The Effectiveness of Web-Based Instruction: An Initial Inquiry
As the use of Web-based instruction increases in the educational and training domains, many people have recognized the importance of evaluating its effects on student outcomes such as learning, performance, and satisfaction. Often, these results are compared to those of conventional classroom instruction in order to determine which method is “better.” However, major differences in technology and presentation rather than instructional content can obscure the true relationship between Web-based instruction and these outcomes. Computer-based instruction (CBI), with more features similar to Web-based instruction, may be a more appropriate benchmark than conventional classroom instruction. Furthermore, there is little consensus as to what variables should be examined or what measures of learning are the most appropriate, making comparisons between studies difficult and inconclusive. In this article, we review the historical findings of CBI as an appropriate benchmark to Web-based instruction. In addition, we review 47 reports of evaluations of Web-based courses in higher education published between 1996 and 2002. A tabulation of the documented findings into eight characteristics is offered, along with our assessments of the experimental designs, effect sizes, and the degree to which the evaluations incorporated features unique to Web-based instruction.
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