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Students race for limited supply of online courses

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

When Albuquerque Public Schools offered free online classes this summer, some 5,600 students signed up, outstripping the supply and forcing APS to close enrollment on Friday.

A key factor driving demand for online summer courses was the large number of students who failed classes during the 2020-21 school year, an APS official said.

The district estimates that about 43% of students – a total of 16,810 students – failed at least one course in the Fall 2020 semester.

That is more than double the 8,019 students who failed one or more courses in fall 2019.

Online summer classes offer one way for students to make up courses they failed during the school year, and APS sweetened the deal by offering its summer eCADEMY classes at no cost to students.

“We had huge demand,” APS spokeswoman Johanna King said of the online program. “There are more students and they are taking a lot more classes.”

Last summer, 2,650 students registered for eCADEMY, King said. This year, 5,603 students signed up, or more than double last summer’s enrollment.

Students registered for 14,329 eCADEMY classes this summer. That’s more than three times the 4,536 registrations last summer.

Over the past decade, APS has expanded its eCADEMY to offer online classes to students who need to make up failed courses, or take classes not offered at their schools.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many students struggled with online learning, which largely replaced in-person classes for much of the 2020-21 school year.

“There was an increase in failures because this was a tough year,” King said.

Another reason for the heavy demand was the financial incentive of free classes. Typically, summer eCADEMY classes cost up to $250 each. This year, APS is paying for the classes with $8 million in federal stimulus funding approved by Congress to help districts respond to the pandemic.

APS anticipated the heavy demand by hiring 70 APS teachers in addition to the usual staff of 20 to 25 eCADEMY teachers, King said.

APS gave priority to students who needed to make up failed coursework, King said. Councilors began registering those students in April, she said.

APS is also prioritizing seniors who need to make up coursework to graduate this summer, King said.

APS offers other options for students who need to make up failed classes. Students this fall can take free online courses at their schools at “eCADEMY labs,” King said.

Students can also take eCADEMY courses after school hours for $25 per class, King said. She recommended that students work with school counselors to find ways to make up coursework.

“We work with students to figure out ways that they can make up their classes,” she said.

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