My last blog entry about the VILT survey conducted by Skillsoft PLC received a comment from Hank Riehl at Skillsoft - Thank you Hank. In his comment, Hank outlined some of the elements that have made the Skillsoft Live Learning courses successful. He also provided a link to a DOE study of online learning that reports on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. This reinforces the Skillsoft survey result.
The researchers who published the DOE study performed a meta-analysis (combining the results of multiple experiments to obtain a composite estimate of the effect) of 51 learning studies in which they could find useful effects. The studies were conducted between 1996 and 2008, most of them being from 2004 or later. The studies were typically conducted in an academic environment, mostly with older learners in college or graduate school.
The report asserts the researchers consistently found advantages in online and blended learning programs over face-to-face instruction. This statement provides great support for anyone trying to make a case for converting a classroom program to the virtual world, but the researchers caution online and face-to-face conditions in the studies examined differed on multiple dimensions, including the amount of time that learners spent on task. So the advantages observed may be the product of those conditions rather than the delivery medium.
This is what I was getting at in my previous blog entry: VILT can be successful, but it takes more than simply switching the medium from ILT to the virtual classroom. It takes rigorous and thoughtful instructional design to create the right conditions for learning. The Skillsoft PLC survey and the DOE study provide support for the notion that it is worth it to put that effort into designing an online or blended learning program.