The Online Environment – What is perceived as quality online education?

A 2009 study of 10,720 faculty from 69 public universities found that instructors who had not taught online assumed that online education was not as good as face-to-face instruction. Interestingly, once they had taught online, they realized that learning outcomes in an online course were “as good as or better than face-to-face instruction” (p. 29). [4]

One of the most powerful and influential investigations into the effectiveness of online learning was conducted by the U.S. Department of Education and published in 2010. This was a systematic review of research literature that investigated differences in student learning outcomes between online and face-to-face learning from 1996-2008. It yielded these key findings:

  • Students in online or blended (i.e., partly online, partly face-to-face) courses performed better, on average, than students in the same face-to-face courses.
  • These effects were greater when the online courses involved collaboration and instructor involvement than when the online students were engaged in independent study. [5]

In addition, chief academic officers have been asked to report their personal perceptions about the relative quality of online education in a series of surveys conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and Quahog Research Group. In 2015, 71.4% of those academic leaders rated learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face instruction, which is up from 57.2% in 2003. [1]


  1. Allen, I. E., Seaman, J., Poulin, R., & Straut, T. T. (2016). Online report card: Tracking online education in the United States (Rep.). Babson Survey Research Group. Retrieved from
  2. Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2016). 2015-16 national online learners satisfaction and priorities report. Cedar Rapids: Ruffalo Noel Levitz.
  3. No Significant Difference. Presented by WCET (2016, March 14. Retrieved from
  4. Seaman, J. (2009). Online Learning as a Strategic Asset. Volume II: The Paradox of Faculty Voices–Views and Experiences with Online Learning. Results of a National Faculty Survey, Part of the Online Education Benchmarking Study Conducted by the APLU-Sloan National Commission on Online Learning. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
  5. Means, B., Toyama, Y., Murphy, R., Bakia, M., & Jones, K. (2009). Evaluation of evidence-based practices in online learning: A meta-analysis and review of online learning studies. US Department of Education
  6. Noel-Levitz (2014). 2015-2016 national online learners priorities report. Coralville, IA.
  7. Shea, P., Swan, K., Fredericksen, E., and Pickett, A. (2001). Student satisfaction and reported learning in the SUNY learning network: Interaction and beyond – social presence in asynchronous learning networks. In Bourne, J., and Moore, J. (Eds.), Elements of Quality Online Education. (pp.145-56). Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education. Retrieved from