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Oregon State’s new research database responds to faculty skepticism of online, hybrid learning

Yvette Gibson, Oregon State Ecampus rangeland sciences instructor, browses OSU's Online Learning Efficacy Research Database on a silver laptop.

Yvette Gibson, Oregon State Ecampus rangeland sciences instructor, browses OSU’s Online Learning Efficacy Research Database.

By Heather Doherty  
Nov. 9, 2017

Oregon State University Ecampus has developed a new research database that allows users to explore whether the learning outcomes of online and/or hybrid (online and in-person) education are equivalent to face-to-face environments.

Users can search studies that compare face-to-face and online or hybrid classes to analyze whether the separate modalities provide a similar or different learning outcome for students. Some of this research compares the same classes in one discipline that are being taught across different modalities.

“Before faculty spend quite a bit of time designing an online class, they want to know that it will be effective for student learning outcomes,” said Katie Linder, director of the Oregon State University Ecampus Research Unit (ECRU). “Faculty want to know the research, especially if they’re skeptical about online learning.”


Heather Doherty
OSU Ecampus

Katie Linder
OSU Ecampus Research Unit

According to an Inside Higher Ed survey of faculty released last month, only 33 percent of faculty members surveyed “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement, “For-credit online courses can achieve student learning outcomes at least equivalent to those of in-person courses at any institution.” While that number is up from 19 percent in 2016, Oregon State researchers say there’s still a need to address that skepticism.

To respond to this need, the OSU Ecampus Research Unit is providing its Online Learning Efficacy Research Database as a resource for faculty, distance education administrators and anyone else who is interested in what the research says in specific disciplines.

“We are not here to convince faculty that online teaching and learning is always effective,” Linder said. “This database is meant to give them an opportunity to dig in and read the studies themselves and make their own assessments of the outcomes of those studies.”

The new database consists of more than 180 studies from 1998 to the present. ECRU staff will update the database monthly, and anyone can submit entries that have not yet been included. The website also houses downloadable lists of dissertations, meta-studies and reviews focused on online education efficacy research, as well as a fact page that describes how database curation decisions are being made.

“As a leader in online education, we stand behind our faculty and we care about what their concerns are. When they have questions, our role is to provide answers, and this database does just that,” said Lisa L. Templeton, associate provost of the OSU Division of Extended Campus, which houses the ECRU and Oregon State Ecampus, the university’s online education division.

OSU’s Online Learning Efficacy Research Database includes studies more recent than another database, No Significant Difference, that only houses research through 2013.

The ECRU database is searchable by a range of categories, including discipline, year, sample size, whether an article is peer-reviewed, journal name and modality.

The database also showcases trends of efficacy research by discipline. For example, business and education yield more results while humanities disciplines have less published research.

“We know it can be challenging for faculty to stay up to date with the latest findings about online learning efficacy,” Linder said. “Any time we can make it easier for them to engage with the scholarship about online teaching and learning, that’s a good thing.”

View the database at

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