Learning outcomes for online versus in-class education

1 May 2020

This rapid research information brief synthesises the evidence on the differential learning outcomes for online versus in-class education; factors that moderate the relative effectiveness; and distinct implications for students in metropolitan, remote, rural and Indigenous communities.

Key findings:

  • The current remote learning arrangements have the potential to result in poorer educational outcomes for almost half of Australian primary and secondary students if continued for an extended period. Students at particular risk of poorer learning outcomes include those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, those with English as a second language, those with special learning needs and those in rural and remote areas.
  • Factors that moderate the effectiveness of remote learning include: a) access to digital technology and the internet; b) home learning environment and family support; c) teacher and student readiness and capability.
  • There is evidence to suggest that ‘blended learning’, combining face-to-face and remote learning, may be as effective as classroom learning for many students.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are likely to face particular challenges with remote learning related to lack of internet service and device availability, reduced opportunities for interaction with Indigenous teacher assistants, and the challenge of incorporating culturally appropriate pedagogies into online resources.

Contributing authors
Dr Danielle Armour
Dr Danielle Armour Senior Lecturer Indigenous Futures, School of Education, College of Arts, Social Sciences & Commerce, La Trobe University
Professor Jill Blackmore AM FASSA
Professor Jill Blackmore AM FASSA Alfred Deakin Professor and Professor of Education, Deakin University
Professor Natalie Brown
Professor Natalie Brown Peter Underwood Centre for Educational Attainment
Professor Janet Clinton
Professor Janet Clinton Director, Centre for Program Evaluation and Director, International Teacher Education Effectiveness Research Hub Melbourne Graduate School of Education
Associate Professor David Geelan FACE
Associate Professor David Geelan FACE School of Education and Professional Studies Griffith University
Professor Andrew Martin FASSA
Professor Andrew Martin FASSA Scientia Professor and Professor of Educational Psychology School of Education (Educational Psychology Research Group), University of New South Wales
Dr Jodie Miller
Dr Jodie Miller Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland
Mary Mulcahy
Mary Mulcahy Director CSIRO Education
Dr Sarah Prestridge
Dr Sarah Prestridge Senior Lecturer Program Director, Bachelor of Education, School of Education and Professional Studies, Griffith University
Professor Neil Selwyn
Professor Neil Selwyn Faculty of Education, Monash University
Professor Pauline Taylor-Guy
Professor Pauline Taylor-Guy Director, ACER Institute and Centre of School and System Improvement
Professor Julian Thomas FAHA
Professor Julian Thomas FAHA Professor for Media and Communications and Enabling Capability Platform Director, Social Change, RMIT University
Professor Deborah West
Professor Deborah West Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching Innovation), Office of Deputy Vice Chancellor (Students), Flinders University
Dr Rachel Wilson
Dr Rachel Wilson Associate Professor, Educational Assessment, Evaluation & Research Methodology, Sydney School of Education & Social Work, Centre for Educational Measurement and Assessment, University of Sydney
Peer reviewers
Emeritus Professor Peter Lee FTSE
Emeritus Professor Peter Lee FTSE
Sir John Loughran FASSA
Sir John Loughran FASSA Monash Distinguished Professor
Professor Mitch Parsell
Professor Mitch Parsell Academic Executive Director, University of Tasmania
Image of Professor George Siemens
Professor George Siemens Professor and Director Centre for Change and Complexity in Learning Teaching Innovation Unit, University of South Australia

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