GIRLS perform better than boys and “low ability” children make the biggest gains from online and and blended learning techniques according to new research.
The research carried out by the University of Dundee led a review looking at online and blended learning undertaken from schools.
Professor Keith Topping included in the research an investigation of educational Games, Computer Supported Cooperative Learning (CSCL) and Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI), all of which have the potential to be used outside school.
They discovered that the majority of studies carried out in this area found blended and online learning better than traditional instruction.
Educational games and CAI were also shown to be very effective and, while these are not yet widely used outside school, they could be made available for this purpose.
Lockdown led to online learning becoming the main resource for students studying due to the pandemic.
Blended and online learning were shown to have positive effects on performance when compared to traditional classroom teaching at both primary and secondary schools.
Science and Maths were the most popular subjects, but positive results were shown across a wide range of other subject areas, including reading and writing, critical thinking, art and music, and health.
They analysed 1540 studies from all over the world, and found that CAI performed the best of all five categories, with Blended Learning and Games next equal.
Online and CSCL were joint bottom but fewer papers had looked at these categories than the others. Overall, 72% of studies found that some form of digital technology performed better than traditional instruction.
Professor Topping said there is a clear need for schools to pursue alternative methods of teaching such as these post-pandemic rather than merely reverting to traditional forms of teaching.
He said: “The past six months have been hugely disruptive for the education of children but it would be a mistake to pivot back to the status quo without pausing to consider what benefits online and blended learning can bring in the long run.”
Co-author Dr Walter Douglas, of The Kelvin Centre in Glasgow, said: “Girls generally do better with online and blended learning, suggesting that the presumed greater competence of boys at information technology is a myth.”
Professor Topping and his colleagues searched eight separate research databases for studies related to digital learning in schools.
One of the biggest concerns about learning during lockdown was that it would create a digital divide between those with access to technology and those without, exacerbating an existing attainment gap along socio-economic lines.
The scoping review found that the positive effects of online and blended learning were more marked for students of low ability, but that this depended on equipment support.
If disadvantaged students have no access to equipment at home it may be that they need to access it in school, but not in class.