Credit accrual plays an integral role in on-time graduation, specifically in subjects required for earning a diploma. Students who fail critical courses must make up the credit and therefore are at risk of falling off track for graduation. Typical options for recovering credit include taking face-to-face courses offered during non-school hours, repeating the course during the regular school year, or completing an online credit recovery course during school hours.
For rural students and students attending small schools, online options for credit recovery are particularly important. Schools can leverage online programs to offer credit recovery in a wider range of subjects, with more flexible scheduling, and with fewer staff members than would be needed for traditional face-to-face credit recovery options during non-school hours. In an online format, one teacher can oversee several students, each of whom is making up credits in a different subject area. This is both more cost effective and more feasible than dedicating time, space, and staff hours for each individual course.
Because research on what constitutes an effective online credit recovery program remains limited, the Montana Office of Public Instruction asked REL Northwest to examine which Montana districts had the highest completion rates for online credit recovery and if there were commonalities in district practices that support student completion.
The resulting report highlights four common strategies used by Montana schools that had high student passing rates in online credit recovery courses offered by the Montana Digital Academy (MTDA). The report also includes an overview of the increasing prevalence of online credit recovery programs (particularly in rural schools and districts), a description of the MTDA program, and a description of common challenges associated with online credit recovery.