Last updated: 21.10.11

E-learners perform better, study finds

Students perform better in online courses, a new study has shown.Despite the constant distractions of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as emails, online news and e-shopping, the online method of learning seems to be something that keeps a student's attention.

Researchers have found that pupils using e-learning platforms are maintaining their grades or even exceeding their predictions through the flexible, easy access learning.The independent nature of this type of learning may have encouraged people to perform better as they do not have to be restricted to the classroom to complete lesson plans.

In addition, the introduction of tablets such as the iPad and Kindle, as well as smartphones, may have added to the popularity of e-learning and grade success, as they can be taken anywhere.SRI International, a private research and development company working for the US Department of Education, said in the study: "On average, students in online learning conditions perform better than those receiving face-to-face instruction."The study was done over 12 years between 1996 and 2008 and focused primarily on colleges and adults who continued education after compulsory schooling. It found 99 studies in which there were quantitative comparisons of online and classroom performance for the same courses.

According to the analysis, students doing some or the entire course online would rank 59 per cent in achievement, while those who just learned in the classroom would be at 50 per cent. The researchers said this may seem like a small difference, but statistically it is a significant breakthrough in seeing the benefits of e-learning.

"The study's major significance lies in demonstrating that online learning today is not just better than nothing - it actually tends to be better than conventional instruction," Barbara Means, the study's lead author and an educational psychologist at SRI International, said.

Furthermore, the researchers mentioned that although the traditional face-to-face classroom is not to be eliminated, schools should look to online learning as an alternative option to incorporate into their curriculums.Online information database has said the introduction of learning applications for smartphones and tablets has meant that including the virtual classroom in traditional methods of study is an easier task than ever before.