ISTE’s California Digital Learning Integration and Standards Guidance Project Literature Review
Prepared by Caitlin Clause McLemore, Ed.D.
ISTE’s California Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance project, funded by the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE), aims to draft a curriculum and instructional guide for critical subject areas related to distance learning. Specifically, the guide aims to address factors related to distance learning such as administering meaningful assessments, deciding between asynchronous and synchronous instruction, ensuring well-being, bolstering social and emotional learning skills, determining instructional time, and understanding subject-specific guidelines. The primary goal of this literature review is to identify research-based best practices for educators in distance learning in general, along with the previously identified relevant factors. ISTE and its partners will use this literature review to inform the California Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance project, which will include a formal, written report.
The primary research objective for this literature review was to identify research-based best practices for educators in distance learning to inform ISTE’s development of the California Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance project. The literature review focused on critical variables related to distance learning such as administering meaningful assessments, deciding between asynchronous and synchronous instruction, ensuring well-being, bolstering social and emotional learning skills, determining instructional time, and understanding subject-specific guidelines.
The following databases were used to locate sources for inclusion in the literature review:
- Gale Academic OneFile
- Google Scholar
- Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute Research Clearinghouse for K-12 Blended & Online Learning
- Quality Matters (QM) Research Library
The following search terms were entered into the databases listed above to conduct a comprehensive search for relevant meta-analyses and systematic reviews:
- “K–12” AND:
- “Distance education”
- “Distance learning”
- “Online learning”
We applied the following inclusion criteria to the articles resulting from the search:
- Must be a meta-analysis or systematic review
- Must be peer-reviewed (e.g., scholarly journal article, conference proceedings) or from a reputable source (e.g., educational research organization, a government department)
- Must be published in 2000 or later
- Must include study populations of K-12 students or teachers
- Must relate to distance learning instructional design or pedagogical practices
- Must be relevant to the aims of the California Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance project
Due to the volume of individual research studies with relevant research, we limited our search to meta-analyses and systematic reviews. Meta-analyses collect individual research studies with a particular focus to calculate an overall effect size from the collected studies (Card, 2012). Systematic reviews gather an extensive collection of individual research studies with a particular focus to create an overall summary of information gathered from the collected studies. Meta-analyses provide a quantitative or numerical summary of relevant literature, while systematic reviews provide a qualitative or non-numerical summary of relevant literature. Meta-analyses and systematic reviews provide insight into an estimate of effect sizes and overall findings from relevant research.
For this literature review, included studies were required to be peer-reviewed or published through a reputable source (e.g., a government or research organization). The included studies were also required to be published in 2000 or later to provide updated technological information. Additionally, study populations were required to include K-12 students or teachers, at minimum, and several focused solely on the K-12 environment. The final inclusion criteria ensured a focus on the primary goal of the literature review, to determine best practices related to distance learning instructional design and pedagogical strategies as determined by the aims of the California Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance project.
After conducting initial database queries, a list of potential sources was reviewed to ensure they met the inclusion criteria. In addition to research specifically focused on K-12 online and blended learning, this literature review also included sources that addressed or explored elements related to the overarching project topics, such as serving students with disabilities, engaging students in online learning, and identifying teacher characteristics specific to online pedagogy. Based on these criteria, a total of 23 articles remained for consideration in the review (see References). This included six meta-analyses, 16 systematic reviews, and one source that included both a systematic review and meta-analysis (Means et al., 2010). Three of the six meta-analyses and 12 of the 16 systematic reviews focused specifically on K-12 students or teachers. The rest of the sources included K-12 students or teachers within a broader scope (e.g., K-12 and higher education or adult learners).
Systematic reviews were published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, by educational research organizations (e.g., Marzano Research, Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute), in educational conference proceedings (e.g., Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education), or by the U.S. Department of Education. All meta-analyses were published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals (5) or by the U.S. Department of Education (2).
