Comparing the Achievement of Students in Virtual Virginia and Face-to-Face Courses

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Mislevy, J., Schmidt, R., Puma, M., Ezekoye, A., & Saucedo, D. (2020). Comparing the achievement of students in Virtual Virginia and face-to-face courses. SRI International.


The Virginia Department of Education’s Virtual Virginia (VVA) program delivers more than 90 supplemental online courses to more than 10,000 middle and high school students each year. The department partnered with Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia to examine the relationship between students’ participation in a subset of 31 VVA online courses and their performance on end-of-course Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) and Advanced Placement (AP) exams during the 2015/16 and 2016/17 school years. Relying on administrative records available through the Virginia Longitudinal Data System, REL Appalachia researchers conducted descriptive analyses and regression analyses with statistical controls. After controlling for demographic and prior achievement differences, students in face-to-face courses were more likely to score higher and demonstrate proficiency on SOL and AP exams than students taking the same courses through VVA across most subject areas. Because the study design was correlational, additional research is needed to determine whether the difference in performance is due to the characteristics of the students in online courses, aspects of the VVA program itself, or some other factor such as students’ reasons for enrolling in the course or the supports available in their local schools.

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