Getting Back on Track: What Math Content Is Taught and Learned in Online and Face-to-Face Algebra Credit Recovery Courses?
The Back on Track Study: Research Brief 4
Online courses can serve as a practical way for students to recover credit in courses they have failed. These courses provide flexibility and convenience for schools and students; some may also have the potential to present course content in a more engaging and customized way than a standard face-to-face course. The Back on Track Study, conducted by AIR and the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research, is an ongoing study of online versus face-to-face credit recovery for at-risk ninth graders.
This research brief is one in a series investigating the implementation and impacts of the credit recovery courses in the study. It evaluates the content provided in online and face-to-face algebra credit recovery courses and reveals possible differences based on instructor preferences and district guidelines.
- All of the online course content covered second-semester (Algebra IB) topics, whereas only 50% of the content in the face-to-face classes covered Algebra IB topics. The other 50% of the content in the face-to-face classes addressed a mix of prealgebra and first-semester (Algebra IA) topics.
- The online course content followed a conventional sequence, within and across Algebra IB units. In contrast, 70% of the content in the face-to-face classes followed a conventional sequence; the other 30% of the face-to-face content appeared to be sequenced haphazardly.
- Students in the online course on average completed less than two thirds of the course and struggled on end-of-unit assessments within the course.
- Students’ grades were lower in the online course than in the face-to-face classes. Less than one third of online students earned a grade of “C” or higher, compared with more than half of students in face-to-face classes. Tests and quizzes accounted for about 60% of students’ final grades in the online course, compared with about 50% in the face-to-face classes.
- Student scores on the end-of-course algebra test administered for this study were low overall in both types of courses. However, students In the online course scored significantly lower than the face-to-face students on this assessment, including lower on prealgebra, Algebra IA, and Algebra IB item sets.