This section includes a summary of the literature. A glossary of terms used in subsequent sections of the literature review is included in the Supplementary Materials. Table 1 includes a summary of results from meta-analyses and Table 2 includes a summary of results from systematic reviews. For more information about the characteristics and effect sizes of the meta-analyses, see Supplementary Materials.
Table 1. Summary of Results from Meta-Analyses Included in Review
|Cavanaugh, 2001||Effectiveness of K-12 distance education on student learning outcomes||Student academic achievement is comparable in different settings of distance learning and traditional instruction.|
|Bernard et al., 2004*||Comparison research in distance education||No significant differences found in overall comparison of instructional settings.|
|Cavanaugh et al., 2004||Effect of distance learning on K-12 student outcomes||The effectiveness of distance learning and in-person classroom instruction is comparable.|
|Bernard et al., 2009*||Comparison research in distance education||Quality course design and student interactions have a positive impact on student learning.|
|Means et al., 2009*||Comparison of learning contexts (online, blended, face-to-face)||Students in blended/online learning environments performed better, on average, than students in face-to-face instruction. Differences may be due to instructional content, pedagogical methods, and time.|
|Means et al., 2013*||Comparison of learning contexts (online, blended, face-to-face)||Students in blended/online learning environments performed better, on average, than students in face-to-face instruction. Differences may be due to instructional content, pedagogical methods, and time.|
|Larwin & Erickson, 2016||Effectiveness of distance education on achievement for K-12 students with disabilities||Students with disabilities performed better online compared to those in face-to-face instruction, but worse than students without disabilities in the same online courses. Effective communication and high-quality student-teacher interactions are ultimately what impact student learning outcomes.|
*included all learners (not just focused on K-12)
Table 2. Summary of Results from Systematic Reviews Included in Review
|Article||Study purpose||Key findings|
|Rice, 2006||Examining student and teacher characteristics and qualities in distance education||Some learners succeed online and some do not. Understanding student success comes from a learner-focused, not tool-focused, approach. Teacher quality may be the most influential factor in student success.|
|Barbour & Reeves, 2009*||Exploring the benefits and challenges of virtual schools and identifying student characteristics of online learners||Learning is a social experience. Typical characteristics of online learners include autonomy and independence, but K-12 students need more guidance and structure.|
|Cavanaugh, Barbour, & Clark, 2009||Examining K-12 online learning including benefits and challenges, educator roles, and learning models.||Mixed results determining the advantages or disadvantages of online learning models. Online learning might result in better outcomes, but there is no guarantee of effectiveness.|
|Means et al., 2009*||Comparison of learning contexts (online, blended, face-to-face)||Blended/online learning environments resulted in comparable student learning outcomes when compared with face-to-face instruction.|
|Vasquez & Straub, 2012||Examining online learning research related to students with disabilities and teachers||Students with disabilities performed better when familiar with content, tools, and through exposure to accessible websites. Educators and researchers need to identify accessible online instructional methods.|
|Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014||Describing and evaluating the effectiveness of online charter schools||Lack of evidence of effectiveness with full-time online learning as compared to traditional schools.|
|Barbour, 2015||To challenge the expansion of full-time, K-12 online learning programs||Lack of reliable research evidence to support the expansion of full-time online learning. Student performance in full-time charter or virtual schools sometimes indicates lower or mixed results compared to traditional schools.|
|Henrie, Halverson, & Graham, 2015*||Measuring student engagement in technology-mediated learning||Student engagement levels provide information about student academic and social outcomes, helps identify students who need additional support, and provides evidence of activity, course, or tool quality.|
|Brodersen & Melluzzo, 2017||Determining the effectiveness of differentiated learning programs on student achievement outcomes in K-12 online, blended, and face-to-face learning programs||Blended learning programs that exhibited a statistically significant effect on student achievement outcomes: Cognitive Tutor Algebra 1, LeapTrack, READ 180, Time to Know. All blended learning programs used online information to inform in-class instruction.|
