Friday, August 21, 2009

Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom

A recent 93-page report on online education, conducted by SRI International for the Department of Education concluded that “On average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”

The report actually reviewed quantitative studies conducted from 1996-2008 that compared online and f2f versions of the same courses. On average, those in the f2f courses scored in the 50 percentile while those in the online versions scored in the 59th. It is a modest but significant difference. The report validates online learning as a viable alternative, which could significantly impact in transforming the educational experience.

What I found interesting in the comments that followed was that several people commented that instead of showing causation, the study actually shows correlation. The population of people taking course online tend to be a self-selected group. They are often older, more motivated individuals. They tend have greater access to technology in order to participate in online learning. What no one brought up was retention rates for f2f vs online. How many students started out in an online class but dropped? Those that continued and finished the class would definitely be the more motivated, independent learners.

Another trend in the conversation related to how we learn--whether independently or in community. Several comments reflected the idea that community could not be adequately created online. Although I agree that it is more difficult because of the distance and lack of body language cues, I disagree that online learners have to forgo community. I think the growth of social networks such as Facebook and Nings or even Yahoo and Google Groups shows that the Internet can actually bring people together.

In order to create an online learning community, however, takes forethought and facilitation. It should be a primary goal of the course. All too often students report that they feel isolated from their peers and colleagues, that they crave the human interaction. That's what discussion boards, chat sessions, video conferencing, group projects are for. As the article points out, "Until fairly recently, online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence courses. That has really changed with arrival of Web-based video, instant messaging and collaboration tools." If we are to truly transform education, then we need to look at how technology affords us (and our students) to do things we were not previously able to do/see/hear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top 10 Tools for Learning

For the last three years, Jane Hart with the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (UK) has been soliciting suggestions for her list of 100 top 10 tools for learning. With so many new and amazing ways to find and share knowledge out there today, narrowing to 10 is a tough task. Between March and November, 2009, she has invited learning professionals to contribute their top 10 tools for learning to help compile the top 100 list for 2009. Check out the current voting or contribute your own list.

The Top 10 Tools for 2008 were:

  1. Delicious (Social bookmarking tool)
  2. Firefox (Web browser)
  3. Google Reader (RSS / Feed reader)
  4. Skype (Instant messaging, VoIP tool)
  5. Wordpress (Blogging tool)
  6. Google Search (Web-based search tool)
  7. Google Docs (Web-based documents)
  8. PowerPoint (Presentation software)
  9. Moodle (Free Course management system)
  10. Blogger (Blogging tool)

Monday, August 10, 2009

15 Online Resources to Supplement Classroom Learning

Guest post from Karen Schweitzer, the Guide to Business School. Karen also writes about online colleges for

Are you looking for a great way to engage and motivate your students to learn? Many newspapers, magazines, museums, TV stations, and other institutions provide educational websites to supplement classroom learning. This article offers a list of 15 educational sources worth exploring:

NASA - NASA provides a series of resources for K-12 and higher to motivate students in math, science, technology, and engineering. Resources include NASA e-clips, video podcasts, research tools, games, and NASA television.

Scholastic - A trusted name in learning, Scholastic offers programs that make reading and learning fun. One such program, The Stacks, features several book lists, games, and videos.

History Classroom - The History Channel provides an online History Classroom and Education page loaded with tons of great features. Just a few of the resources you can find are interactive lesson plans, study guides, videos, and speeches.

Smithsonian Education - The Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies offers several supplemental resources for teachers, families, and students. Their site features fun and interactive games and references for elementary and middle school children, along with lesson plans and tools for teachers.

National Geographic - This educational site for students and teachers provides a number of great resources for learning about geography, culture, and conservation. Fun and interactive projects and games are available for students of all ages.

PBS Teachers - PBS Teachers is an educational branch of It is designed specifically for teachers and houses several classroom resources, initiatives, activities, and lesson plans.

Discovery Education - Discovery Education hosts a number of engaging resources to help students learn more effectively. Some of the valuable resources you can find include classroom tools, interactive games, and a homework helper.

CNN Student News - This educational site, provided by, features several different news resources to connect students with events occurring around the world. CNN Student News also offers quizzes, learning activities, news articles, podcasts, and more.

Newspapers in Education - The links to newspapers in several states that provide innovative tools to connect students to local and world events. When you click on your local link or sign up for free, Newspapers in Education will provide lesson plans by grade, quizzes, Cartoons for the Classroom, and Words in the News.

Time for Kids - Time for is a site dedicated to motivating kids to read. This online version of the classroom magazine features teaching resources, homework helpers, entertainment news, and animal news. Teachers can also find the table of contents and a PDF of the full magazine online. - is an educational portal to the U.S. government for grades K-8. This site links you to an age appropriate web page from federal agencies and other educational sources. Many of these pages incorporate lesson plans and activities.

Learning Network - The Learning Network, provided by The New York Times, offers a wealth of resources for grades 3-12. Within this site, visitors can find news summaries, lesson plans, science Q & A, and education news.

White House - The White House gives children a look into several aspects of the U.S. government, including government branches, history, and issues. One fantastic feature for elementary education is the White House 101. Within this page, you can find information on past presidents, fun facts, and first pets.

Highlight Teachers - Highlight Teachers features several different resources to supplement classroom learning. Resources include activities, articles, interactive games, and more.

BrainPOP - This site features colorful interactive games and resources to motivate students to learn. BrainPOP is broken down into subjects and includes activities, lesson plans, quizzes, and classroom tools.