We randomly assigned students in seven introductory statistics courses on six public university campuses to take the course in a hybrid format (with machine-guided instruction accompanied by one hour of face-to-face instruction each week) or a traditional format (as it is usually offered by their campus, typically with 3-4 hours of face-to-face instruction each week).
We found that students in the hybrid format did just as well—in terms of pass rates, final exam scores, and performance on a standardized statistics test—as their counterparts in the traditional version of the same course. This finding of “no effect” may seem disappointing, but we view it as hugely consequential because it shows that fears of online learning leading to worse outcomes are unfounded. We certainly hope that more sophisticated versions of interactive online courses will produce even better outcomes, but clearly the first test they must pass is that they “do no harm.”
Update: The Boston Globe gave this some press too.