|Martin, Ahlgrim-Delzel, & Budhrani, 2017*||Examining characteristics of synchronous online learning (e.g., content, student characteristics)||Modern technology tools provide synchronous learning opportunities that “enable communication, collaboration, and critical discussion” (p. 12).|
|Barbour, 2018||To explore how higher education blended and online learning research can inform K-12 blended and online learning||Learning analytics can help to evaluate pedagogical effectiveness. Online educators hold multiple roles of teacher, facilitator, and designer.|
|Pulham & Graham, 2018||Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching||Instructional design is critical to online learning. In blended learning, it is important to integrate online and face-to-face instruction. Successful teachers in blended learning environments exhibit a commitment to change, growth mindset, and self-reflection. Dynamic digital materials are adaptive, interactive, and personalized.|
|Pulham, Graham, & Short, 2018||Comparing teaching competencies for blended, online, and face-to-face learning||Research indicates that teachers need different skills to be successful in blended, online, and face-to-face learning environments, but often these differences are not acknowledged within teacher competencies or preparation programs.|
|Arnesen et al., 2019||Examining K-12 online learning research||K-12 online learning research includes high-quality scholars that are also influential in the broader fields of distance learning and educational technology. Top K-12 online learning research topics include assessment, creating and evaluating distance education programs, student characteristics, student achievement outcomes, and teacher preparation.|
|Hu et al., 2019||Examining K-12 online learning research published in the Journal of Online Learning Research||The majority of K-12 online learning research focuses on context comparison. The Journal of Online Learning Research is the leading publication for K-12 online learning research.|
|Arnesen et al., 2020||Examining low and uncited K-12 online learning research||Low and uncited K-12 online learning research often focuses on international and rural school settings, but also explores general benefits and challenges.|
|Barbour, 2020||K-12 online learning research||“It does not matter if the student is separated by time, place, path, and/or pace from their teacher or other students. As long as the appropriate conditions for learning are present, learning will occur” (p. 15).|
*included all learners (not just focused on K-12)
To summarize research findings, we integrated findings from both meta-analyses and systematic reviews into one comprehensive section. Topics include general findings on K-12 distance learning, benefits, effective pedagogical strategies, asynchronous vs. synchronous learning, assessment, teacher quality, student characteristics, and challenges. Not included in the initial sections but noted in the research findings section are citations to chapters from the Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning (Kennedy & Ferdig, 2018). Each chapter within the Handbook serves as a literature review around key topics, highlighting research-based best practices.
Distance learning is comparable to traditional classroom instruction
Some sources found a modest improvement in student learning outcomes in online learning environments (Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Means et al., 2013), while others found a lack of evidence of effectiveness when comparing full-time online learning with traditional instruction (Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014; Barbour, 2015). However, in most of the meta-analyses that compared blended or online learning to traditional classrooms, overall effect sizes were small and often close to zero (Cavanaugh, 2001; Bernard et al., 2004; Cavanaugh, 2004; Means et al., 2009). These results indicated no difference in the impact of instructional setting on student achievement, engagement, or other student learning outcomes. For more information on effect sizes, see Supplementary Materials.
Though overall effect sizes were small, the effect sizes reported within individual studies varied widely. As such, researchers in both meta-analyses and systematic reviews surmised that factors of course quality, instructional design, meaningful interactions, pedagogical methods, and student characteristics contributed a greater impact on student learning than differences in instructional setting (Bernard et al., 2004; Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Bernard et al., 2009; Cavanaugh, Barbour, & Clark, 2009; Larwin & Erickson, 2016; Pulham & Graham, 2018). This sentiment was best expressed by Barbour (2020), who stated that “it does not matter if the student is separated by time, place, path, and/or pace from their teacher or other students. As long as the appropriate conditions for learning are present, learning will occur” (p. 15). Rather than focusing on where learning happens, the focus should be on “who is teaching, who is learning, and how that learning is accomplished” (Rice, 2006, p. 440).
