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The Effects of Distance Education on K–12 Student Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis

October 2004

Cathy Cavanaugh
University of North Florida
Kathy Jo Gillan
Duval County Public Schools
Jeff Kromrey
University of South Florida
Melinda Hess
University of South Florida
Robert Blomeyer
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory

The community of K–12 education has seen explosive growth over the last decade in distance learning programs, defined as learning experiences in which students and instructors are separated by space and/or time. While elementary and secondary students have learned through the use of electronic distance learning systems since the 1930s, the development of online distance learning schools is a relatively new phenomenon. Online virtual schools may be ideally suited to meet the needs of stakeholders calling for school choice, high school reform, and workforce preparation in 21st century skills. The growth in the numbers of students learning online and the importance of online learning as a solution to educational challenges has increased the need to study more closely the factors that affect student learning in virtual schooling environments. This meta-analysis is a statistical review of 116 effect sizes from 14 webdelivered K–12 distance education programs studied between 1999 and 2004. The analysis shows that distance education can have the same effect on measures of student academic achievement when compared to traditional instruction.

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