Learning Resources

OpenEd Assesses 'Most Effective' Online Learning Resources

Animated flashcards and sub-two-minute videos turn out to be the most effective online resources for K-12 against all other common options. That's the finding determined by OpenEd, which recently studied the data generated from the results of assessments given to students who used its free online resources for educational purposes.

OpenEd has collected "over a million" assessments, homework assignments, videos, games and lesson plans for every Common Core and Next Generation Science standard. Some are free; some are part of a "premium" collection. Teachers use the site to assign homework and quizzes to their students. Those formative assessments are automatically graded and then the student receives recommendations about the resources to watch or work through in gaining additional mastery. It's those scores that were used to derive the data used in OpenEd's analysis.

As explained in a new paper written by OpenEd CEO Adam Blum, the company examined the average "effectiveness" of its online instructional resources. That was defined by how well students performed on an assessment covering the same subject or standard category after viewing the resource.

The average effectiveness rating for every resource in the catalog was 66 percent with a standard deviation of 11 percent.

The research project found that games at 70 percent effectiveness outperformed videos at 66 percent. According to Blum, some of the "standout" games — those that pulled the highest numbers — came from two specific providers, MathChimp and Utah State University.

The most effective type of video was the flashcard, which uses animation, then pauses to allow the student to answer a question. Those showed an average effectiveness of 72 percent, a higher score than lessons shown in a slide deck or PowerPoint presentation (69 percent) or a video of a teacher explaining a topic (65 percent). At the other end of the spectrum with a 63.5 percent effectiveness rating was the use of a blackboard — drawing on an electronic tablet, a technique popularized by Sal Khan in videos produced by Khan Academy.

The study also found that shorter videos are more effective. A video less than a minute in length received a 70 percent effectiveness score; one to two minutes averaged 69 percent. Videos of two to five minutes in length are very common — approximately 45 percent of the catalog — and were 66 percent effective. Beyond the five-minute duration, the rating dropped to 63 or 64 percent.

The report also referenced a shortlist of the most effective publishers. At the top of the list was WordWorldPBS, which received a rating of 94 percent for its English/language arts videos for young learners. Number two with 92 percent was LetsStartSmart, which has cartoons and songs, also for younger ELA learners. The Balanced Literacy Diet came in third with its ELA skills and teacher-targeted videos.

Although OpenEd makes its top choices available, it declines to list those who came in at the bottom of the barrel. "Over time," Blum wrote, "we prune out publishers with below average resource effectiveness."

The company said that it expected to provide a deeper breakdown on its current analysis based on student age and subject.

The paper is publicly available in a Dropbox site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.