K-12 distance learning is unique
Due to the developmental needs of young learners, K-12 distance learning cannot (or rather, should not) replicate higher education (Cavanaugh et al., 2004). For example, K-12 students may find synchronous instruction more beneficial as it is “better suited to their academic schedules and their need for spontaneous guidance and feedback” (Bernard et al., 2004, p. 33). As they are still developing as learners, K-12 students need additional guidance and support in online learning environments, particularly in developing intrinsic motivation (Vazquez & Straub, 2012) and social skills (Rice, 2006).
Benefits of distance learning
- The most referenced benefit to distance learning included expanding access to opportunities that students would not otherwise be able to access (Cavanaugh, 2001; Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Means et al., 2009; Vazquez & Straub, 2012; Means et al., 2013; Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014; Arnesen et al., 2020). Distance learning provides opportunities to serve diverse student populations. For example, students with health issues that prevent them from attending in-person schools can take online courses, or students in rural locations have access to a wider variety of course offerings.
- Distance learning facilitates skill development of digital age skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking, metacognition, and self-reflection (Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Means et al., 2009; Means et al., 2013). This occurs through increased opportunities for interactive (Means et al., 2013) and reality-based (Cavanaugh, 2001) learning.
- Distance learning provides students with increased flexibility and choice (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Means et al., 2009; Vazquez & Straub, 2012; Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014; Pulham & Graham, 2018; Arnesen et al., 2020). With online courses, students can choose a learning path that works best for them. Additionally, students can often adjust their course schedules to accommodate other timing constraints.
- Distance learning also increases exposure to diverse perspectives (Cavanaugh, 2001) and increases student motivation (Barbour & Reeves, 2009).
Learning is a social experience
Based on Interaction and Social Presence theory, online learning requires a variety of social interactions (Garrett Dikkers, 2018; Moore, 1989). Quality student interactions increase cognitive engagement, which in turn improves student outcomes including content retention (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Bernard et al., 2009; Henrie, Halverson, & Graham, 2015, Larwin & Erickson, 2016; Garrett Dikkers, 2018).
Student interaction types include student-student (how students interact with their peers), student-teacher (how students interact with their teachers), and student-content (how students interact with course content).
- The most effective student-teacher interactions focused on critical and higher-order thinking, rather than content (Bernard et al., 2009). Consistent, positive relationships with teachers can improve retention rates in online learning, particularly for at-risk students (Rice, 2006).
- High-quality, positive student-student interactions facilitate increased motivation and improved cognitive processes (Bernard et al., 2009).
A common concern with online learning is a lack of social interaction, particularly with younger students. To address this concern, teachers should utilize technology tools such as discussion boards and synchronous sessions (e.g., chat, video conferencing) to facilitate student-student and student-teacher interactions and decrease feelings of social isolation (Rice, 2006). Students report positive feedback on communication tools like chat or instant messaging in virtual learning spaces because it allows them to communicate and socialize with others, both in formal and informal conversation with their peers and teachers (Barbour & Reeves, 2009).
In addition to online communication tools, some social support strategies that can benefit students include “the encouragement of reflective thinking” and “dialogue, interaction and extension of ideas with feedback from peers and mentors on emerging issues” (McLoughlin, 2002, p. 152).
Student emotional engagement includes students’ feelings about learning, as well as their social connections with other students (Henrie, Halverson, & Graham, 2015). Emotional engagement, along with behavioral and cognitive engagement, contributes to students’ academic achievement, persistence, and satisfaction as it helps students to develop social presence (Bernard et al., 2009).
Incorporating student support structures is critical for student success in online learning. These support structures include, but are not limited to, behavioral, affective, and cognitive domains, and these can include help from peers, educators, the community, outside experts, and family/caregivers (Borup et al., 2020). Additionally, at-risk students need academic, behavioral, and mental support through a caring community, positive school climate, and connection with others (Repetto, Spitler, & Cox, 2018).
