The Role of In-Person Instructional Support for Students Taking Online Credit Recovery

Elaine Allensworth, University of Chicago
The Back on Track Study was designed to provide information for districts around the country faced with decisions about offering credit recovery course options.

With online learning emerging as a popular strategy for providing students with the opportunity to recover course credit, it is critical to understand how well it works and how it can be improved.

This brief describes the role of the in-class mentors who supervised students taking the online course as part of the Back on Track study, which is designed to provide much-needed evidence for practitioners and policymakers to inform decisions about how to help students get back on track toward high school graduation.

The online course was provided by a popular online provider, Aventa/K12, and it was taught by an online teacher whom the students did not meet in person, but who communicated with students individually and through class message boards.


  • Instructionally supportive mentors were more likely to be certified mathematics teachers than mentors who provided little to no instructional support.
  • Students with instructionally supportive mentors were similar to students with less instructionally supportive mentors.
  • Students with instructionally supportive mentors took fewer tests in the online course, but were slightly more successful on the tests they took.
  • Students with instructionally supportive mentors had higher credit recovery rates than students with less-instructionally supportive mentors, and credit recovery rates were similar to their face-to-face counterparts.


The study authors found that students with instructionally supportive mentors recovered their credit at similar rates as their face-to-face student counterparts, suggesting that students who are at-risk may need additional instructional support from an in-person teacher—perhaps at a proportion of 20% of course time or more. For at-risk students, online credit recovery courses without any face-to-face supports may not meet their needs, at least in the short term.