Posted by: FBRuralDevelopment | 01/11/2012

“Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning”

Keeping Pace With Online Learning 2011 report

 Back in March of 2010, I shared some data on the future of online education from Jesse Ward, policy analyst for the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, from the NTCA study, “Rural Education and Technology,” which details how educators are incorporating digital tools into the classroom.  This post is an update to highlight how many states are responding to opportunities afforded by online learning.  Digital education is particularly important to students who live in rural areas who may not have easy access to libraries or other school resources.

 A new report, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, finds many more families are taking advantage of online learning opportunities.  30 states have full-time online school options open to any student across the state.  Virtual schools are offered in 40 states, with charter schools and private providers providing much of the expansion.   

Keeping Pace, published by the Evergreen Education Group and sponsored by many online learning organizations in the US, is an annual report (now in its eighth year) that tracks developments in K-12 online learning policy and practice.  Information about the publication, which includes free downloadable reports and figures for use in presentations or by the media, is available at kpk12.com.

Here are some bits from Keeping Pace’s Executive Summary:

  • “Several states passed important new online learning laws, some of which cited the Ten Elements of Digital Learning created by Digital Learning Now. Florida, Utah, Idaho, Ohio, and Wisconsin were among the states passing new online learning laws that will change the education landscape in those states in coming years. Digital Learning Now—an initiative managed by the Foundation for Excellence in Education in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education. 
  • Open educational resources, from sources including Khan Academy [really, check this out if you don’t already know about it] and the National Repository of Online Courses, are helping districts add a digital component without investing in developing or acquiring content.
  • Most district programs are blended, instead of fully online. A corollary to the growth of district online programs is that many of these options blend online and face-to-face learning, instead of being entirely online as many state-level schools were. One reason is simple: Districts are often serving their own students, who are local, so there is limited need to bridge large distances. Even when the district is providing an online course with a remote teacher, the local school often provides a computer lab, facilitator, or other on-site resources that may define the course as blended instead of fully online. Many of the schools that have received significant media attention in 2011 fall into this category.”

The website also shares articles and reports on digital learning – (with entertaining headlines like My Teacher Is an App, Wall Street Journal, November 12, 2011).  Some examples of different types of programs are the George Washington University Online High School ( a virtual prep school), the Florida Virtual School  (the first statewide online high school and today is the largest e-learning system with more than 220,000 students), the Houston Independent School District ( online credit-recovery courses to students in danger of failing a class which uses “grad coaches” instead of teachers to monitor student progress) , and the California Virtual Academies (a network of nine online charter schools throughout CA with 10,000 students enrolled in 2009).


Responses

  1. Nice piece. The internet is the great equalizer. It shouldn’t matter your geography, or even economic situation – quality learning resources are ubiquitous.

    You mentioned that 30 states have full-time online educational availability to students. But how many students are schooled in accessing this information. And how many teachers are experts in accessing and managing these resources.

    We should concentrate on creating “learning environments” rather than teaching environments. This can be achieved by nurturing student directed activities such as online research. But we can’t assume they’ll do it all on their own. Teachers and school systems need step up if they expect their student to.


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