Is it Live or is it Internet? Experimental Estimates of the Effects of Online Instruction on Student Learning


This paper, written by David N. Figlio, Mark Rush, Lu Yin, presents the first experimental evidence on the effects of live versus internet media of instruction. Students in a large introductory microeconomics course at a major research university were randomly assigned to live lectures versus watching these same lectures in an internet setting, where all other factors (e.g., instruction, supplemental materials) were the same. Counter to the conclusions drawn by a recent U.S. Department of Education meta-analysis of non-experimental analyses of internet instruction in higher education, we find modest evidence that live-only instruction dominates internet instruction. These results are particularly strong for Hispanic students, male students, and lower-achieving students. The paper also provides suggestions for future experimentation in other settings.

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