The second annual report on K-12 virtual learning in the state of Michigan continued to show accelerated growth in use but declines in student performance measures. The report prepared by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute, a division of Michigan Virtual, at the request of the Michigan Legislature, includes estimates of over 76,000 Michigan public school students participating in virtual learning enrollments during the 2013-14 school year accounting for over 319,000 virtual course enrollments.
The report — Michigan’s K-12 Virtual Learning Effectiveness Report, 2013-14 — highlights enrollment totals, completion rates and the overall impact of virtual courses on K-12 pupils and provides a unique perspective into K-12 virtual learning in Michigan. Compared to the 2012-13 school year, the report found the number of K-12 students participating in virtual learning was up 38% and the number of virtual enrollments up 78%, though a small percentage of this growth was due to new search techniques in identifying virtual enrollments.
New in this year’s report were comparison statistics for virtual and non-virtual learners. For instance, according to data collected by the state, students who did not take any virtual courses in the 2013-14 school year had a completion rate of 89% in their courses. On the other hand, most students who took virtual courses also took non-virtual courses, but on average, only passed their non-virtual courses 71% of the time, well below their non-virtual counterparts.
“The data seem pretty clear that, at present, virtual learning is being used by schools for students who are struggling in their traditional setting rather than to enable average and above average performing students to go farther faster with their education,” said Dr. Joe Freidhoff, Executive Director of MVLRI and author of the report.
The report also found a sizable drop-off in completion rate for virtual learners in their virtual courses. Whereas 71% of the time the virtual learner passed their course if it was non-virtual, they only passed it 57% of the time if it was a virtual course. The report speculates that these differences are likely attributable to factors such as the students selected for virtual learning, student readiness, entry-level subject proficiency, reason for taking the virtual course, and local supports available to the virtual learner, but concludes that “whatever combination of factors it is . . . the bottom line is that too many Michigan students are not being adequately educated through existing virtual learning options.”
“The trends are clear that more and more K-12 students will be taking virtual courses in the coming years, and the need to be able to learn in this kind of environment has become an important part of being college and career ready,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “Schools and virtual learning providers must find better models — both in the virtual and physical environments — to assist novice virtual learners in developing 21st-century skills.”
The report includes a comparative analysis of virtual learning enrollment and completion data generated from (1) local district virtual learning solutions; (2) full-time cyber schools; and (3) the Michigan Virtual for Students operated by Michigan Virtual.
About Michigan Virtual
Michigan Virtual is a private, nonprofit Michigan corporation established by the State of Michigan in 1998 to serve as a champion for online learning. It is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual for Students and Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute.