Technology has opened up a world of opportunities for online learning.[i] Many students now keep track of their coursework, read and watch educational content, and submit assignments through their schools’ online learning management systems (LMS). In addition, students have access to a broader range of classes and content areas through virtual classrooms and online distance learning. Outside the school setting, children informally learn from educational video games and online content, while people of all ages master new subjects in free massive open online courses (MOOCs).
Some forms of online learning translate the traditional class structure into the digital realm, while others open up new methods for communication among educators and students. In synchronous learning, an educator and their students gather online at the same time in a virtual classroom. Asynchronous learning does not require that students and instructors be online at the same time, opening up the possibility of self-paced and personalized learning tailored to individual students. Blended learning combines face-to-face instruction in a physical classroom with online learning activities.
Like the technologies that enable online learning, research on the topic is still fairly new, particularly when it comes to evaluating the outcomes of online learning. The section below highlights key findings from the emerging research on online learning.