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Friday, February 09, 2007

Repost from the AECT BlogTrack - Achievement Differences Between Students in Traditional and Virtual Courses

This entry from the AECT BlogTrack is the first entry from the month of July, the seventh in the series where I described the research work that I have done to date in virtual schooling, and the fifteenth overall in the re-posts from this series.



This study was actually a follow-up to a study that I had conducted a couple of years ago that only considered students in the Advanced Placement program in Newfoundland and Labrador. This particular study is also being used as a foundation for my dissertation study, as my dissertation is looking at what online learning looks like for these students, especially given the lack of student selectivity in this virtual school and their competitive results when compared to classroom-based students.

The purpose of the study was to examine the student achievement in standardized public exams and final course scores in the province between different delivery models to determine whether or not students are succeeding in the virtual high school environment at the same rate as their classroom counterparts. The final course scores and the standardized public exam scores for every student in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador for the school years 2001-02 to 2004-05 were obtained and combined with information from the High School Distance Education Course Report.

When considering the students final course scores, the data indicated that for each of the first three years that the CDLI was in operation students from rural areas in the web-based courses and during the fourth year students from both the rural and urban web-based performed as well or better than any of their other counterparts. A similar pattern was found with the annual analysis of public exam scores. Like the final course averages, during the 2002-03 the web-based students in rural areas performed as well as any other group of students (excluding a single urban student who was enrolled in a web-based CDLI course). However, during the 2003-04 school year the performance of both rural and urban students in the web-based courses scored lower on their public exams that students who received their instruction in a traditional classroom. This past year this trend was reversed, with both rural and urban students in web-based courses scoring higher on their public exams than classroom-based students.

While annual comparisons of the students’ public exam scores and final course averages are useful, a comparison of the total four year period is also in order. Table 1 provides such a comparison.
Table 1. Students’ scores based upon delivery model and location (note sure why Blogger formats it like this)


Public ExamFinal Course Average
Web delivered rural61.7 (n = 826)69.3 (n = 3,452)
Web delivered urban65.7 (n = 11)66.3 (n = 81)
Web delivered total61.8 (n = 837)69.2 (n = 3533)
Classroom delivered rural62.3 (n = 15,384)68.5 (n = 90,190)
Classroom delivered urban63.1 (n = 23,080)67.7 (n = 115,029)
Classroom delivered total62.8 (n = 38,464)68.1 (n = 205,219)
# of missing cases1,029 (2.6%)5,650 (2.6%)
Total # of cases40,330214,402


This combined analysis indicated that over the four year period the CDLI has been in operation there had been some fluctuation in both performance measures when both delivery model and location are considered, but little difference in the overall performance of students based upon delivery model on both their public exam scores and final course averages. (For more information, see Barbour and Mulcahy, 2006)

Selected Bibliography

Barbour, M. & Mulcahy, D. (2006). An inquiry into achievement differences in traditional and virtual high school courses. Roundtable presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

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