Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning

K21 online learning is booming, but who's tracking the data and issues shaping that growth? The answer is Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning, the go-to annual report. Hear from the report's author and leading contributors and join the roundtable discussion of key policy and practice issues from 2009, as well as a look ahead at key emerging issues in 2010.

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See the report here:

Online Learning – issues and opportunities

• Movement of online courses to district level – groundswell of districts offering their own programs in blended learning model – the challenge is finding data from those programs
• Past the novelty phase – now a real player and much higher expectation for accountability and will be forced to compare to brick and mortar students
• Getting people to understand that there really are a lot of different programs and the laws need to appreciate those differences
• Quality - how to measure, who will measure, especially with multiple delivery models
• Districts is where most education reforms have to move to scale – but there are so many competing priorities that it will make it incredibly difficult
• Continual struggle with sustainability in light of drastic budget cuts at the state/district level
• Missouri virtual school lost all funding - - can this spread and is this a highlight of sustainability issues?
• Too much choice with low quality programs could be problematic delivering low cost in a tight market – will overall hurt online learning and students

• No K-8 supplemental and it is time and we will see this expand in the upcoming year
• More interest for supplement programs at the district level
• Florida funding creates a more stable model that more states need to look at to create sustainability
• FTE funding dollars can create sustainability
• Small rural school districts can sustain through online learning to be competitive – and without it could fail
• Giving students a choice - especially over dropping out
• ARRA – influencing education and creating choice and could provide a move

How do we counter quality issues?

• Consumer awareness and increased data is key
• Need to say to consumers; “here is what you need to see in order to make the buy decision”
• Low cost provider may be a solution – but districts, parents, teachers all need to know what they are buying
• We don’t have enough research to say what a quality online experience actually is – we need a lot more research to test the standards
• Need longitudinal data on how students are succeeding all through school
• The data is usually 3-4 years old so it is not really applicable to the situation we have now since online learning is accelerating

Why are we holding virutals to a higher level of scrutiny than other delivery models?
• Because it is so different - - price is driving a commoditization of virtual but districts are getting much smarter, much faster and reviewing more for quality and leaving price last
• Districts and states learning that they have to very clearly define what they want due to the number of options
• Course review processes are getting much more rigorous looking for teaching, interactivity, content and process in order to increase quality – Texas is helping define
• Not just evaluating online courses – we are evaluating a cultural shift - have to involve students since they are the digital natives

Are publishers moving with us?
• Moving from publisher to a solution provider - every dollar invested is how to get content to students through education as a service
• Pearson is looking at the world in an entirely different way
• Students may want it as a text book and virtually
• Textbook processes at the state usually keep a text for 6 years and cannot change and that has to change

What is the online learning experience?
• Constantly changing because all the ways people are using it and the report updates the definitions continuously – wont ever have a final definition
• “online learning” actually hurts us – it is using the internet to deliver instruction that carries over to all learning to individualize instruction – need to stop sticking ourselves in that box

Any progress on the seat time requirements that are hurting online schools?
• Wyoming was able to go to milestones and away from seat hours
• Michigan is fighting districts and budgets and having difficulty in this area
• Seat time and achievement – will move more towards mastery and further away from time as the main factor

Key emerging trends for online learning?
• We haven’t addressed the mobile device and we know it is what students want – might not be 2010 but in 18 months we will see mobile devices
• We will continue to see the conversation changing from what is it to how we manage it
• We will see integration into special education in much greater numbers
• We will see more states require online learning experience - MI, AL already have this
• Several different waves are coming – growth in elementary, blended learning – adults needing a high school diploma are a huge audience coming to virtual schools
• Within corporate training, we will see more cohort based collaborative learning in the corporate world
• More multiple pathways to learning – more ability to just in time resources to support the learning that needs to happen for students
• All states will finally have online learning and the discussion will dramatically change

This is the wave, the wave is coming – you either ride the wave or wipe out!

Courtesy of Dave Saba, ABCTE CEO

[mkb] Blog entry I posted about this session available at