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Many programs, because they function within larger systems, are not required to and do not track the demographic makeup of their students. This creates an opening for unintentional biases. As stated by Rose and Blomeyer, “Without the collection and analysis of disaggregated student data, there is no way to judge if students are treated equally or if students are differentially impacted.”2 Tracking the demographic make-up of students is crucial to ensure that unintentional biases do not creep into the program.

In most cases, the demographics of an online learning program should reflect the demographics of the district, region or state in which the program functions, although occasionally a program is intentionally designed to target a particular demographic group for some deliberate and appropriate reason. Such programs are the exception, not the rule. But even in those cases, programs should be careful to avoid prohibiting any students from participating, even if they are not members of the target population.

Policies can describe the goals, methods and frequency of demographic data collection, and should answer questions such as:

  • What are your goals in collecting demographic data and how will you use the information to improve your program?
  • How often will you take demographic data snapshots of your students and staff? This is a particularly important question in rolling enrollment programs.
  • Will you disaggregate academic performance data by student demographic categories?
  • How will you communicate the information to your stakeholders while maintaining data privacy?
  • Who in your program is primarily responsible for tracking, analyzing and most importantly, responding to the information gained?

For more information on data collection, see this topic in the Quality section.

It is important to be aware of the legal obligations that are associated with access & equity issues.

References for footnotes can be found on the resources page or click on the footnote number for a direct link.