Iowa Online AP Academy: What Are the Options for Online Learning?

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) is a great resource for Iowa students who are interested in AP opportunities beyond what is offered at their high schools. Through IOAPA, students are able to take AP courses and receive guidance and feedback within the classroom setting. However, for some students, IOAPA may not provide the type of experience they are looking for. As students plan their schedules for next year, what about other opportunities for online learning?

MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, are courses typically offered by colleges and universities (often for free) with the goal of providing increased access to education. Although an increased interest in MOOCs has encouraged universities to provide credit for individuals who take these courses, there is no consistent way to ensure that the work put forth in these classes will result in cost savings or credit at college. Nevertheless, MOOCs continue to be a popular and growing option for people of all ages. More on MOOCs can be found here.

EdX courses are another option for free online courses (including MOOCs) that cover a wide variety of disciplines. Again, the developers of EdX hope to provide users with access to online courses regardless of geography. Recently, EdX has begun adding options for AP Biology coursework on their website. Although this offering is relatively new, the course provider noted that this does not translate to high school credit or give students opportunities for completing science labs at this time.

Online schools are another way that students might be able to seek out higher level coursework in areas that are of interest to them. In the past few years, several external agencies have partnered with school districts in Iowa to offer alternatives for Iowa students at all levels. Although online schools often offer AP courses, the quality tends to vary significantly, and some argue against the for-profit nature of online schools, so students interested in this option should carefully research their options.

Iowa high schools also often partner with local community colleges or four-year institutions to offer concurrent enrollment courses or post-secondary enrollment options. We have discussed the pros and cons of these options in past posts, one of the main drawbacks being uncertainty about how credits might transfer for specific courses, especially those coming from community colleges.

Why choose IOAPA over these other options?

IOAPA offers several things that other online programs do not. First, it provides consistently high-quality Advanced Placement coursework that is designed to fit within an existing high school student’s class schedule. IOAPA classes are also designed to provide students new to online coursework with on-site support through site coordinators and mentors. These staff members help IOAPA students adjust to the nuances of online courses, and also aid students in finding resources and communicating with their course instructors. IOAPA courses are provided free of charge to Iowa high school students, and IOAPA students also have the opportunity to participate in AP exam review sessions for their IOAPA courses at no cost. IOAPA has very high completion rates (84%) compared to other online programs, and students tend to perform as well on the AP exam as students in traditional AP classes.

Interested in learning more about IOAPA? Visit our website at belinblank.org/ioapa

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