A Meta-Analysis of Scaffolding Effects in Online Learning in Higher Education

  • Min Young Doo College of Education, Kangwon National University
  • Curtis J. Bonk Instructional Systems Technology, School of Education, Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Heeok Heo Sunchon National University
Keywords: scaffolding, online learning, higher education, meta-analysis, effect sizes


The significance of scaffolding in education has received considerable attention. Many studies have examined the effects of scaffolding with diverse groups of participants, purposes, learning outcomes, and learning environments. The purpose of this research was to conduct a meta-analysis of the effects of scaffolding on learning outcomes in an online learning environment in higher education. This meta-analysis included studies with 64 effect sizes from 18 journal articles published in English, in eight countries, from 2010 to 2019. The meta-analysis revealed that scaffolding in an online learning environment has a large and statistically significant effect on learning outcomes. The meta-cognitive domain yielded a larger effect size than did the affective and cognitive domains. In terms of types of scaffolding activities, meta-cognitive scaffolding outnumbered other types of scaffolding. Computers as a scaffolding source in an online learning environment were also more prevalent than were human instructors. In addition, scholars in the United States have produced a large portion of the scaffolding research. Finally, the academic area of language and literature has adopted scaffolding most widely. Given that effective scaffolding can improve the quality of learning in an online environment, the current research is expected to contribute to online learning outcomes and learning experiences.

How to Cite
Doo, M. Y., Bonk, C., & Heo, H. (2020). A Meta-Analysis of Scaffolding Effects in Online Learning in Higher Education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 21(3), 60-80. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v21i3.4638
Research Articles