Remote Learning: The Evidence

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How can schools support teaching pupils remotely?

The Education Endowment Foundation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and offer much-needed research to support the learning of pupils while schools are closed. Do share it with your politicians and journalists…

On 24th April 2020, the EEF published a free and accessible evidence-based report designed for school leaders and teachers to share what the evidence suggests on effective distance and online learning approaches. Please download the paper in the footer and read the responses to the 5 key research questions:

1. How effective is online learning compared to schooling?

There is evidence that remote learning can have positive impacts – the same as traditional instruction. This review does not attempt to measure the impact of distance learning…

2. Does pupil disadvantage hinder achievement using online learning approaches?

Very few studies examined the impact of remote learning approaches on disadvantaged pupils. More research is needed to see if remote learning approaches widen the attainment gap. Several studies do identify access to technology as an important barrier to implementing remote learning approaches. If school or pupil level disadvantage means that pupils do not have access to the technology needed to engage with remote learning, this is likely to cause attainment gaps to widen.

3. How do different online learning approaches impact on outcomes?

There are several trends within the reviews in which research teams have highlighted particularly promising approaches; aspects of collaborative learning or peer to peer interaction are identified as leading to improved pupil outcomes.

4. What are the characteristics of effective online learning implementation?

Evidence was mixed and inconclusive between synchronous, asynchronous or mixed instruction. There was no evidence that any one medium or delivery mechanism was particularly successful at improving pupil outcomes. There was evidence that quality of implementation did impact learning outcomes…

5. Which EEF-funded programmes have shown promise in terms of improving pupil achievement, online?

No EEF-funded programmes have been delivered in genuine remote learning conditions. The EEF do provide one or two examples in their summary. In times of school closure, programmes that had less promising results may lead to positive outcomes in comparison with alternatives in remote provision. This might particularly be the case for disadvantaged pupils or pupils with low prior attainment who may have been receiving additional support in normal school conditions.


  1. Teaching quality is more important than how lessons are delivered
  2. Ensuring access to technology is key, especially for disadvantaged pupils
  3. Peer interactions can provide motivation and improve learning outcomes
  4. Supporting pupils to work independently can improve learning outcomes
  5. Different approaches to remote learning suit different types of content and pupils

The evidence in this review is drawn from diverse contexts that do not closely parallel the circumstances facing schools responding to Covid-19 in 2020.

Note, the EEF concludes, “many forms of digital technology could, in theory, be used to support remote learning, but are typically used in schools and have not been evaluated as remote learning tools.” Read the report, download the summary sheet and/or the full paper.

7 thoughts on “Remote Learning: The Evidence

  1. The new edition of the BERA journal explores online learning and C19:, it’s worth a look.
    Some research indicates that poorer students will be further disadvantaged by online learning: ‘ Results of this study revealed that there is likely to be a drop in the pass percentage of secondary school students in this year’s national examinations if the COVID-19 epidemic is not contained in the shortest
    possible time considering that the school academic calendar was abruptly disturbed by the early
    untimely closure of all schools in the country.’ From the abstract of Sintema, E. J. (2020). Effect of COVID-19 on the Performance of Grade 12 Students: Implications for STEM Education. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 16(7), em1851.

  2. Hello sir, great article, In such cases, online learning helps to eliminate borders and barriers, both social and physical. Online courses are a great solution to the challenges that these people face as they are provided with high-quality education and on their own place and time.

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