Online education put to the test
Researchers at the nonprofit organization Ithaka are putting to rest suspicions that online education is sub-par compared to traditional, on-campus learning. Students at six different public universities were split up into two groups: One relied on learning software with minimal face-to-face interaction with instructors (known as hybrid learning) while the other group had professor-led classes. The results might surprise some prospective students.
Not only did the technology-based learners earn the same grades as traditional students, they also completed their courses in less time - regardless of gender, age and socioeconomic background.
"Our results indicate that hybrid-format students took about one-quarter less time to achieve essentially the same learning outcomes as traditional-format students," reported researchers William Bowen, Matthew Chingos, Thomas Nygren and Kelly Lack.
Just over 605 students participated in the study, "Interactive Learning Online at Public Universities," and a number were selected at random to take a hybrid version of their class. These students used an artificially intelligent learning program developed by scientists at the Open Learning Initiative. Despite having just one hour of face-to-face lectures per week with their professors, these students took examinations and wrote papers with the same success rates as those who spent three to four hours in the classroom every week.
Sci-fi buffs should revel in this intuitive software - who knew that machines would be teaching us computer science and mathematics? Whether or not these programs are the future of higher education, you don't have to worry about robots taking over the world and telling us to come with them if we want to live. Even though the study participants learned faster, they admitted that taking classes online was boring.
It looks like education scientists are still trying to find the right balance of human and machine interaction.