COMPARISON OF LOW, MEDIUM AND HIGH PERFORMING STUDENTS IN THREE MEXICAN ONLINE HIGH S CHOOLS
This inter-institutional project is an exploration of the characteristics of students with different levels of academic performance in three Mexican fully online high school programs. The three participating schools are public and have offered their online programs for less than five years, although they have extensive experience in face to face education in the high school level. Each institution selected a student in each of the following percentile ranks: 95 and over, 45 to 55 and 1 to 5; therefore, nine students participated. Instituto Politécnico Nacional and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México worked with programs aimed at teenagers (14 to 17 years old at the moment of their registration) while students at Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México are young adults. A 60-item questionnaire was developed and tested with three students who did not participate in the final sample. Adjustments were made and then semi-structured interviews were individually conducted. Analysis of the transcriptions was conducted according to Tesch’s methodology (1990). Twelve categories were found and there were differences in students’ responses according to their performance level in nine categories. The successful students were proactive, appreciated positively both the online mode of delivery and their accomplishments, demonstrated an internal locus of control and were able to identify development of basic and cognitive skills. They constantly used the online materials of the programs in order to better understand and to study. Medium performance learners tended to use a reduced number of strategies and had a limited use of the online materials of the programs. Finally, low-performance students miss brick and mortar schools, have a limited social exposure, have an external locus of control and look for answers to their doubts in the Internet, not in the online materials. Each of the findings is discussed and implications for online teaching practice are presented.