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Department of Education Study Cites Value of Distance Learning

On June 26th the U.S. Department of Education released a "meta-analysis" of online education, a study based on strict criteria that the Department established in order to derive accurate information.�� A meta-analysis looks at all available data on a topic and develops a broad overview.�� The report said that researchers had identified more than 1,000 empirical studies of online learning that had been done from 1996 through July of 2008.

The Department selected 51 studies that compared online education to a "face-to-face" situation [classroom], that measured student learning productivity using "a rigorous research design," and that provided adequate information to calculate the differences.�� In its summation, the Department report noted that it was the first such study to find characteristics for distance learning that are superior to the classroom experience.

Giving students control of their interactions has a positive effect on the learning experience, according to the study.�� While the findings are not an endorsement of one learning environment over the other, the report observes that "In many of the studies showing an advantage for online learning, the online and classroom conditions differed in terms of time spent, curriculum and��[teaching methods]."�� Online educational institutions have paved the way for what is now being recognized as an educational experience of extremely high quality.

Perhaps the most important fact that emerges from the DOE study is that "��online learning is much more conducive to the expansion of learning time than is face-to-face instruction." ��Students that opt for distance learning are more likely to put in the time and effort to maximize learning opportunities.�� A surprising element that emerges from the study is the fact that students are likely to spend more time collaborating with peers in a distance learning environment than those that attend a campus.

The U.S. Secretary of Education released a statement that notes, "This new report reinforces that effective teachers need to incorporate digital content into everyday classes and consider open-source learning management systems, which have proven cost effective in school districts and colleges nationwide."

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