Making a compelling case for examining the effectiveness of online or blended learning against empirical benchmarks, Edward Renner rejects the measurement of online learning against a conventional “sage-on-the-stage” classroom setting. In “The Difference Between Theory and Practice,” Renner cites a number of studies that make comparisons between online and actual expectations of learning, rather than comparing online against equivalent F2F models:
“… the chorus of critics is that online and virtual is a shoddy imitation of the real thing. Such declarations miss the point. They are assertions that the ideal traditional classroom is the real criterion against which online should be compared, rather than simply serving as a reference point for comparison with other alternatives.
The issue of whether the new technologies are consistent with a hypothetical ideal appropriate for the specific circumstance of lecturing to a captive audience at a fixed time and place is a meaningless theoretical exercise. The essential exercise is to compare this particular circumstance with other circumstances using an objective external standard.
The objective standard at one extreme is a situation in which hardly anyone learns anything. At the other extreme is one in which almost everyone learns everything. These two limiting distributions can be plotted on a graph in which the X-Axis is the proportion of the material learned and Y-Axis is the proportion of the class.”