Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Charol Shakeshaft


Online learning in K-12 education is becoming a familiar option for students. By the end of 2011, all 50 states and the District of Columbia offered some form of online learning as an option for some students (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp, 2011). Online courses are appealing to students for a variety of reasons. The five most common reasons schools are currently offering online courses are for: meeting the needs of specific groups of students; offering courses not otherwise available; offering AP or college level courses; permitting students who failed a course to take it again; and reducing scheduling conflicts for students (Picciano & Seaman, 2010). (P. 9) Schools often implement online programs, choosing from a variety of options, without the research necessary to guide these decisions. The purpose of this research was to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of two online learning programs, commercially acquired and teacher-developed, used in a school division. The goal was to establish which program was a better choice with consideration to both cost and effectiveness. I used Levin and McEwan’s (2001) cost-effectiveness analysis to find (1) the cost per class taken, (2) the effectiveness, measured by courses passed and Virginia Standards of Learning tests passed, and (3) the cost-effectiveness ratio for both of the online programs. The ingredients method, suggested by Levin and McEwan (2001) was implemented with the use of cost worksheets to gather and itemize the costs associated with the each program. Only three courses were offered in both programs and used for comparison. Effectiveness data was based on students’ grade at the end of the online course and the end of course SOL test if applicable. Each effectiveness measure was used together with the cost total to calculate a cost-effectiveness ratio (CER) for each of the online learning programs. The cost-effectiveness analysis for passing the class revealed no difference between the two programs. The stalemate highlights the important findings of the research as the details in spending and methods of implementation of each program. The school system of interest benefits from the detailed itemization of costs, which identified areas for modification to the programs. The implication for schools looking to initiate an online program is the well-informed leader having detailed information on the costs involved and options for design. The difference in the cost-effectiveness ratio for the measurement of passing the SOL test was dramatically different. The commercially available program’s cost-effectiveness ratio was double that for the teacher-developed program. The implications for the school division in the research were to evaluate the alignment of a commercial program to state standards and to examine the ability of the online program to meet the goals of the school.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014