Original Excerpt from a Reference Material:
Few would argue these days that quantitative studies of nearly any aspect of educational practice represent the final word, but there has been a tendency to relegate to the periphery these kinds of evidence when questions of the effectiveness of distance education (DE) and online learning OL) arise. DE, and the more recently OL, refers to instructional conditions where learners are for the most part physically separated from their teachers and where at least two-way communication connects them (Keegan 1996). DE/OL may be conducted either synchronously or asynchronously, although Keegan considers the former to be a special case of classroom instruction (CI). Literally thousands of comparative primary studies, where DE/OL conditions conform to these instructional specifications, have pitted DE/OL against CI and since 2000, sixteen major meta-analyses have been mounted to assess the differences between CI and DE/OL.1 These are among the important things that we have learned from all of this primary research and synthesis activity:
1. There is general consensus of the effectiveness of all forms of DE (including OL) compared with CI, in other words there is little difference in these two instructional patterns;
2. There is wide variability among studies, from those strongly favoring DE to those favoring CI, thereby bringing into question the value of point one;
3. There is a tendency for researchers to describe the DE/OL condition in great detail while characterizing the CI condition as ‘‘traditional classroom instruction,’’ thereby diminishing the opportunity to describe and compare salient study features;
4. Comparative primary research is plagued with a variety of methodological problems and confounds that make them very hard to interpret.
The paraphrased version of the above Reference Material done by us:
Many are inclined to disregard the generally accepted proof that shows quantitative studies on most elements of educational practice produce fairly conclusive result when comparing the efficacy of distance education (DE) and online learning (OL). DE and OL are defined as learning from a distance, where students are taught using a 2-way communication system without requiring the physical presence of the instructor/teacher. Keegan regarded DE as being a unique instance of classroom instruction (CI) even though DE/OL can be accomplished both at the same or different time. DE/OL conducted using both approaches have always been compared with CI. Since the millenium 16 key statistical studies have been conducted to distinguish CI from DE/OL. The following are among the fundamental observations gained from such studies:
1. It is largely agreed that all forms of DE (OL included) is better than CI in efficacy suggesting many similarities between DE and OL;
2. Considerable disparities between reports by the pro-DE team and the pro-CI team have cast doubts on the validity of the above findings;
3. There are inadequate detailed analyses and effective comparisons between the characteristics of DE/OL and CI as researchers are inclined to elaborate at length on DE/OL while merely describing CI as conventional classroom instruction;
4. Numerous procedural difficulties and uncertainties that beset fundamental comparison studies have rendered them inconclusive.