The value of online learning and MRI: Finding a niche for expensive technologies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: The benefits of online learning come at a price. How can we optimize the overall value? Aims: Critically appraise the value of online learning.

Methods: Narrative review.

Results: Several prevalent myths overinflate the value of online learning. These include that online learning is cheap and easy (it is usually more expensive), that it is more efficient (efficiency depends on the instructional design, not the modality), that it will transform education (fundamental learning principles have not changed), and that the Net Generation expects it (there is no evidence of pent-up demand). However, online learning does add real value by enhancing flexibility, control and analytics. Costs may also go down if disruptive innovations (e.g. low-cost, low-tech, but instructionally sound "good enough" online learning) supplant technically superior but more expensive online learning products. Cost-lowering strategies include focusing on core principles of learning rather than technologies, using easy-to-learn authoring tools, repurposing content (organizing and sequencing existing resources rather than creating new content) and using course templates.

Conclusions: Online learning represents just one tool in an educator's toolbox, as does the MRI for clinicians. We need to use the right tool(s) for the right learner at the right dose, time and route.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)965-972
Number of pages8
JournalMedical teacher
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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