Online Credit Recovery

Under pressure to raise graduation rates and better serve students at risk of falling behind or dropping out, a growing number of districts are turning to online courses as a means of helping them meet academic credit requirements.

Chat: Online Credit Recovery

Thursday, May 28, 2 p.m. Eastern time

Under pressure to raise graduation rates and better serve students at risk of falling behind or dropping out, a growing number of districts are turning to online courses as a means of helping them meet academic credit requirements. In response, many companies have expanded their offerings for credit recovery, as well as remediation and intervention. Advocates say such programs help schools target instruction to student needs. But some critics are concerned that online credit-recovery options run the risk of shuffling students out the door without conferring the full value of a high school education.

Related Story: Online Options for ‘Credit Recovery’ Widen

Susan D. Patrick, president and chief executive officer, International Association for K-12 Online Learning, iNACOL
Mary Schlegelmilch, e-learning supervisor, Omaha, Neb., public schools
Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, associate editor at Education Week, moderated this chat.

Chat sponsored by: Blackboard K-12

Live Chat: Online Credit Recovery(05/28/2009)


1:32 Web Person: Jennifer: Today’s chat, Online Credit Recovery, is now open for questions, so please start submitting them. The chat itself will begin at 2 p.m. Eastern time. Thanks for joining us.


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

Good afternoon, and welcome to Education Week’s live chat on Online Credit Recovery.

We’d like to thank our sponsor of this chat, Blackboard K-12..


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

We are also very pleased to have two great guests who’ve gained a lot of insight into this topic: Susan Patrick and Mary Schlegelmilch.

Susan Patrick is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), the K-12 nonprofit association representing the interests of practitioners, providers and students involved in online learning worldwide.

She is the former Director of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education. As Director, she published the U.S. National Education Technology Plan for Congress and managed research and technical assistance programs on educational technology. In addition, she co-chaired the federal government’s Advanced Technologies Working Group for Education and Training; and served as a member of the Secretary’s Rural Education Task Force.


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

Mary Schlegelmilch is the eLearning Supervisor for the Omaha Public Schools, which has been using online credit recovery options for several years. Mary, can you tell us about your work and your district’s online credit recovery program?


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: Sorry, Mary’s having trouble responding. We will get back to her shortly.

Susan, can you give us a rundown of how common online credit recovery is and how it is being used effectively?

2:07 Susan Patrick: Online credit recovery programs have expanded rapidly in the last 3 years in K-12 school districts.

2:07 Susan Patrick: Even some state virtual schools are expanding their offerings to include online credit recovery for huge demand from students and schools.

2:08 [Comment From Jim]
A couple of questions: For a class that a student fails, and then gets into a credit recovery course, how is the grade calculated?

2:08 Susan Patrick: Many districts start offering online credit recovery as a substiute or supplement for the summer school programs, others are doing mid-school year, to catch students who are falling behind - and help keep them on track for graduation.

2:09 [Comment From Jim]
How is it determined when credit recovery is appropriate? What if the student just didn’t do a thing in class?

2:11 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Sorry, this is Mary Schlegelmilch. We are having technical difficulties on this end in Omaha


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

I’d like to point our readers to a few resources over the course of the chat, including this Digital Directions feature from last fall: ‘Credit Recovery’

2:13 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
In Omaha we started offering online courses in a blended learning environment as a way to meet the needs of our credit recovery students


Susan Patrick:

Many of these questions are the same for face-to-face credit recovery or online credit recovery with regard to district policies. Districts set guidelines for grade calculation - if a student originally failed with a 40%, then takes credit recovery, and demonstrates a 85% competency on an end-of-course exam, the district will set the policy for calculating the grade appropriately. Some districts replace the grade, some calculate the average of the two.

Students must be motivated in some way to complete work in the original courses and in credit recovery. Many students are being successful online for the richness of the interactive curriculum and online lessons packed with multimedia and extra resources. In addition, students struggling with reading can put on headphones and hear the text aloud while reading. All of these things support the student in learning online.

2:14 [Comment From Sarah Martabano]
Are there standards for content that districts can use when evaluating online content for credit recovery to ensure rigor of curriculum.

2:15 Susan Patrick: Yes, we published National Standards of Quality for Online Courses. Many states and districts are using these quality standards to evaluate the online content before licensing/purchasing/offering . . .


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

The U.S. Department of Education released a guide for evaluating online learning for K-12 students last summer. Here’s an EdWeek piece on it with a link to the report.

