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

National Bureau of Economic Research


Results of a recent unprecedented experiment found that Hispanic students, male students and lower-achieving students benefit more from live instruction rather than online instruction.   These results contradict a previous analysis conducted by the U.S. Department of Education that determined online lectures were generally better than live lectures.

The three professors who conducted this study recognized that online instruction could be a better financial option for universities under budgetary constraints, especially during the economic recession.  They concluded that if universities heed the Department of Education’s findings and rely more on online classes, there may be an even bigger cost awaiting educators.

The analysis included 97 students in the live instruction group and 215 students in the online instruction group.  Test scores were higher for all students in live instruction than for students in online instruction, with even higher results for Hispanic students, male students and lower-achieving students.

The authors of this paper state that more experimentation is necessary and offer several ideas for future research that could strengthen and expand the understanding of this topic.

Available for $5, 28 pages.


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