Reading this report was definitely interesting. Six years old is pretty ancient in the realm of technology, however, I don’t think that made to much difference here. The report didn’t go into specific tools, which is where the primary developments over the past 6 years reside.
I must admit to being very surprised by the finding that their was no difference in the learning outcomes between online and f2f instruction. I was struck by the thought that the instruction is the important thing and the modality is irrelevant. My personal experience backs that up. One semester I took 2 online classes which ended up representing both the top and the bottom of the field. Both were topics that I was interested in and intrinsically motivated to get the most out of. What made one so much better than the other? It came down to the instructor/instruction more than the technologies used. On the same token, I have also had really good and really bad face to face classes. Again, the instruction/instructor making all the difference. So I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. Good instruction is good regardless of the modality.
Or is it? I followed up on a hunch and found a 2009 study (Ashby, Sadera, & McNary) comparing the success rates of community college developmental math students in online versus face-to-face course sections. The differences are staggering, “The completion rates for this sample were significantly different, with 93% of the face-to-face students completing the course compared to 70% of the blended students and 76% of the online students.’
Perhaps too many of the studies that met the criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis report were conducted with the graduate/medical field students. Though the authors caution against making to many generalizations to the K-12 arena, the results are probably equally suspect in adult learning situations with different populations of learners. It’s tempting to throw out the baby with the bath water on this one, but I do think there were some valuable lessons learned. Maybe not 90 pages worth, but…