Policy Documents

A Summary of Research on the Effectiveness of K-12 Online Learning

Susan Patrick and Allison Powell –
August 1, 2009

This memo examines the outcomes and descriptions of the existing studies on K-12 online learning
effectiveness and provides a literature review.

There are a number of rigorous studies that have examined the question, “Is online learning
effective?” However, there is not a single, large-scale, national study comparing students taking
online courses with traditional students, using control groups in the instructional design. The most
in-depth, large-scale study to date is a meta-analysis and review of online learning studies from the
U.S. Department of Education.

This memo contains three sections: 1) a summary of the major study by the U.S. Department of
Education, 2) a brief literature review of online learning research and studies, and 3) future research
recommendations. The conclusion of the meta-analysis of these studies is that online learning offers
promising, new models of education that are effective.