Research Based Online Learning Strategies

Research Put Into Practice

The foundation underlying Apex Learning digital curriculum is the established body of learning research and best practices in teaching. We access evidence-based work from leading learning theorists such as Marzano, Bransford, Costa, and Kallick to develop curriculum that builds critical thinking skills, incorporates basic and higher levels of learning, deepens understanding, and engages and motivates students to succeed.


Efficacy Studies

Apex Learning Curriculum Proven Effective with Credit Recovery, Dorchester School District Two, SC

A two year, independent study in Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina shows Apex Learning Comprehensive Courses are proven to increase student achievement on the South Carolina High School Assessment Program (HSAP). The study spanning 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years revealed that credit recovery students:

  • Achieved a 29 percentile point gain on the HSAP exam moving from the 50th percentile to the 79th percentile (year 1)
  • Achieved a 44 percentile gain on the HSAP exam moving from the 50th percentile to the 94 percentile (year 2)



Apex Learning Curriculum Proven to Increase Learning Outcomes: Results of a Third-Party Study on Impact of Digital Curriculum in Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC), IN

The results of an independent study revealed that Apex Learning Comprehensive Courses increased learning gains made by students on the ISTEP + ECA, the Indiana state end-of-course assessment during the 2011-2012 school year. The study evaluated students seeking original credit and those recovering credits. The results revealed, on average, students using Apex Learning Comprehensive Courses achieved in the 51.2 percentile, while the average achievement for the comparison group was in the 48.8 percentile.



Research Basis

In his book Powerful Learning, Ron Brandt* draws on decades of research to describe conditions that promote learning. Apex Learning incorporates each of these conditions described in Powerful Learning in the design of its digital curriculum:

  • People learn what is personally meaningful to them.
  • People learn when they accept challenging but achievable goals.
  • Learning is developmental.
  • Individuals learn differently.
  • People construct new knowledge by building on their current knowledge.
  • Much learning occurs through social interaction.
  • People need feedback to learn.
  • Successful learning involves the use of strategies that can be learned.
  • Positive emotional climates strengthen learning.
  • Learning is influenced by the total environment.


Online Scaffolds That Support Adolescents' Comprehension

   — Elfrieda Hiebert, University of California, Berkeley,
        Shailaja Menon and Leigh Ann Martin, TextProject, and
        Katherine Bach, Curriculum Director, Apex Learning

A frequently asked question is whether students comprehend online text as well as printed text. The answer to this question is critical, not just to determine if resources are being used wisely, but also to establish whether students are proficient at comprehending text online—a skill that is increasingly recognized as essential for full participation in the communities and marketplace of the 21st century.

Interpreting Lexiles in Online Contexts and with Informational Texts

    — Elfrieda Hiebert, University of California, Berkeley

This paper includes a brief overview of the history and content of readability formulas, including critiques that apply to the Lexile Scale (LS) and criticisms specific to it. The final section of the paper considers ways in which the publishers can respond to the ubiquitous demands for correlation of texts and materials to the LS.

English Foundations Series: The Research Base

   — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University and
        Kathleen Wilson, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Research shows that proficient students use a variety of reading strategies to construct meaning from text, to figure out new words, to learn from the books and materials they read, and to write texts with organization and purpose. While many students learn these strategies automatically or with little effort, students with below-basic and below-proficient achievement have often not acquired the reading and writing skills and strategies they need and do not know when and how to apply the ones they have.

English Foundations I: The Research Base 

   — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University and
        Kathleen Wilson, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Lincoln

This white paper addresses teaching strategies appropriate for adolescent students whose achievement in literacy is below basic.

English Foundations II: The Research Base

   — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University and
        Kathleen Wilson, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Lincoln

This white paper provides a brief overview of the research-based instructional practices in reading and writing that support students whose literacy achievement is below proficient.

Research Put into Practice: Apex Learning Curriculum & Pedagogy

    — Allison Moore, M. Ed, University of Washington and
         Tom Baer, M. Ed, University of Washington

From the start, Apex Learning has paid close attention to how students learn and how digital curriculum can support learning. The introduction to this white paper begins with a discussion about how learning sciences define learning and the learning experiences students need exposure to in order to be prepared for college, work, and life. The paper then presents how research on learning theory has been put into practice in the development of Apex Learning digital curriculum.

Supporting Struggling Readers in Content Area Learning

    — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University

While both adaptive and strategic scaffolds may be provided in traditional learning contexts, online contexts allow scaffolds to be designed for and built into the learning context and for scaffolds to be flexibly utilized in order to differentiate instruction. This white paper describes adaptive and strategic scaffolds that research has shown to support the academic content area learning of adolescents who struggle with reading.

Supporting Struggling Readers in Mathematics Education

   — Dana Franz, Ph.D., Mississippi State University

Apex Learning recognizes the interaction between words, symbols, and numbers in mathematics. Its Literacy Advantage pathway has adopted several strategies to aid students in becoming mathematically literate. Two key components of the instruction are vocabulary development and active reading strategies to support students in mastering the unique requirements of reading mathematical text.

Supporting Struggling Readers in Science Education

   — Don Duggan-Haas, Ph.D., Paleontological Research Institution, Ithaca, NY

Literacy Advantage science courses incorporate features that directly address the special literacy challenges posed by traditional science curriculum. Literacy Advantage courses reframe the introduction of technical vocabulary and explicitly coach students in eight research-based active reading strategies and four vocabulary learning strategies.

Supporting Struggling Readers in English Education

   — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University
        Kathleen Wilson, Ph.D., University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Literacy Advantage English courses provide both adaptive and strategic scaffolding to support students’ ability to take an active approach to reading and writing. Adaptive scaffolding is support provided in the course that makes the text and content more accessible to students based on their needs. While the literature itself is the same literature read in all Apex Learning English courses and in many traditional English classrooms, all of the instructional text is made accessible through carefully controlled vocabulary.

Supporting Struggling Readers in Social Studies Education

   — Devon Brenner, Ph.D., Mississippi State University

In order to build civic competence, students must be proficient in reading the texts that are prevalent in various disciplines of the social studies, and students must know how to apply a variety of literacy strategies for reading and writing social studies texts. Literacy Advantage social studies courses provide both adaptive and strategic scaffolding to support students' literacy development and social studies learning. Adaptive scaffolding is support provided in the design of the course that makes the text and content more accessible.



*Former editor of Educational Leadership at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD)