Most Widely Known Online Educational Resources Not Most Effective, According to OpenEd Analysis of Data From 200,000 Teachers

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New White Paper Provides Insights Into Types of Open Educational Resources That Move the Needle for Student Achievement

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The most widely-used online educational resources may not be the most effective, according to an in-depth analysis published today by OpenEd. Developed based on data from the more than 200,000 teachers nationwide who use OpenEd resources and assessments with their students, the analysis in Insights Into Effectiveness of K-12 Online Instructional Resources concludes that more focused specialty publishers, such as The Balanced Literacy Diet (90 percent), Teaching Library (89 percent) and Virtual Montessori (88 percent) have much higher average effectiveness scores, than large more general publishers such as Khan Academy (66 percent), LearnZillion (66 percent), IXL (67 percent) and eSparkLearning (68 percent.) In addition, the research revealed that short, engaging instructional games and videos are most effective in moving the needle on student achievement.

“With the breadth of our standards-aligned content, our linked assignments and the fact directly or through our partners OpenEd is being used in more than 10 percent of U.S. classrooms, we have access to a unique set of data for analyzing the effectiveness of online educational resources,” said Adam Blum, CEO, OpenEd. “Based on our in-depth look at the types of online resources that are most effective in helping students, we urge teachers to look for resources from publishers who are specialized – not necessarily the most widely used – and for online games and videos that are short and engaging.”

The analysis also found that online educational games (70 percent) are more effective learning resources than videos (66 percent). Both drastically outperform other resource types, such as printed worksheets or supplementary text.

For the purposes of this analysis, OpenEd identified five categories of online instructional videos:

  •     Cartoons (an animation, often with accompanying music or songs for younger grades)
  •     Flashcards (a specific type of animation, with a pause to allow students to answer questions)
  •     Lessons (a slide deck or PowerPoint preso narrated over by a teacher)
  •     Blackboards (drawing on an electronic slate as popularized by Sal Khan)
  •     Teachers (a live teacher being videoed as a “talking head” or standing by a blackboard)

OpenEd’s analysis of its data concluded that cartoons – specifically “flashcard-style cartoons” – are most effective. After that “lessons” as slide decks or PowerPoints with narration have the highest level of effectiveness. Then “generic cartoons” rank right at the average level of effectiveness. There is then a big gap in effectiveness to the “teacher standing up or talking head.” Finally, the least effective video type is the “blackboard.”

OpenEd has the largest K-12 resource library with over a million videos, games, assessments and homework assignments, all aligned to Common Core and other state standards. A unique aspect of OpenEd is that it uses formative assessments to drive resource selection. Based on a student’s results on the assessment, they are presented with suggested instructional resources to address the identified learning gaps. Many students then take a subsequent assessment on the site to determine if they have achieved mastery. A resource was rated by evaluating how students perform on an assessment that is on the same subject or standard category subsequent to that student viewing the resource.

About OpenEd
The largest K-12 educational resource library, OpenEd offers over a million assessments, homework assignments, videos, instructional games and lesson plans for every Common Core Math and English/Language Arts Standard as well as the Next Generation Science Standards and Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.

OpenEd lets teachers assign quizzes and homework to their students and automatically grades them, recommending videos and assignments in real-time and personalized based on each student's progress in learning each Common Core standard. The result is truly personalized learning for every student.

The company is committed to keeping the majority of its content available for free to educators around the world. For more information, visit

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Lisa Wolfe
L. Wolfe Communications
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