The Horse and the Cart in Web-based Instruction: Prevalence and Efficacy


This paper consists of reviews of current trends in World Wide Web-based instruction and a representative sample of Web-based instruction efficacy research. The review of the current state of Web-based instruction yields two principle themes: (1) the prevalence of Web-based instruction is growing exponentially, particularly in lifelong learning and corporate training; and (2) the line between academia and private industry is blurring at an unprecedented rate that is strongly associated with the growth of Web-based instruction and training. A review of Web-based instruction efficacy indicates that, despite the prevalence of Web-based instruction, there are few efficacy studies in which Web-based and face-to-face instruction are compared. The paper describes views of educational researchers who object to the utility of such studies on methodological and theoretical grounds. Rationale for the need for such studies is also presented. Four representative efficacy studies are summarized, and their results, taken together, yield three principal conclusions: (1) Web-based instruction can be as effective as face-to-face instruction based on students' grades and exam scores; (2) learning variables play an important role in terms of the nature of students who select and who succeed in Web-based classes; and (3) factors that lead to improved performance in face-to-face classes, such as structured collaboration and active learning, also increase performance and positive attitude in Web-based courses.

Meeting Name

Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association


Business and Information Technology

Second Department

Computer Science

Third Department

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Document Type

Article - Conference proceedings

Document Version


File Type





© 2000 American Educational Research Association, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Apr 2000

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