, the better. I've not yet read the study (this is the first I've seen of it), but it looks like an interesting read and I plan to tackle it this week.
    – J.R.
    Nov 22 '15 at 21:52
  • +Thejus, I skimmed through the study results and it was quite comprehensive. Plan to go through that in more detail later. However, my point is that while online learning is generally a convenient arrangement for the working professional, it might not be accepted as a proof of accomplishment at the workplace. I am not making judgements here but unless they are held at par with a professional degree, we would not see people take it seriously. If it is held at par, then we would see a noticeable difference in the way the world's workforce adapts to the power of self learning.
    – skipper_gg
    Nov 23 '15 at 16:27

Consider the ratio of traditional credit hours per student to online credit hours per student: you could compare this ratio over time. (This doesn't say anything about the effectiveness of the trend towards online study.)

  • Can I propose that the percentage of people completing the course online vis a vis traditional university route should be held as a primary measure of a course's success? It can be universally applied to all the courses by multiplying a weighing factor for any course depending on its difficulty level e.g. a course on Linear Algebra might be easier to contemplate online than a course on Measure theory.
    – skipper_gg
    Nov 23 '15 at 16:33
  • @user54870 - Ah, now for me to answer that would take careful thought and I would end up wanting to co-author the paper. Nov 23 '15 at 18:55
  • RE: Can I propose that the percentage of people completing the course online vis a vis traditional university route should be held as a primary measure of a course's success? Only if there is some kind of assessment involved that somehow guarantees successful completion is truly tied to mastering the course topics. Even then, that doesn't seem like a very good metric if you are trying to persuade the skeptic.
    – J.R.
    Nov 23 '15 at 19:45

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