Academic Achievement and Perceptions of the Learning Environment in Virtual and Traditional Secondary Mathematics Classrooms

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This study examined Algebra students' achievement and perceptions of their classroom environments in both online and traditional face-to-face learning contexts using two validated assessments, the Assessment of Algebraic Understanding (AAU) test and the What is Happening in this Class? (WIHIC) classroom perceptions instrument. Three virtual and three traditional schools in three different states participated. Quantitative analysis revealed that online students consistently outperformed traditional students across the AAU subscales despite having lower proportions in a college preparation path. Traditional students were more likely to have significantly higher averages on their perceptions of Student Cohesiveness, Involvement, and Cooperation. Online students were more likely to perceive higher Teacher Support. The study reveals virtual students can access quality mathematics content and skilled teaching while also achieving academically. Increased access to virtual Algebra courses may provide more equitable early access to Algebra I and thus increase mathematics literacy among schoolchildren. (Contains 4 tables and 1 figure.) [Partial funding for this study was provided by the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) and Evergreen Consulting Associates.]