2:16 Susan Patrick: National Quality Standards are here:

2:17 [Comment From Julie]
Our school district is examining online learning as a credit recovery model. One struggle that we have faced is the lack of alignment to our district standards when examining online solutions that are currently out there for us to purchase. Many people believe that to implement an online curriculum that is not directly aligned is a compromise. As a result we are struggling with our implementation model to address the gaps. What are some of the implementation models used currently?

2:17 Susan Patrick: The US Department Evaluation guide is for evaluating “programs” - not for evaluating content or teaching.

2:17 Web Person: Jennifer: Here is the correct link for Credit Recovery link that Kathleen sent before.

2:20 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: Mary is back with us and answering questions, although there may be a delay with her responses.


Susan Patrick:

When your school district is determining options for online credit recovery, the first part of the National Standards for Quality Online Courses is the alignment to state academic standards. This is critical.

State virtual schools, consortia and other districts are using federal Title 1, IDEA, EETT and other funds to start online credit recovery. There are lots of content options available, and I know Mary’s program uses the resources at the Monterey Institute for Technology in Education, which are Open Educational Resources.

You can also see the options at the conference we host and network with people and experts running these programs all over the country. (virtual school symposium).

2:20 [Comment From Drew Golburgh]
How are online credit recovery courses typically different than traditional online courses?

2:20 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Our credit recovery model is a blended model in which the students come to a lab setting to get assistance with the course work and complete exams. Students are able to work on the course and view multi media learning objects 24/7

2:21 [Comment From Kathy McKean]
Is there any research on course completion rates. How do we keep this from failing along the same lines as the “individually pace instruction” programs of the 1970s?


Susan Patrick: Online credit recovery courses can be scoped and sequenced according to the students need - they can move through areas they comprehend more quickly, especially when they took all or part of a course previously.

Both online courses and credit recovery can be offered in a blended setting (and we are seeing more of this in both the online courses, as well as online credit recovery - to maximize student instructional support).

2:23 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
This comment may help Julie. In Omaha we had a vendor solution that did not align with our district standards and tests. We chose to use a Learning Management System and create Master Courses for the core areas. These master courses assist all teachers in the district not just the teachers teaching credit recovery.

2:24 [Comment From Kathy]
Mary, what do you mean by a Blended learning environment?

2:24 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Credit Recovery through Blended Learning

2:24 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Align credit recovery courses with district standards and assessments Provide rich multi-modal learning experiences Students work individually with assistance from the instructor as needed Teachers facilitate the recovery of credits during the school day or afterschool / evenings using the Learning Management System


Susan Patrick:

Here’s a free “Promising Practices in Online Learning Paper: Credit Recovery” we released:

It describes blended models and online credit recovery - and may be helpful.

2:25 [Comment From Chuck Grant]
Given that we are dealing with failing students, I’m thinking that effectiveness on the basics and engagement that keepts the students involved is far more important than 100% standards correlation, am I wrong there?

2:26 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Blended Learning is an environment where the student has face to face contact with an instructor as well as access to the online course in our learning management system

2:26 Susan Patrick: Blended is “the best of both worlds” - using online curriculum in a face to face setting, usually using an LMS, with a different instructional model, usually more student-focused, with a change in teacher-student, student-content, student-student interactions.

2:27 [Comment From Michael Barbour]
Susan, you should also mention that the two briefs the iNACOL research committee are currently working on are focused on credit recovery (one at the course level and one at the program level). Both should be available in November at the Virtual School Symposium.

2:27 Susan Patrick: There is a promising practices in K-12 online learning on the topic of blended learning, too:

2:27 [Comment From Virginia]
What kind of feedback do students receive? How do teachers/admin monitor progress?


Susan Patrick:

The effectiveness is critical. Mary can address the improvements that Omaha -has realized in online credit recovery versus face-to-face credit recovery. This is also covered in our promising practices guide to online credit recovery. The main idea is that online credit recovery is showing success on effectiveness with students and helping them recovery the credits in a more effective, efficient way - and keeping them on track for graduation - while demonstrating competency in learning the academic standards they need to graduate. Effectiveness is key.

2:30 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Students receive face to face feedback, emails, they have chats with their teachers as well as with other students. They also receive feedback on assignments through discussion forums, blogs and wikis

2:31 [Comment From Guest]
How are online teachers trained and evaluated? Teacher immediacy is so important for this population.

2:31 Susan Patrick: Thank you, Michael. The research committee papers on online credit recovery will help show districts a good overview of many of the areas covered briefly in this chat.

2:32 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Teachers are trained on how to use the online resources and the learning management system through face to face training sessions and supported through online posted videos for the 24/7 on demand training that they may need.

