Term of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Education Administration (Ed.D.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Department

Department of Leadership, Technology, and Human Development

Committee Chair

Jason LaFrance

Committee Member 1

Samuel B. Hardy III

Committee Member 2

Kathryn Kennedy Ivill

Abstract

District decision-makers and school leaders are faced with the challenge of evaluating various options to support at-risk students who are in danger of not graduating with their peers. Supplemental online learning is considered an innovative means of assisting students with credit recovery. Virtual schools and commercial curriculum providers have enumerated the benefits of online learning; however, the majority of the research has been conducted on post-secondary learners. Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative study was to understand stakeholders' perceptions of the benefits and challenges of high school supplemental online learning for credit recovery. This qualitative study employed a single case study design with purposive sampling. Participants included twelve high school students who had been enrolled in supplemental online learning for credit recovery. Additional participants included two content teacher monitors and four graduation coaches. The audio-recorded interviews were transcribed and coded for patterns in responses, from which major themes evolved. Student historical data and district online credit recovery data from the 2010-2011 school were reviewed. Findings revealed four major themes: expectations of self, others, and online coursework; students are at-risk for more than academics; the importance of choice and control; and the impact of online coursework. Online learning allowed greater flexibility, and the opportunity for students to have control over learning promoted academic success and improved outlook. Economic disadvantage continues to impact access to online learning. At- risk students acknowledged the benefits of online learning, and admit that they outweigh the challenges; however, there is still a need for a teacher. All participants endorsed the online learning environment for at-risk students over the traditional classroom. Negativity, distraction, criticism, and demands in the regular classroom diminish its effect. A relationship with a trusted staff member is a key component of at-risk students' success in online learning for credit recovery. There is an affective part of supporting at-risk students that cannot be minimized or ignored. There continues to be a lack of understanding of the rigor and relevance of online learning in the educational community and with the public at large.

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