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Is it Live or is it Internet? Experimental Estimates of the Effects of Online Instruction on Student Learning

  • David N. Figlio
  • Mark Rush
  • Lu Yin

This paper presents the first experimental evidence on the effects of live versus internet media of instruction. Students in a large introductory microeconomics course at a major research university were randomly assigned to live lectures versus watching these same lectures in an internet setting, where all other factors (e.g., instruction, supplemental materials) were the same. Counter to the conclusions drawn by a recent U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of non-experimental analyses of internet instruction in higher education, we find modest evidence that live-only instruction dominates internet instruction. These results are particularly strong for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students. We also provide suggestions for future experimentation in other settings.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16089.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as "Is it Live or is it Internet? Experimental Es timates of the Effects of Online Instruction on Student Learning" (with Mark Rush and Lu Yin) Journal of Labor Economics , 2012.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16089
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  1. P. Navarro & J. Shoemaker, 2000. "Policy issues in the teaching of economics in cyberspace: research design, course design, and research results," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(3), pages 359-366, 07.
  2. Figlio, David & Loeb, Susanna, 2011. "School Accountability," Handbook of the Economics of Education, Elsevier.
  3. Colleen Donovan & David N. Figlio & Mark Rush, 2006. "Cramming: The Effects of School Accountability on College-Bound Students," NBER Working Papers 12628, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Byron W. Brown & Carl E. Liedholm, 2002. "Can Web Courses Replace the Classroom in Principles of Microeconomics?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 444-448, May.
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