My colleague posted this on her Facebook page some time ago.
Click on the image or visit http://www.onlinecolleges.net/2011/11/15/online-education-at-risk-students/
The article, which is no longer on the website and I had to access it through the Internet Archive, is interesting for a couple of reasons.
Throughout the article the author provides all sort of platitudes – many that we have become quite familiar with when it comes to K-12 online learning. Illustrations of the potential for K-12 online learning to provide opportunities for this group of students or that group of students. However, as we have seen time and time again, this potential is too often unrealized.
Forget platitudes for a minute, what do we know about at-risk students and online learning. If you accept the premise that credit recovery students are among those who meet the definition of being at risk, then we are starting to gain some research-based insights. For example, there are several regional education lab or research center reports in the past five years that we can point to:
- Online Course Use in New York High Schools: Results from a Survey in the Greater Capital Region (2015 – REL Northeast and the Islands)
- Comparing Success Rates for General and Credit Recovery Courses Online and Face to Face: Results for Florida High School Courses (2015 – REL Southeast)
- Online Credit Recovery: Enrollment and Passing Patterns in Montana Digital Academy Courses (2016 – REL Northwest)
- The Back on Track Study: Using Online Courses for Credit Recovery (2016 – AIR)
As I have reviewed these four reports, there are a few things that I note.
- For the most part, whether the credit recovery is online or face-to-face has little long-term (and in some cases even short-term) significance.
- Regardless of delivery medium, how the course is design, delivered and supported matters the most.
- Unfortunately, the online credit recovery is often where we see poorer instructional design and pedagogical practice.
- In many cases, the online credit recovery is significantly cheaper than the face-to-face credit recovery.
What I take away from this… Don’t believe the hype! While online learning has some potential to do some things, in most cases that potential is not realized because online learning is generally seen as a cheap alternate (and any issues with quality are often not really of concern).