iNACOL: Credit Recovery Programs Need Blended, Personalized Learning


A new report by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has revealed the importance of integrating blended learning and personalized learning in credit recovery online programs. The report authors suggest that personalized online learning can offer students participating in credit recovery programs relevant and helpful content that will ultimately fulfill its purpose of credit acquisition.

The report, titled: “Using Online Learning for Credit Recovery: Getting Back on Track to Graduation,” says that successful credit recovery online programs are those characterized by rigorous, engaging and personalized learning approaches. The authors state in their introductory remarks that:

“Personalized learning environments provide the very best educational opportunities and personalized pathways for all students, with highly qualified teachers delivering world-class instruction using innovative digital resources and content.”

They advice: “It is important that our system begin to transform around the needs of students.”

The report identifies a common phenomenon in online programs for credit recovery. The authors state that districts in their efforts to boost graduation percentages often offer low-cost, low-quality online learning resources often with little or no teacher contribution. These credit recovery programs do not test student proficiency, which results in students graduating without valid proof of the competencies acquired. Millions of high school students do not graduate and suffer from the consequences of a lack of high school diploma throughout their lives.

This reality is particularly pronounced for low-income and minority students. Low-income students have state graduation rates from 58 to 85%. Hispanic and African students’ graduation rates are at 76% and 68% respectively, while students in urban centers with many low-income students have a graduation rate as low as 50%. To address this dismal reality, credit recovery online programs must implement blended learning and personalized learning to be successful, the report says.

Competency-based learning is an essential component of successful credit recovery programs, the authors conclude. Compared to credit-based options, competency-based programs are more tailored to the learning needs of every student. This way students do not waste time studying aspects of a course they’re already skilled in but rather focus on learning new skills and acquiring knowledge they do not have.

In their report, A. Powell, V. Roberts and S. Patrick say that although many credit recovery programs are not competency-based these can nonetheless integrate competency-based strategies to offer more targeted and personalized learning options to students.

Some of the recommendations laid out in the report include identifying student proficiency levels early on and real-time scaffolding (RtS) where content engines are fed with data in order to produce recommendations on student present-moment learning needs.

Another recommended strategy is the creation of limitless pathways, the use of adaptive technology that keeps students engage in a course and ensures they progress according to their own learning pace and learning goals.

The iNACOL report offers school districts guidance on how to better support returning and at-risk students that need to earn course credit to graduate.

Citing and analyzing case studies from schools such as the Putnam County Schools Virtual instruction to Accentuate Learning, the Florida Virtual School and the Colorado Youth for a Change, the authors highlight the importance of blended learning and personalized instruction for the success of online credit recovery programs.