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Online Course-Taking and Expansion of Curricular Options in High Schools

A common rationale for offering online courses in K-12 schools is that they allow students to take courses not offered at their schools; however, there has been little research on how online courses are used to expand curricular options when operating at scale. We assess the extent to which students and schools use online courses for this purpose by analyzing statewide, student-course level data from high school students in Florida, which has the largest virtual sector in the nation. We introduce a “novel course” framework to address this question. We define a virtual course as “novel” if it is only available to a student virtually, not face-to-face through their own home high school. We find that 7% of high school students in 2013-14 enroll in novel online courses. Novel courses were more commonly used by higher-achieving students, in rural schools, and in schools with relatively few Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate offerings.

Online learning, curricular access, K-12, descriptive methods
Education level
Document Object Identifier (DOI)

EdWorkingPaper suggested citation:

Hart, Cassandra M.D., Brian Jacob, and Susanna Loeb. (). Online Course-Taking and Expansion of Curricular Options in High Schools. (EdWorkingPaper: 20-269). Retrieved from Annenberg Institute at Brown University:

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