Case Study

Providing Access to Online AP Courses for All Students

April 08, 2016
Iowa Online AP Academy, IA


Access to Advanced Placement® (AP®) courses was uneven in the state of Iowa.

  • In small, rural districts it was hard to justify the cost of hiring a teacher, let alone find a qualified teacher for the few students who wanted to take an AP course.
  • When the district was able to hire a highly qualified teacher, AP course offerings were limited to that teacher's expertise.


Iowa selected Apex Learning digital curriculum to partner in the implementation of a statewide online AP program. The selection was based on the company's reputation for developing and delivering high-quality online AP courses and a thorough review of course material.


  • During school year 2014-2015, 78% of students taking College Board AP exams scored a 3 or higher, outperforming the national average of 61% by 17 percentage points.
  • During school year 2013-2014, 73% of students scored a 3 or better, outperforming the national average of 60% by 13 percentage points.
  • During school years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, 72% of students scored a 3 or better, outperforming the national average of 59% by 13 percentage points.
  • During school year 2010-2011, 69% of students scored a 3 or higher, outperforming the national average of 58% by 11 percentage points.


Use online learning to provide statewide access to AP courses and teachers for students in schools without local AP programs.

Students Outperform National Average by 17 Percentage Points

District Profile

From 2001-2014

  • 107,155 students participated statewide
  • 164,191 AP exams taken statewide

Expanding Advanced Placement to All Students

College readiness is a strong driver in the state of Iowa, and the state has a long history of making Advanced Placement courses a priority. Its schools serve nearly half a million students, with the majority of students living in urban areas where AP courses are accessible. Rural students, however, had little or no access to AP courses, a clear disadvantage when applying to college.

Apex Learning has been instrumental in our mission to give all Iowa students access to high- quality, Advanced Placement coursework. Because of our work with Apex Learning we have been able to reach thousands of students in ways that will impact the course of their academic path in high school and beyond.

Kristin Flanary, Administrator

Belin-Blank Center, Iowa


Leveling the Playing Field with Online Learning

Access to AP courses was limited for a variety of reasons. Some small high schools or districts didn't have enough students to justify the cost of offering AP courses, or found it difficult to hire teachers qualified to teach rigorous, college-level AP courses. Determined to provide all students in the state with access to AP courses, the University of Iowa, Belin-Blank Center established the Iowa Online Advanced Placement Academy (IOAPA). Online courses provided through IOAPA allowed students attending small, rural schools access to rigorous, online AP courses.

IOAPA selected Apex Learning to deliver its online AP courses and provide virtual AP instruction. Iowa-certified online teachers engaged one-to-one with each student, using real-time data to monitor each student's progress and performance. The authorization of Apex Learning online AP courses by the AP Course Audit ensured the courses met College Board requirements, and the online instruction ensured a quality program.


Supporting AP Success

Since the establishment of IOAPA over a decade ago, more than 8,000 students have enrolled in Apex Learning online AP courses. Nearly 70 percent of those students would not have had the opportunity to take an AP course without the efforts provided by IOAPA. But the efforts did not stop there. IOAPA students also had access to AP Exam Review, a comprehensive online study resource from Apex Learning. IOAPA classroom teachers also used Apex Learning digital curriculum to support their instruction in the classroom. This proved particularly valuable for teachers new to the rigor of AP coursework.