Module 5. Evidence

This module explores evidence for and against online learning as is intended to help students to think provocatively about online learning possibilities and problems.

This module addresses the following standards:

  • The online teacher understands the current standards for best practices in online teaching and learning. OTE.1.K.1
  • The online teacher understands concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the field of online teaching and learning. OTE.1.K.3
  • The online teacher understands the relationship between online education and other subject areas and real life situations. OTE.1.K.4
  • The online teacher understands appropriate uses of technologies to promote student learning and engagement with the content. OTE.1.K.6

Online learning is no good

If we are to truly understand online learning and how to improve teaching through it, we must clearly understand the evidence for and against online learning and the proposed best practices related to it.


Watch this video on how the internet is making us dumber, and consider the following:

  • How are the issues raised in this video impacted by the advent of online learning?
  • What might we be losing by moving to an online medium in education?


Read the "Executive Summary" and "Section 5: Discussion and Implications" of the following report:

Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning StudiesUS Department of Education.

As you do so, consider how the article addresses the research question:

  • How does the effectiveness of online learning compare with that of face-to-face
  • Does supplementing face-to-face instruction with online instruction enhance learning?
  • What practices are associated with more effective online learning?
  • What conditions influence the effectiveness of online learning?


Explore the following reports/articles (focusing on conclusions and discussion):

Campuzano, L., Dynarski, M., Agodini, R., Rall, K., & Pendleton, A. (2009). Effectiveness of reading and mathematics software products: Findings from two student cohorts. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences.
Dynarski, M., Agodini, R., Heaviside, S. N., Novak, T., Carey, N., Campuzano, L., ... Sussex, W. (2007). Effectiveness of reading and mathematics software products: Findings from the first student cohort. Washington, DC: Institute of Education Sciences.
Kimmons, R. (2013). 1-to-1 Evidence: Evaluation Guidelines for Schools, Districts, & Leaders. Moscow, ID: Doceo Center for Innovation + Learning, University of Idaho.
Slavin, R., Lake, C., Pam, H., & Thurston, A. (2014). Experimental evaluations of elementary science programs: A best-evidence synthesis. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(7), pp.870-901. (Requires UIdaho access.) 

As you do so, consider:

  • What are the overall effects of computers, kits, programs, and software on student achievement?
  • How does this relate to online learning, and what does it mean for online educators?
  • What should be the role of the teacher in online learning?

Discussion and Reflection Questions

  • What is the evidence for online learning?
  • What is the evidence against online learning?
  • Is the shift to online learning based in evidence? Why or why not?
  • How can online learning be used appropriately to improve learning?
  • Is it okay for teachers and students to be "disconnected"?