Effective pedagogical strategies for impacting student learning outcomes in blended or online learning environments
- Students in online learning environments benefit from individualized instruction (Cavanaugh, 2001; Vazquez & Straub, 2012; Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014; Pulham & Graham, 2018; Arnesen et al., 2020) and a student-centered approach to learning (Rice, 2006; Pulham & Graham, 2018).
- Student-centered learning includes:
- Opportunities for student-student collaboration (Means et al., 2009).
- Interactive lessons that facilitate digital age skills, such as collaboration, critical thinking, metacognition, and self-reflection (Cavanaugh, 2001; Means et al., 2009; Larwin & Erickson, 2016).
- Meaningful small group discussions (Cavanaugh, 2001; Vazquez & Straub, 2012) that use guiding questions (Means et al., 2010) based on real-life scenarios (Barbour, 2018).
- Using digital learning materials and tools can improve student learning outcomes through dynamic, interactive, multimodal, and personalized learning experiences (Bernard et al., 2009; Pulham & Graham, 2018). These materials and tools incorporate data-informed decision-making to guide instruction and help students better understand more complex concepts in an efficient manner. Examples of digital learning materials and tools include content-specific websites (e.g., Khan Academy, Newsela), collaboration and creation tools (e.g., Flipgrid, G Suite for Education, Screencastify, WeVideo), learning management systems (e.g., Blackboard, Brightspace, Canvas, Google Classroom), and more. Additionally, using student data from digital learning tools can provide useful learning analytics for determining pedagogical effectiveness (Barbour, 2018).
- Providing access to a learning coach or other local support is critical to student success in online learning (Borup, 2018; Barbour, 2015). Parents often serve in this role, yet they are unprepared to be successful in supporting students (Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014). Thus, schools and teachers need to partner with students’ families to provide a community of support for online learners.
- In blended learning, it is important to make clear curricular connections between in-person and online learning activities (Cavanaugh, 2001; Brodersen & Melluzzo, 2017; Pulham & Graham, 2018).
Asynchronous vs. synchronous learning
In general, effect sizes for student achievement favored asynchronous learning over face-to-face instruction but favored face-to-face instruction over synchronous learning (Bernard et al., 2004). With asynchronous learning, students exhibited improved achievement and attitudes but lower retention rates.
For asynchronous learning, researchers found that a focus on active learning, collaboration, project-based learning, and quality course design was more impactful than which technology materials and tools were used (Bernard et al., 2004). For synchronous learning, researchers found the biggest impact on student learning when it was utilized to “enable communication, collaboration, and critical discussion” (Martin, Ahlgrim-Delzel, & Budhrani, 2017, p. 12).
Regarding student development, younger children need more guidance and support in developing communication skills in virtual spaces (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009). Teachers can utilize Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development to design activities and opportunities for social interaction that are developmentally appropriate (Barbour & Reeves, 2009).
Teacher quality may be the most influential factor in student success, regardless of setting.
As stated by Rice (2006), technology “cannot substitute for well-designed instruction and opportunities to engage in purposeful, interactive learning activities” (p. 440). Teacher competencies contributing to student learning include providing meaningful feedback (Cavanaugh, Barbour, & Clark, 2009), exhibiting a growth mindset, and engaging in self-reflection (Pulham & Graham, 2018).
In addition to teaching duties, educators in online courses also hold multiple roles, depending on the setting, such as instructional designer and technology support (Barbour, 2018). An exemplar of online course design, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS) supports educators through collaborative teams that include an educator, but also instructional designer, web designers, technology support, and other support staff to ensure a successful learning experience for students (Barbour & Reeves, 2009).
