1. What is the relative impact of online and face-to-face Algebra I for credit recovery on students’ experiences in the class (e.g., perceived class difficulty, teacher expectations)?
2. What is the relative impact of online and face-to-face Algebra I for credit recovery on students’ math skills and mindsets (e.g., end-of-course algebra test and standardized math and algebra assessment scores, reported liking of and confidence in math)?
3. What is the relative impact of online and face-to-face Algebra I for credit recovery on students' grades and likelihood of successfully recovering Algebra I credit?
4. What is the relative impact of online and face-to-face Algebra I for credit recovery on students' subsequent math course-taking performance and credit accumulation?
Students who fail algebra are significantly less likely to graduate on time, and algebra failure rates are consistently high in urban districts. Identifying effective credit recovery strategies is critical for getting students back on track. Online courses are now widely used for credit recovery, yet there is no rigorous evidence about the relative efficacy of online versus face-to-face credit recovery courses.
To address this gap, this study randomly assigned 1,224 ninth-graders who failed algebra in 17 Chicago public high schools to take an online or face-to face algebra credit recovery course. Compared to students in face-to-face credit recovery, students in online credit recovery reported that the course was more difficult, and were less likely to recover credit and scored lower on an algebra post-test. There were no statistically significant differences by condition on any outcomes measured during the second year of high school (standardized mathematics test and algebra sub-test scores, likelihood of passing subsequent math classes, cumulative math credits, or on-track rates). The benefits and challenges of online learning for credit recovery are discussed in light of the findings to date.