Another data point (well, 23 data points actually) to confirm my suspicion that online education in high school is being used primarily for at-risk students.
The International Association for K-12 Online Learning – INACOL – published the results of a recent study of their membership. The study was a survey that asked technology coordinators how their online learning programs were being put to use. The sample size of the study was small, 23 responses from 22 schools. Nonetheless, the conclusions were consistent with my experience. Online education programs are still being used for at-risk students to either achieve credits at their own pace because they are frequently absent or as credit recovery for courses they failed when they took them in the traditional classroom.
This is consistent with the use of online learning in my school district. There is an interesting policy paradox here, however. Many districts have been reticent to open online learning channels, claiming that the independence required for a student to take an online class is underdeveloped in high school. Yet, it is the students who, arguably, have the least developed skills of independent executive function that are the ones who use it. A nice follow-up would be to know what the successful credit achievement rate is for the at-risk population.
Here is a link to the study.