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Survey Identifies Challenges with High School Online Courses

Teacher training and course quality are among the top concerns revealed by a review of online high school courses in Iowa and Wisconsin.

A recent study by the Regional Educational Laboratory Midwest, funded by the federal Institute of Education Sciences, analyzed data from surveys of administrators and teachers in high schools that offered online courses. Responses from 213 high schools were used to give a snapshot of online learning during the 2012-13 school year.

Credit recovery for classes that students had failed and completing core requirements were the main reasons students enrolled in online courses, the survey found. Schools typically offered courses in core subjects such as math, science, social studies and English. Online courses also were offered to personalize learning and provide an alternative learning environment, according to the survey.

The survey presented high school administrators and teachers with 12 challenges associated with online learning. (Respondents could choose multiple challenges.) Among the Iowa high schools surveyed, respondents identified online teacher training as the primary challenge associated with the courses. In Wisconsin, concern about course quality was the biggest issue.

Researchers discovered most schools had monitors to supervise students taking online courses. About 34 percent of those with monitors in Iowa trained staff for this role and 41 percent did in Wisconsin.

Nationally, the report notes that about 55 percent of school district enroll students in some form of technology-delivered distance education and interest is growing. States enacted 157 pieces of legislation between 2008 and 2012 related to online learning. With low completion rates of 30 to 50 percent, policymakers are eager for information and guidance on how to make it most effective, researchers note.

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