The Results Are In: Online Learning Works
Recent Study Looks at Impact of Online Learning
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The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) was involved in a recent study of online learning, called “Report on Outcomes from the Study of a SciPack Deployment in the Houston Independent School District during School Year 2009-2010.” The results are finally in: online learning works.
The study was performed by Edvantia, a not-for-profit education research firm based in West Virginia. Their hope was to better understand how online learning affected teachers’ content knowledge, or how well teachers understood what they were teaching, as well as student performance.
There were about 60 teachers involved in the study, all of whom taught 5th, 6th, or 8th grades in Texas’s Houston Independent School District (HISD). The teachers used SciPacks, a web-based program developed by NSTA. As part of the program, teachers:
- Participated in teaching simulations
- Read narratives from other educators
- Completed hands-on experiences
- Connected with mentors and advisors through email
According to the article, “Study of NSTA Online Learning Program Shows Significant Gains in Science Learning for Teacher and Student Participants from Houston Independent School District,” the results are positive.
“Assessments given both before and after use of the program show that teacher knowledge…increased by approximately 17 percentile points, compared to 8 percentile points for the control group…The impact of the professional development program also gave teachers greater confidence in their ability to teach science.”
Of course, when teachers understand what they’re teaching, students are more likely to succeed. “Students had gain scores of 17 percentile points, compared to nearly 12 points for students of control group teachers. “
The Future of Teaching
A lot of stories that discuss the relationship between online learning and teaching, focus on the demise of the teaching profession. But this study shows that online learning doesn’t have to be teaching’s nemesis; in fact, it can be used to enhance teaching.
Teach for America, a national corps of teachers who work in under resourced schools, uses a program similar to SciPacks as a way to connect teachers with more experienced educators. As one TFA Alum shares, “Their online network was really useful. There was a catalog of lesson plans to use as well as videos of teachers in their classroom. All of that really helped me strengthen my own teaching.”
Instead of participating in traditional Professional Development days, the teachers in the NSTA study were able to participate in activities that directly related to what they were teaching. And although I don’t know for sure, I imagine that the program’s online availability meant that teachers could access these resources at any point during the day.
Imagine teachers being able to teach during the day, and then using the hour or so after the students have been dismissed to connect with master educators from across the nation. Their content knowledge would increase and, as the study suggested, they would probably feel more excited and ready to teach the next day.
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