New Report Examines Online, On Campus Learning Processes

April 18, 2003

Online learning continues to increase in popularity, but little research exists documenting its effectiveness. A new study from TERC examines how learning outcomes for a group of K-8 science teachers differed in online and face-to-face environments.

In "An Investigation of Try Science Studied Online and Face-to-Face," TERC studied two groups of participants in a graduate course working with the same course content. All participants showed an improved understanding of science content, with a significantly greater change for the online group. The change in the online groupÂ’s confidence levels in their science teaching from pre- to post-test was also greater. In addition, the findings showed a higher level of reflection on learning and inquiry for online participants when compared to the on-campus group.

The research study was conducted over two years with elementary and middle school science teachers and was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The participants were part of a master's program aimed at helping teachers develop understanding in science content and of science teaching through inquiry. The report examined the learning processes and outcomes of teachers enrolled in Try Science, the introductory module of the online Lesley University/TERC master's in science education program. For the research a 13-week course was mounted on campus.

The research questions were:

  • What is the nature of the learning experience online and face-to-face?
  • How do the processes and outcomes online and on-campus compare?
  • Are there learning outcomes that are more readily achieved through one form of study than the other?
  • What features of online or on-campus courses might be incorporated into the other to optimize learning in both situations?

A copy of the full report is available online. For more information about the TERC/Lesley University master's in science education program, visit the Science Online web site.


Lesley University ( is a 13,000-student, multi-site university for women and men. Anchored by a strong liberal arts curriculum, Lesley offers undergraduate and graduate programs in education, the arts, human services, and management at its Cambridge and Boston campuses and at more than 150 sites in 18 states.