Understanding Colorado's Online Learners - Part III of III

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) recently released two reports intended to provide a far better understanding of Colorado’s online students. In the first post, Amanda Heiney from CDE gave us some background to understand why it commissioned these two studies. Post II provides an overview of the first report, Characteristic's of Colorado's Online Students. In this post, let’s dig into the next report: A Study of Online Learning: Perspectives of Online Learners and Educators. A Study of Online Learning: Perspectives of Online Learners and Educators was written the Center for Education Policy Analysis at the Buechner Institute for Governance at the University of Colorado-Denver. They surveyed K-12 parents, grades 9-12 students, and online school staff. The study reported the following:

  • Students choose online high schools because they like the class choices, want to graduate early, want classes to move faster, and are falling behind and need to change something. Parents like the class choices, have concerns about the environment in brick-and-mortar schools, and as an alternative to home schooling.
  • A high proportion of parents and students felt they had enough access to the following online school supports and activities: teacher support, technology, variety of classes, guidance counselor support, and interaction with other students.
  • Students reported performing far better, being more motivated, and being more satisfied with their online school – even though academic performance remained low.
  • Online school staff reported that parent involvement is critical at all levels, that traditional schools need to be educated about online learning before recommending this option, and that professional development for teachers and staff is needed.

As we work to improve graduation rates, reduce dropout rates, and better meet the needs of this varied student population, having a better understanding of who these students are and what they expect from their educational experience will increase the likelihood that we can help those students meet their academic and career goals.