Replacing lecture with web-based course materials

Richard Scheines, Gaea Leinhardt, Joel Smith, Kwangsu Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


In a series of 5 experiments in 2000 and 2001, several hundred students at two different universities with three different professors and six different teaching assistants took a semester long course on causal and statistical reasoning in either traditional lecture/recitation or online/recitation format. In this article we compare the pre-post test gains of these students, we identify features of the online experience that were helpful and features that were not, and we identify student learning strategies that were effective and those that were not. Students who entirely replaced going to lecture with doing online modules did as well and usually better than those who went to lecture. Simple strategies like incorporating frequent interactive comprehension checks into the online material (something that is difficult to do in lecture) proved effective, but online students attended face-to-face recitations less often than lecture students and suffered because of it. Supporting the idea that small, interactive recitations are more effective than large, passive lectures, recitation attendance was three times as important as lecture attendance for predicting pre-test to post-test gains. For the online student, embracing the online environment as opposed to trying to convert it into a traditional print-based one was an important strategy, but simple diligence in attempting "voluntary" exercises was by far the most important factor in student success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Educational Computing Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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