2:32 Susan Patrick: There is a study called, Going Virtual, that looks at how online teachers are trained and evaluated. There are also National Quality Standards for Online Teaching - that provide the criteria for teacher training for teaching online, and many districts are using this as a rubric for evaluation, in addition to the traditional evaluations.

2:33 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: How much are teachers in these courses using the array of tech-tools, multimedia resources that have the potential to make these lessons really engaging? or are they using more traditional instructional materials?

2:34 Susan Patrick: Teachers need technology skills, but also advanced pedagogical skills and new strategies to make them effective online teachers (and blended teachers using online and face to face methods).

2:34 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
To assist us with many of our policies and practices we have counted on the support of the iNACOL resources. Omaha Public Schools is an active member of iNACOL.

2:35 [Comment From Debra Viadero]
Are online credit-recovery programs less expensive to develop and provide than summer schools or other kinds of credit-recovery options?

2:36 Susan Patrick: Teachers use a mix of curriculum materials, depending on the model of the online credit recovery program - from daily lessons, online units, all-digital curriculum, reference books, having online message boards, blog sites, chats like these - all different tools and ways to engage students to help them learn far beyond what is provided in a single book.

2:36 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Our master courses provide the basic structure for our teachers. These courses have embeded videos and pre-determined discussions and drop boxes for them. Our more advanced teacher and those that have had a need to differentiate for their students have made the leap to creating content in the LMS.

2:37 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
The advanced pedagogical skills is vital to online learning and the design of online courses. The Distance Education Council for the state of Nebraska has designed a professional development course that will give teachers the training they need to learn about effective online design.


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

We’ve had a couple of previous chats on this topic which you all might find interesting, including this one with Susan, and David Meyer and Terry Moe.

2:38 Susan Patrick: Cost-savings and effectiveness all depend on a number of variables - what sunken technology costs the district has in place (hopefully, your district technology investments support online courses and online credit recovery), staff and instructional costs, content costs (or what your district already licenses), etc - so it all depends on how well your past investments support your needs.

2:39 [Comment From Rhonda]
Are the courses taken synchronously where all the students are online at the same time, or asynchronously where they can work on their class at 2AM. Also, how do you prevent someone else from doing the student’s work for them

2:40 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Online courses and experiences should be for all students. It is a 21st Century skill to know how to use technology and the tools and resources that are at all our fingertiips.

2:41 Susan Patrick: We are trying to encourage districts to think about using the federal stimulus dollars coming available in a “one shot deal” this year - then off a “funding cliff” -- as long-term investments, that will enable good online credit recovery programs in the long-term. Don’t just go on a shopping list - figure out the programs that will help the students to graduate . . .1) invest in teacher training, 2) invest or determine content that can be used in the long-term (so buy perpetual licenses now, invest in open resources that will have a life longer than when the money goes away), 3) get the training to set up the programs that can run in the long-term.

2:42 [Comment From Sarah Martabano]
Do you think this trend will continue to expand to gen ed population?

2:43 Susan Patrick: Courses can be designed both synchronous and asynchronous instructional design . . . it depends on what you need for your model. Alabama’s ACCESS program is synchronous, Florida Virtual’s program is entirely asynchronous. Resources from both models can be used to do a combination of synchronous and asynchronous models of online credit recovery and online learning.

2:44 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Students work synchronously when they are in class. They do work at their own pace however, so many students work outside of class in their courses. the LMS software has many tools that we utilize to prevent “cheating”, IP address, we have them take exams onsite, etc... But the best design is for collaborative projects that are not run of the mill multiple choice / answer tests.

2:44 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Summer School - students come daily to school to have the face to face contact for 4 weeks. After class they have 24/7 access to the curriculum

2:44 Susan Patrick: The trend of online learning is expanding rapidly - in general education, too. 70% of school districts offer at least one online course. This is consistent with colleges and universities - today, 20% of students in college take an online course - many on the campus.

2:44 [Comment From Lalitha Chandran]
Some students just don’t want to do any work.For those students how can you use credit recovery?

2:46 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
The trend most definitely will include all. I have 3rd graders online with other 3rd graders in the district and around the world. This type of learning is very motivational for students.

2:46 [Comment From Tiffany]
The commonly listed characteristics of a successful online learner are usually self-motivated, well organized, independent learner. A typical learner analysis of those students needing credit recovery usually shows these characteristics are usually (but not always!) missing. How do you align the skills needed to be a successful online learner with the skills a student needing credit recovery often lacks?


Susan Patrick:

In traditional courses and in online courses, if a student refuses to work - that will be a problem. However, we are finding the new models of student engagement to be a huge draw to previously unmotivated students. If we keep doing the same things the same way (with the same exact textbook and teacher), then we can expect the same result. Students love new models of engagement using technology that give them more control over their own learning experience. Struggling students are doing better with new engagement models - and new models of instructional support that is more 1:1 with their needs.