Assessment in online learning environments
Assessment in online learning should include formative and summative assessment to determine student learning outcomes, including product, process, and progress (Barbour, 2018; Pulham & Graham, 2018). Online assessments should utilize technology tools to provide individualization and personalization utilizing multiple data sources (Pulham & Graham, 2018). Some examples of formative assessment in online learning environments include discussion participation, e-portfolios, and self-testing (Barbour, 2018).
Characteristics of successful online learners
Successful online learners exhibit independence through individual characteristics, such as autonomy (Barbour & Reeves, 2009), high levels of motivation (Barbour & Reeves, 2009), persistence (Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Rice, 2006), responsibility (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009), and self-regulation (Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Rice, 2006). Additionally, sufficient access to technology and skills for using available technology contributed to a successful online learning experience (Rice, 2006).
Concerning students with disabilities, researchers found that these students performed better in online learning environments compared to similar students in face-to-face instruction, but performed worse than students without disabilities participating in the same online courses (Larwin & Erickson, 2016). Instructional strategies found to help improve the learning outcomes of students with disabilities included student familiarity with the content topic and tools being used, as well as student exposure to accessible websites (Basham et al., 2018; Rice & Dykman, 2018; Vazquez & Straub, 2012).
Student engagement levels during participation in online courses can help to identify students who need additional support, provide evidence of quality (e.g., activity, course, tool), and indicate student academic or social outcomes (e.g., achievement, interaction with others, motivation to succeed, participation; Henrie, Halverson, & Graham, 2015).
Challenges of distance learning
Researchers found several challenges of online and blended learning:
- Access to the infrastructure, resources, and tools needed for participation (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009; Arnesen et al., 2020). Investment in infrastructure is needed to adequately support online teaching and learning, including startup costs for implementation of blended or online learning programs.
- Accountability of students in completing coursework and schools in providing a quality learning experience (Rice, 2006; Barbour & Reeves, 2009). With students, the retention rates in online courses are often lower, meaning students drop out of these courses at higher rates (Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014).
- Teacher preparedness for online teaching (Arnesen et al., 2019; Archambault & Kennedy, 2018; Dawson & Dana-Fichtman, 2018). Teachers often do not receive appropriate training for blended or online learning within teacher preparation programs. This creates a gap between teachers’ ability and comfort level to teach in a digital learning environment.
Challenges and Considerations
- Meta-analyses include quantitative results from a large collection of research studies, meaning information is summarized which thus reduces the methodological issues present in individual studies (Card, 2012). However, meta-analyses can vary in quality based on their inclusion criteria.
- Some of the systematic reviews and meta-analyses focused on all learners rather than a specific focus on K-12 students. Thus, results from these studies may not be as applicable to K-12 students or teachers due to their unique developmental needs.
- Most of the systematic reviews and meta-analyses we examined reported a wide variability of effect sizes within individual studies. Furthermore, individual studies often included numerous variables. For brevity purposes, we only included the overall effect sizes for major variables.
- To provide a comprehensive literature review, we included sources that were not published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals. However, we only included additional studies from reliable publication sources, such as educational conference proceedings, government, and non-profit educational research organizations.
- Although we are confident that the list of sources, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses is comprehensive, due to the broad scope of the project and its goals, this literature review is likely not exhaustive of all related literature. Rather than presenting a definitive conclusion on the effectiveness of distance education, the goal of this literature review was to identify best practices for curriculum and instruction in online learning environments.
This literature review identified several research-based best practices for educators in distance learning. In general, research findings from both quantitative and qualitative studies indicated no significant difference between instructional settings (e.g., blended, distance, in-person). Rather, course quality, instructional design, meaningful interactions, pedagogical methods, student characteristics, and support structures provide more meaningful impact on student learning outcomes (Bernard et al., 2004; Cavanaugh et al., 2004; Bernard et al., 2009; Cavanaugh, Barbour, & Clark, 2009; Larwin & Erickson, 2016; Pulham & Graham, 2018). These factors can be present (or not) in any instructional setting. As such, educators should focus their attention on effective pedagogical strategies to design high-quality, meaningful, and supportive learning experiences. In an online learning environment, this includes preparing educators for online teaching, understanding the benefits and challenges of digital spaces, balancing asynchronous and synchronous learning activities, implementing engaging and motivating activities for active learning, supporting students in personalized ways, designing meaningful formative and summative assessments, and guiding students to develop habits for successful online learning.
