Comparing the Effectiveness of Online and Face-to-Face Credit Recovery

By Betsy Prueter

The American Institutes of Research (AIR) is releasing a series of research briefs that analyze performance on online courses students take in an attempt to recover credit from classes they previously failed. This particular study followed freshmen in Chicago public schools who re-took algebra (after failing it once) by enrolling in either an online credit recovery course or a face-to-face class.  Overall, students who took online courses were 10 percentage points less likely to pass than students who took courses face-to-face (66 percent compared to 76 percent).

Additional findings include:

  • Nearly 70% of students earned a D or F in the online course, compared to 47% of students in the face to face class.
  • Students from the online course reported that their class was more difficult and that expectations were less clear.
    • Online students also reported liking math less and having lower confidence in math after the completion of the course than students in the face-to-face class.
  • Teachers who supervised online students were paid at their regular rate, regardless of whether they were the teachers actually teaching the class online. As a result, online courses cost schools more than the traditional face-to-face courses as more staff were hired.
  • However, when supervisors for online courses took on mentoring duties, such as offering instructional support, in addition to simple troubleshooting the technology, pass rates for online students matched those of face-to-face students.