2:48 [Comment From Mary Schlegelmilch]
Lalitha - Most often those unmotivated students are that way because they have not been able to move at their own pace or the methods of teaching were not motivating. The use of multi-media, discussions, and projects in the design of the course assist these students.

2:48 [Comment From Sarah Martabano]
Mary, Can you speak about data you may have that supports the continuation of this approach?

2:49 [Comment From Liz Glowa]
SREB just published * Guidelines for Professional Development of Online Teachers (May 2009) This report presents extensive guidelines for professional development based on national standards and can assist state virtual schools as they hire, train, support and evaluate online teachers.


Susan Patrick:

I understand that Omaha has seen some significant improvements in student performance from the online credit recovery. Can you address this, Mary?

2:50 [Comment From Liz Glowa]
The URL is

2:51 [Comment From Guest]
What challenges have you encountered with IDEA and accommodations for special ed populations?

2:52 Mary Schlegelmilch: We are very excited about the data that we have. Summer of 2007 we had 675 enrollments in courses for credit recovery. Summer 2008 we had 1,427. Today the current number of enrollments for courses that will start on Monday is over 1,800. For more of our data, please look at the following link and you will see a powerpoint that I prepared recently

2:53 Susan Patrick: As I mentioned, some of the online credit recovery programs have been very helpful for struggling readers or dyslexic students due to the ability to provide text readers along with the written word on the screen . . . online credit recovery programs meet the accommodations for students, just as the traditional programs do.

2:54 Mary Schlegelmilch: We are very lucky in that many of our special education teachers also teach summer school and / or credit recovery. Through their knowledge and persistance they have been able to discover the tools of the LMS to assist them with meeting the accommodations of their students.

2:55 [Comment From Guest]
Is there a recommendation/resource for staff training? Often the teachers assigned to the credit recovery lab are not certified in a students area of need nor do they receive any training on the most effective way to support students learning and succeeding with credit recovery.

2:56 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: Here’s a question from a reader:
how long can a student have a course listed as “in progress” before they are listed as not completing the course?

2:57 Susan Patrick: Credit recovery online may be different from online courses - other times they are similar. It just depends, as some are the exact same as regular courses, some offer extra teacher support, some are more-self paced where the computer is guiding the student through the content, and there are more teacher supports and/or tutors available to assist the student, and some let the students bypass content they have already mastered - and only have to complete the modules or lessons on the work they have not mastered.

2:57 Mary Schlegelmilch: In our district we have always felt that a certified teacher is necessary for the credit recovery population. In the past few years we have taken it a step further in that we purposely look for teachers that are certified in the subject area as well.

2:57 [Comment From Michael Barbour]
The two Going Virtual reports that Susan referenced (which can be accessed at ) are quite good at giving an overview of the various ways K-12 online programs train their teachers.

2:58 [Comment From Kait]
Is this class built into the school day or meant to be completed away from school? Are students enrolled in traditional classes simultaneously?


Susan Patrick:

A district will set policies for how long a student can be “in progress” - this would be the same for online credit recovery or traditional f2f programs.

2:58 Mary Schlegelmilch: Thanks Michael - we have used the iNACOL resources to help mold our staff training models.

2:59 Susan Patrick: Classes can be built into the school day, such as completing online credit recovery (or other online courses, even online dual enrollment with community colleges) in the library or computer lab or classroom. Other programs allow students to enroll and complete courses at a distance, and train their teachers to teach virtually. Students are usually enrolled in other classes simultaneously.

3:00 Mary Schlegelmilch: We have many models. I will refer you to my powerpoint to further explain. We have after school, once a week sessions; we have credit recovery class periods during the school day instead of a study hall; we have evening classes; and we have summer school classes that meet daily for 4 weeks


Kathleen Kennedy Manzo:

This year EdWeek’s Technology Counts 2009 report looked at online learning. Michelle Davis’ cover story on E-learning, , “Breaking Away From Tradition,” covers credit recovery as well.


Susan Patrick:

The great news is that “one size does not fit all kids” and that online credit recovery can be offered in many models to fit every student’s learning needs.

3:01 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: Thanks for all the great questions, and many thanks to Susan Patrick of iNACOL and Mary Schlegelmilch from the Omaha Public Schools. Thanks for all the great questions, and many thanks to Susan Patrick of iNACOL and Mary Schlegelmilch from the Omaha Public Schools.

3:01 Susan Patrick: Thank you very much!

3:02 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo: We’d also like to thank our sponsor, Blackboard K-12 “


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