Struggling Students Motivate Districts To Add Online Blended Learning

Most schools providing online or blended learning programs rely on their own district budgets for funding. The main reason they turn to this form of instruction is to offer an alternative to those students who aren't succeeding in traditional formats. They consider the highest measure for the quality of their programs not to rest with proving student progress but with providing "engaging and highly interactive" curriculum.

These results surfaced in an annual survey run by education consultancy Fuel Education and marketing research company MDR EdNET Insight to examine best practices and priorities in setting up and running online and hybrid programs in K-12 schools. The survey was conducted in spring 2015 and sought response from school and district leaders, curriculum and instructional coordinators and teachers, all of whom worked in districts with online and blended learning programs. The survey was completed by 81 people.

The primary challenge addressed by online and blended programs, referenced by nearly four in five respondents (79 percent), was providing an alternative to students struggling in traditional classes. Following that three motivations tied for second place, all referenced by 66 percent: providing access to courses otherwise not available; providing time and place flexibility to students; and delivering personalized learning experiences.

Measuring the quality of an online program focused mainly on student measures: demonstrating significant academic progress (89 percent), showing high attendance and participation (88 percent), scoring at or above other similar students in end-of-year tests (67 percent) and passing the course (65 percent). But even more important, these participants said, was the level of engagement and interactivity of curriculum (91 percent).

According to the respondents, the top attributes for success in implementing online courses were:

  • Offering a "rigorous and engaging curriculum" (91 percent);
  • Adequate reporting tools and tracking student progress (89 percent);
  • Baseline and on-going assessments for monitoring student progress and well-trained instructors (a tie at 88 percent);
  • Setting clear expectations for student responsibilities in taking online courses (87 percent); and
  • Timely teacher intervention when students are struggling (86 percent).

More than nine in 10 districts (92 percent) fund their online and blended programs through their own budgets, according to the survey. State funding is available to only about a quarter of respondent districts (24 percent). Federal "formula" funding such as Title I is used in one in five districts (21 percent). Other sources of money include federal competitive grants, local funding and tuition.

The full report is available for registration on the Fuel Education site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.