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- Asynchronous learning involves students and teachers interacting with content and each other at different times. Asynchronous learning can happen within a structured schedule (e.g., weekly deadlines within a course). Asynchronous learning might include collaborating with others, completing formative assessments, consuming content (e.g., watching videos), discussion board participation, or project-based learning.
- Synchronous learning involves students and teachers interacting with content and each other at the same time during live sessions. Synchronous learning might include text-based chat, live discussions, or video conferencing sessions (e.g., Google Meet, Zoom).
- Blended learning includes both in-person and online learning and integrates both activities to create a comprehensive learning experience (Horn & Staker, 2014).
- Distance/online learning can take on many forms, but in this context of this literature review we considered distance/online learning programs that facilitated formal learning experiences, were institutional-based (not self-study programs), included interactive communication (online or otherwise), and where students and teachers were physically separated from each other (Rice, 2006).
- Online charter school: K-12 program publicly funded and governed by the state, where most of the schooling occurs online (Hasler-Waters, Barbour, & Menchaca, 2014).
- Student engagement: A students’ commitment, effort, and investment in learning. Includes subcategories of behavior, cognition, and emotion (Henrie, Halverson, & Graham, 2015).
Characteristics of Meta-Analyses Included in Review
|Study||Variable(s)||# primary studies||Overall sample size||Date range of primary studies|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Achievement||232 total 11 K-12 studies||57,019||1985-2002|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Attitude||232 total 11 K-12 studies||35,365||1985-2002|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Retention||232 total 11 K-12 studies||3,744,869||1985-2002|
|Cavanaugh et al., 2004||Student outcomes||14||7561||1999-2004|
|Bernard et al., 2009||Achievement/attitude||74||N/A||1985-2006|
|Means et al., 2009||Context comparison||45||N/A||1996-2008|
|Means et al., 2009||K-12 learners||5||N/A||1996-2008|
|Means et al., 2013||Context comparison||45||N/A||1996-2008|
|Means et al., 2013||K-12 learners||5||N/A||1996-2008|
|Larwin & Erickson, 2016||Achievement||7||24,031 (total) 3,558 (students with disabilities)||2005-2014|
Effect Sizes from Meta-Analyses Included in Review
|Study||Variable(s)||Mean effect size|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Achievement||0.0128 (overall) -0.1022 (synchronous) 0.0527 (asynchronous)|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Attitude||-0.0812 (overall) -0.1846 (synchronous) -0.0034 (asynchronous)|
|Bernard et al., 2004||Retention||-0.0573 (overall) 0.0051 (synchronous) -0.0933 (asynchronous)|
|Cavanaugh et al., 2004||Student outcomes||-0.028|
|Bernard et al., 2009||Student interactions on achievement/attitude (overall)||0.38|
|Bernard et al., 2009||Student-student||0.49|
|Bernard et al., 2009||Student-teacher||0.32|
|Bernard et al., 2009||Student-content||0.46|
|Means et al., 2009||Online & blended learning vs. face-to-face classroom instruction||0.20|
|Means et al., 2009||K-12 learners||0.1664|
|Means et al., 2013||Online & blended learning vs. face-to-face classroom instruction||0.20|
|Means et al., 2013||K-12 learners||0.1664|
|Larwin & Erickson, 2016||Achievement||-0.015|
|Larwin & Erickson, 2016||Students with disabilities online vs. students with disabilities face-to-face||0.497|
|Larwin & Erickson, 2016||Students with disabilities online vs. students without disabilities online||-0.561|