Online Learning and the At-Risk Student

Can online learning be a successful model for at-risk learners?

Early articles regarding successful online learners describe students who were motivated, self-directed, and able to “teach” themselves. These are characteristics not often associated with at-risk students.  Recently, there has been an increase in the use of online programming for at-risk students.  Is this a feasible option or are we setting students up for failure?

As with any environment, a carefully planned online program or course can optimize learning for the at-risk learner.  The online platform offers some tremendous opportunity to address some of challenges at-risk learners face.

Successful online learners report the following as some of the components of their online course that supported learner success:

1.     Flexibility

2.     Social presence

3.     Quality interaction and feedback

At-risk learners report the following as some of the aspects of a learning environment that help them become successful:

1.     Flexibility

2.     Relationships

Research also indicates that a blended learning environment support at-risk learners most effectively, as they have access to assistance as needed.

There are clearly many more factors that need to be considered when working with at-risk learners or in designing an online course than those listed here.  However, if careful consideration is given to the areas where the “characteristics” overlap, a program that will help at-risk students succeed can be developed.

Works Referenced

Hart, C. (2012). Factor associated with student persistence in an online program of study:

A review of the literature. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 11(1), 19-42.

Watson, S. (2011). Somebody’s Gotta Fight for Them: A Disadvantaged andMarginalized Alternative School’s Learner-Centered Culture of Learning. Urban Education, 46(6), 1496-1525.


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