01 02 03 Institute for Effective Education, University of York: Online vs in-person catch-up courses 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Online vs in-person catch-up courses

Traditionally, students in the US who fail high school courses are able to retake them in summer school or during the school year in a classroom setting. Now that online courses are available, students are increasingly choosing this route instead of face-to-face instruction to retake their failed subjects. However, there is little evidence supporting the effectiveness of these online courses. The American Institutes for Research (AIR) has released a research brief comparing the effects of an online Algebra I makeup course to the one typically offered face-to-face.

The sample included 1,224 ninth graders (Year 10) who had failed Algebra I in 17 Chicago Public Schools that offered both online and in-person makeup courses. Students were randomly assigned to receive either the online or in-person course in the summers of 2011 and 2012, with each course lasting three weeks and consisting of 60 instructional hours. Most students (86%) were low socio-economic status; 62% were male and 38% were female; and 57% were Hispanic, 33% African American, and 8% White. Students in both conditions had the same prior achievement levels and class sizes.

Results favoured in-person instruction over online instruction. Students who took Algebra I online rated the course as more difficult than did students in the in-person course, had more negative attitudes about maths than the in-person students, and achieved lower scores and credit-recovery rates than the in-person students. It is of note, however, that there were no significant differences between the two groups in subsequent maths course performance or in being on track for graduation at the end of the second year of high school (Year 11).

The authors recognise that in some schools, online courses are the only viable way to recover credit and suggest that online courses might be more helpful to high-risk students by providing a review of the earlier content that students need to succeed in Algebra I. This research brief is one of three in AIR’s “Back on Track” study.

Source: Comparing the Effectiveness of Online and Face-to-Face Credit Recovery in Algebra I (2016) American Institutes for Research.

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