As schools’ technology capacity has increased, online courses have helped to expand curricular offerings, particularly in small schools and rural areas. To add to the evidence base on the effectiveness of online courses, REL Northeast and Islands conducted a rigorous experimental study of the impact of offering an online Algebra I course to grade 8 students in Maine and Vermont on algebra knowledge and subsequent mathematics course taking patterns.
The study, Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, found that algebra-ready students in schools offering online Algebra I scored higher on an algebra test and were more likely to participate in an advanced mathematics course sequence in high school, compared to algebra-ready students in schools that did not offer the online course. The study also found no evidence of negative effects on non-algebra-ready students attending schools where online Algebra I was offered to algebra-ready students. This combination of findings demonstrates that offering an online Algebra I course is an effective way to broaden access to this course.