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Home Publications Online Course Use in Iowa and Wisconsin Public High Schools: The Results of Two Statewide Surveys

Online Course Use in Iowa and Wisconsin Public High Schools: The Results of Two Statewide Surveys

by Margaret Clements, Erin Stafford, Angela Pazzaglia and Pamela Jacobs
Online Course Use in Iowa and Wisconsin Public High Schools: The Results of Two Statewide Surveys

As the use of online courses in high schools increases rapidly across the United States, schools are using courses from a multitude of sources to achieve a variety of educational goals. Policies and practices for monitoring student progress and success in online courses are also diverse. Yet few states formally track or report student participation in online learning. Iowa and Wisconsin are among the states that do not track such information. This study analyzed data from a survey developed to describe how and why brick-and-mortar public high schools in Iowa and Wisconsin use online learning for their students. The survey, developed by Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest in collaboration with members of its Virtual Education Research Alliance, reflects the need for better information about the basic characteristics of online course use across the country. To identify the types of programs and policies needed to support the effective use of online learning, state administrators and policymakers need accurate information about how and why schools are turning to online learning. Recognizing the potential value of this type of information, the Iowa Department of Education and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction administered the survey to a representative sample of public high schools in each state to gather information about online course use during the 2012/13 school year. This report presents the findings of school practices in the two states but does not directly compare them. Among the key findings were: (1) Recovering course credit for classes that students had failed and completing core requirements were among the top academic objectives of online course enrollment in both Iowa and Wisconsin. Most of the online courses were in the primary academic subjects: English language arts, social studies, math, and science; (2) Three other commonly cited reasons why schools enrolled students in online courses were to offer courses that were not otherwise available, to provide an alternative learning environment, and to personalize learning; (3) In Iowa the primary challenge schools faced in providing online learning was the lack of online teacher training. In Wisconsin it was the concern about course quality; and (4) Most schools in both states reported that some or all of the students enrolled in online courses had the opportunity to communicate directly with an online teacher. The following appendices are included: (1) Data and methodology; (2) Example survey instrument; (3) Iowa supplemental statistical tables; and (4) Wisconsin supplemental statistical tables.

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