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SRI International: Enhancing Student Success in Online Learning

blendedlearning's picture

The question on the mind of the educator, blended learning enthusiast or otherwise, when faced with online courses is always the same: as EdSurge asks, "Do online courses work?" Supporters and detractors alike have been attempting to answer this question for years, citing mixed anecdotal result and conflicting research. Now, SRI International is attempting to provide closure to at least one part of the question by extensively reviewing online Alegrba 1 courses in a report called "Supporting K-12 Students in Online Learning: A Review of Online Algebra 1 Courses." The report, which is the first phase of a larger study, examines six online course providers and profile their strengths and weaknesses. Algebra 1 is slightly outside the purview of most college-level educators, but the report doesn't stop with reviewing these courses. The study is focused on three research questions:

  1. What is the range of design and implementation affordances of online Algebra 1 courses currently available to educators and students? What strategies are being used by online providers to support the success of all students, especially at-risk students, in online courses? 
  2. How effective are design and implementation strategies in encouraging student participation, completion, and academic achievement, while considering factors such as learning time and cost?
  3. In estimating likely success of programs prospectively in the future, what elements are most important?  How should they be measured?

SRI also reviews the existing research on content, pedagogy, student outcomes, and course implementation. These ideas form the criteria  which the study uses to evaluate the courses. Therefore, even if Algebra 1 is not relevant to your field, looking at the approaches different companies are taking to these pre-existing ideas can provide a starting point for deciding how to evaluate online courses or materials you are interested in implementing.

Unsurprisingly,the report does not cover everything. While Phase 1 was focused on building Provider Profiles, Phase 2 will begin to examine the empirical data generated by program outcomes to ascertain whether or not the variables examined in the Profiles have measurable correlations with student success levels.