WCET is thrilled to welcome Mary Ellen Dello Stritto and Katie Linder, from the Oregon State University Ecampus, to introduce the new Online Learning Efficacy Research Database. This database will help you find citations for higher education studies that compare different modalities of instruction (such as online versus blended courses). Read on to learn more about this important new tool.

Thank you Mary Ellen and Katie for this great post and kudos to your team for their work.

Enjoy the read,

~Lindsey Downs, WCET

As researchers in the field of online education, we often receive questions about the effectiveness of online courses, specifically about the equivalency of student outcomes compared to face-to-face courses. From both internal and external audiences, we commonly are asked about the published research comparing different modalities (face-to-face, online and hybrid/blended). More specifically, the faculty we interact with are often interested in knowing about the research from their own discipline on the comparability of learning outcomes across modalities.

The results of the 2017 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology support our anecdotal observation that there is remaining skepticism among faculty about the effectiveness of online education. This report found that the majority of faculty who did not teach online courses perceived online courses to be less effective than traditional in-person courses.

In response to these concerns, we have developed the Online Learning Efficacy Research Database.

photo of someone usin the research database. Words on the front of the image say

This searchable database allows users to find citations for published studies in higher education that compare modalities of instruction (e.g. online versus face-to-face, or online versus hybrid). Users can filter results by:

  • discipline,
  • modality,
  • peer-review status,
  • publication year,
  • sample size,
  • journal,
  • education level.

How was it built?

The OSU Ecampus Research Unit staff searched for publications using published review articles, meta-studies and a systematic search of Google Scholar. We also reviewed an older database, No Significant Difference, which contains citations published through 2013.

Our overall search included an initial examination of thousands of articles, with a deeper review of more than 400 articles spanning the last 25 years.

Members from the Ecampus web development team then created the database with feedback from the Ecampus Research Unit staff.

What are the criteria for inclusion?

To be included in the database, research studies needed to: 1) include a comparison of two or more instructional modalities (face-to-face, online, hybrid/blended or web-facilitated), and 2) include measurement of at least one student performance outcome (such as exam scores, course grades or another performance outcome). The database includes publications from 1998 to the present. Prior to 1997, we found that publications primarily focused on pre-internet tele-courses and the use of technologies that are now considered outdated and less relevant for contemporary classrooms.

sceen shot of the database showing the search bar, filters (discipline), modality (traditional, web facilitated, blended/hybrid, fully online), peer reviewed.

How big is the database?

The database currently includes 186 studies published in 137 different journals, and represents research from 71 discrete disciplines. The database site also includes a downloadable list of meta-studies that synthesize research comparing instructional modalities, as well as a list of dissertations on the topic of online efficacy.

Will the database be updated regularly?

Each month, the database is updated with new citations by the Ecampus Research Unit staff. Users can sign up for an email list on the database website to be alerted about new citations being added to the database.

We welcome suggestions from users about research studies they recommend for addition to the database.

What are others saying about the database?

The database has already received positive feedback, such as the following comments on Twitter:

“Great project. Very useful work!
Surpasses and fills the void left by NSD.”
Geoff Cain

“Amazed by this awesome database for
online learning efficacy.”

– Rob Nyland

Every day we are receiving emails thanking us for this new resource, suggesting additional studies for inclusion, and asking about the kinds of studies we are conducting at the Research Unit.

About the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit

The OSU Ecampus Research Unit makes research actionable through the creation of evidence-based resources related to effective online teaching, learning and program administration. The OSU Ecampus Research Unit is part of OSU’s Division of Extended Campus, which houses Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s top-ranked online education provider.

Mary Ellen Dello Stritto

Mary Ellen Dello Stritto
Assistant Director
Ecampus Research Unit
Oregon State University


Linder headshot

Kathryn Linder
Research Director
Ecampus Research Unit
Oregon State University



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