Online Learning. Is it Effective?

It is well-known that online learning has been on the rise in recent years, with more and more college and university courses being taught online instead of face-to-face. However, there needs to be more definitive research on which students benefit the most from online learning or what, if anything, they learn.

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As an associate professor of economics at City College in New York, Dr Shankar has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of online higher education. One of the most important requirements of scientific research is a control group, often missing from online learning studies. Without a control group, it is difficult to determine causality – in other words, whether online learning leads to better student outcomes.

In a recent study, Dr Shankar and her colleagues addressed this problem by comparing students who took an online course with a control group of students who did not take the course. The results showed that students in the online class performed significantly worse than the control group on several measures, including grades, overall course completion, and retention in school.


While the results of this study should be interpreted with caution, they suggest that online learning may not be the panacea it is often made out to be. More research is needed to understand the best ways to use online learning so that students can benefit from it. In the meantime, “let’s take a breath and see what worked and didn’t,” Dr Shankar says. “There’s no need to knee-jerk react and say, ‘This is the future; everyone needs to do it.’”

With more research, we can better understand how to use online learning so that students can benefit from it. In the meantime, let us take a step back and assess what works and does not to improve moving forward.

What do you think? How do you feel about online learning? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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