Study Highlights the Benefits of Online Learning for Hospital-Homebound Students

Hospital-homebound students face a variety of situations that can interfere with their educational and personal wellbeing. For example, frequent absenteeism from brick-and-mortar institutions results in missed opportunities as well as challenges with reentering school1. Online education may provide an opportunity for these students to move forward in their education2 and help them overcome or avoid educational and social barriers3

Despite the benefits of online schooling to students and families, research that considers how students who face healthcare challenges can succeed online has much room to grow4. Faculty in pediatric medicine from the University of Florida reached out to Florida Virtual School about continuing this important work, and we knew right away that we should establish a research partnership. 

The purpose of the partnership, which also included researchers from Kent State University, was to learn how students with hospital-homebound designation perform in K-12 online classes, particularly as compared to students without this designation (learn more here about hospital-homebound education in Florida). This study compared FLVS course enrollments from August 1, 2012, to July 31, 2018. Researchers analyzed 2,534 hospital-homebound student course enrollments alongside over five million course enrollments without this designation. Read the full study here

Data analysis revealed three important findings:  

  1. Academic performance among hospital-homebound students was similar to students that were not designated as hospital-homebound.  
  2. Unfortunately, hospital-homebound students were 26% more likely to withdraw from courses prior to grade generation.  
  3. Course withdrawals did not occur as often when hospital-homebound students were enrolled in five or more classes, or in classes with five or more students.  

Our study helped reinforce what previous researchers have suggested: when students with special healthcare needs remain enrolled in their online courses, they can experience academic outcomes that are equal to other students in online learning environments. The research encourages healthcare professionals to consider how online education might serve their patients. 

The student is at the center of every decision we make at FLVS, and results of this study underscore that sentiment. We will continue to learn more about how our flexibility and personalization may bring students, who would otherwise need hospital homebound instruction, success.  


  1. Boonen, H., & Petry, K. (2012). How do children with a chronic or long-term illness perceive their school re-entry after a period of homebound instruction? Child: Care, Health and Development, 38, 490–496. 
  2. Fernandez, H., Ferdig, R. E., Thompson, L. A., Schottke, K., & Black, E. W. (2016). Students with Special Health Care Needs in K-12 Virtual Schools. Educational Technology & Society, 19(1), 67–75.  
  3. Shaw, S. R., Clyde, M. A., & Sarrasin, M. (2014). Homebound instruction for students with chronic illness: Reducing risk outside of the box. Health Psychology Report, 2(1), 1-9. 
  4. Thompson, L. A., Ferdig, R., & Black, E. (2012). Online schools and children with special health and educational needs: Comparison with performance in traditional schools. Journal of medical Internet research, 14(3), e62. Retrieved from:

April FleetwoodApril Fleetwood, Director of Accountability, Research, and Measurement, manages university and internal research opportunities at FLVS that focus on best practices and student achievement in online learning for grades K-12. She started her career teaching high school English after graduating from the University of Florida with her Master of Education in 2007. She joined FLVS and received her Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Florida in 2017.

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