Rssults - Challenges
The survey asked participants to rate the type of help they requested from the teacher, which included help starting/using the computer, help understanding how to work the online program, or help getting the work correct. Half (11 students) said they needed help, although five mentioned they never requested assistance from their instructor. They predominantly needed help getting the work correct, or in other words they needed assistance in understanding the content of the work (e.g. figuring out math problems, writing an essay, determining main idea or cause/effect). Some (7) participants also said they needed assistance understanding how to navigate the online program, and a few (4) students requested assistance in the basics of working the computer. Teacher responses were uniform and paralleled the students’ responses. That is, most students needed assistance getting the work correct, with some support for understanding the program and minimal support for starting or working the computer.
All nine of the interviewed students said the online GED program was easy to use and laid out well. One man said, “The program breaks it down before you go into a lesson itself so each lesson goes step-by-step . . . if you get confused you could go back and review.” Two participants said, “If you can read, you can do it [online program].” Another person said, “If you can sign in to check email you can do the program.” All interviewees agreed they were familiar with using the computer before enrolling in the online option.
We also asked students to rate how easy or difficult they found each subject with ratings “didn’t use, fairly easy, a little difficult, often difficult, and usually too difficult.” Math respondents’ answers spanned the entire spectrum with seven (7) fairly easy, eight (8) a little difficult, three (3) often difficult, and two (2) usually too difficult responses. The remaining subject areas were mostly rated fairly easy. The exception was social studies; surprisingly, eight (8) of the students said social studies was fairly easy and seven (7) students said it was a little difficult. The teachers and director confirmed the student ratings for math; math was a little difficult (2) and often difficult (2). Teachers reported all other subject areas as fairly easy, except one teacher said science was often difficult.
Of the nine interviewees, one student studied language arts reading and writing because English was her second language, four participants studied all subject areas, and four interviewees only studied math. The interviewed students said their only difficulties were in lesson concepts, and almost all of them gave a math example, such as dividing fractions or working a geometry problem. When the first author probed during the interview to discover how they resolved the problem, the students said they problem-solved by asking a friend for an explanation or they “googled” more information about the math problems on the Internet. These were the two dominant themes the students used to find support and answer their challenges. Rarely, if ever, did a student contact the teacher for support.
We asked participants to rate the frequency of help they needed as they began to study their GED online. Seventeen of the twenty said they never needed assistance, three adults needed help once or twice, and two adults needed assistance several times. After the first week, 20 adults said they never needed help and two adults continued to request assistance. Teacher responses matched students in this section indicating that almost all students were able to operate independently.