Michigan has made it easier for students to take classes online. But is it helping?

online-learningThe number of students taking at least one course online is up 38 percent in Michigan, according to a report released today that also found a decline in academic performance and a troubling trend in a state that has made it easier for students to take more of their classes online: The more virtual courses a student takes, the less successful they are, the report found.

The data has some worried that schools are steering too many kids into taking too many online courses, with little evidence those students will be successful.

“I don’t think we can explain from the data we collected the reasons kids are being loaded up with five, six, seven, eight, or 12 online classes,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of the Michigan Virtual University, a state-created non-profit. “That feels like decisions are being made that are not in the best interest of the students.”

The report, required by the Michigan Legislature since 2012, was released by the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. Today’s report is the second since that requirement was put into place and is based on data from the 2013-14 and 2012-13 school years. The research institute is part of the Michigan Virtual University.

During the 2013-14 school year, 76,122 students took at least one virtual course, up from 55,271 during the 2012-13 school year.

Data was analyzed from several sources: students enrolled in courses through Michigan Virtual School, which is part of Michigan Virtual University; students who take all of their coursework online through a cyber school; and students who take online courses via other means, such as courses provided by their districts or another entity.

Next page: Pass rates and more by the numbers