A Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Synchronous Online Learning on Cognitive and Affective Educational Outcomes

Keywords: synchronous, online learning, meta-analysis, face-to-face, asynchronous, affective, cognitive, outcome


Synchronous online learning (SOL) provides an opportunity for instructors to connect in real-time with their students though separated by geographical distance. This meta-analysis examines the overall effect of SOL on cognitive and affective educational outcomes, while using asynchronous online learning or face-to-face learning as control groups. The effects are also examined for several moderating methodological, pedagogical, and demographical factors. Following a systematic identification and screening procedure, we identified 19 publications with 27 independent effect sizes published between 2000 and 2019. Overall, there was a statistically significant small effect in favor of synchronous online learning versus asynchronous online learning for cognitive outcomes. However, the other models were not statistically significant in this meta-analysis. The effect size data were normally distributed and significantly moderated by course duration, instructional method, student equivalence, learner level, and discipline. Implications for educational practice and research are included.

Author Biographies

Florence Martin, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Florence Martin is a Professor in the Learning, Design and Technology at University of North Carolina Charlotte. She teaches 100% online and engages in research focusing on the effective design of instruction and integration of digital technology to improve learning and performance. Dr. Martin served as the President of the Multimedia Production Division and Division of Distance Learning for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology. She serves as an Associate Editor for the Online Learning Journal, on the advisory council for North Carolina Virtual Public Schools and on the board for International Board of Standards for Training, Performance and Instruction. For her detailed bio visit, https://www.florencemartin.net  She may be reached at Florence.Martin@uncc.edu


Ting Sun, University of North Carolina Charlotte

Ting Sun is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University. Her research interests include online learning, meta-analysis and writing self-efficacy. Dr. Sun has been serving as a reviewer for journals and conferences. Her dissertation is on examining the relationship between writing self-efficacy and writing achievement in an empirical study and a meta-analysis. She may be reached at ting.sun1@northwestern.edu

Murat Turk, University of Oklahoma

Murat Turk is a Ph.D. candidate in Learning Sciences at the University of Oklahoma. He teaches fully asynchronous online courses in educational psychology including motivation and classroom management for preservice teachers. He engages in research focusing on the relationships between online presences, student motivation, basic psychological needs, and student engagement in online learning environments. He served for the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) within different divisions and roles. He has also been serving as a reviewer for journals and conferences in the field. His dissertation research is on developing and validating a new self-report survey scale of online student engagement in higher education. Murat Turk can be reached at murat.turk@ou.edu.

Albert Ritzhaupt, University of Florida

Albert D. Ritzhaupt is a professor of educational technology and associate director for graduate studies in the School of Teaching and Learning at the University of Florida. His primary research areas focus on the design and development of technology-enhanced learning environments, and operationalizing and measuring technology integration in education.  Dr. Ritzhaupt serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, the flagship research journal for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).


*indicates articles that were included in the meta-analysis.

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How to Cite
Martin, F., Sun, T., Turk, M., & Ritzhaupt, A. (2021). A Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Synchronous Online Learning on Cognitive and Affective Educational Outcomes . The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 22(3), 205-242. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v22i3.5263
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