e-Learning Better at Improving Performance Than Traditional Instruction

Date: April 28, 2011

More growth in learning takes place with individuals instructed with computer-based instruction methods — e-learning — compared to their counterparts instructed via traditional face-to-face methods, a study conducted by a Texas A&M University professor shows.

Prof. Frederick Nafukho has long been fascinated with the effect of methods of instruction on performance and is widely published on the subject. With more than five years of researching computer-based learning support system, Nafukho says e-learning has a potential to improve students' performance, but "to boost success in the digital economy, individuals and institutions of higher learning must use research to guide the adaptation and integration of new technologies into the learning process. He adds that the use of information technology in the instruction process is spreading faster than any other form of curricula change.

Nafukho, professor of human resource development and head of Texas A&M's Department of Educational Administration and Human Resource Development, has authored more than 20 books and book chapters on human resource development and the role of information communications technology (ICT) in education and training.

In a study published in International Journal of Vocational Education and Training, Nafukho examines e-learning training versus traditional training in six industries — retailing, manufacturing, civil service, architecture, education and trucking. "We found that those instructed via e-learning showed an improvement in performance way higher than those instructed using the traditional face-to-face method," Nafukho says.

The Texas A&M professor observes that the impact of technology in improving the learning process cannot be ignored; almost every university now offers a form of online degree or certificate to students who cannot be physically available to attend classes. This trend, he says, is on the increase but there is limited research measuring the effect of this method of instruction compared to traditional face-to-face method of instruction.

Nafukho explained that though there was no statistically significant difference in performance between both methods of instruction, results of the research show that "there was a practical significance in the learning that took place between the two groups." More growth in learning took place with those taught through e-learning he notes.

The findings of the study, Nafukho says, are consistent with other research done in this field, and it only reinforces the fact that technology cannot be ignored. The fact that more significant growth in performance was observed in those trained using e-learning suggests that there is a need to put in more efforts into designing quality and effective e-learning programs.

Nafukho notes that e-learning training should tap into students' creativity and be able to keep them motivated. In addition, factors such as method of assessment, course delivery and course content structure should be properly considered when using e-learning training method.

Although e-learning is good and encourages continuing education, Nafukho says, "Technology is only a facilitator; it cannot replace the teacher." He adds that there is still a need to investigate how e-learning training can be better designed for successful delivery, and perhaps what kind of students are well suited for this method of instruction.