Rural schools are increasingly relying on online courses to expand education opportunity for students, especially in the midst of budget cuts and teacher shortages. For many of these schools, online credit recovery can free up staff members, expand course offerings, and provide more opportunities for students to earn credits needed to graduate.
A new report published by the Institute of Education Sciences and written by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest examined successful credit recovery strategies in Montana to determine how schools, especially rural ones, can administer successful online credit-recovery programs. The report found that among schools in Montana that offer credit recovery through a statewide online system, those that had the highest passing rates had several strategies in common.
1. An established system for administering the online program,
That means students had a specific time and place during the school day and year to complete the courses. For example, a school might provide a computer lab for students to complete their courses during a period of the day, rather than offering the course during the summer when outside factors like transportation could get in the way.
2. Provide academic support
Schools with high passing rates for online credit recovery were very involved in the program. They assigned a staff member to facilitate the logistics of the program, track student progress, and help students set and meet goals during their courses. Some facilitators helped struggling students with course material or found other teachers or content experts to help.
3. Mentor students and communicate with online course staff
Many of the most successful schools had relationships with the online course staff and were able to communicate any concerns from students, families, or school staff. Schools that offered mentoring to students reported more success because students were more invested in the courses and were held accountable for completing their work.
4. Monitor student progress
School-created trackers that follow student progress during a course have helped schools make sure students are on track to complete all required work. These trackers, often in the form of a spreadsheet, are also used by schools to communicate with students and families and keep students accountable to finishing their work and meeting goals.
You can read the full report here, which also details how to promote staff buy-in for online credit recovery programs and provides in-depth examples of the four strategies above.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.