During 2011, online and blended learning programs took root in many schools around the country.

K-12 online and blended learning continued to grow rapidly across the country in 2011 as new consortia and single-district online education programs outstripped the continued expansion of more traditional eLearning programs, according to an annual report that measures the growth of K-12 virtual education.

2011 Keeping Pace with Online K-12 Learning: An Annual Review of Policy and Practice,” from the Evergreen Education Group, was unveiled Nov. 9 at the 2011 Virtual School Symposium hosted by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL).

As of late 2011, online and blended learning opportunities existed for at least some students in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, but no state had a full suite of full-time and supplemental options for students at all grade levels.

Thirty states now have full-time, multi-district schools that enrolled an estimated 250,000 students in the 2010-11 academic year—a 25-percent increase in enrollment over the previous year. Forty states had a state virtual school or similar state-led initiative in the 2010-11 school year, delivering 536,000 course enrollments (one student taking one semester course), a rise of 19 percent over the prior year.

“2011 was in many ways a watershed year for K-12 online learning in this country,” said Susan Patrick, president and chief executive officer of iNACOL. “Over the past year, online and blended learning programs took root in classrooms around the country. We’re encouraged by the rapid growth we saw in the number and variety of online [education] programs being made available to students in 2011.”

The report reveals that while these now-familiar and important segments of the K-12 online learning field have continued to grow, relatively new forms—such as online learning consortia and single-district programs—are expanding even more rapidly, as is the range of private eLearning providers competing to work with districts.

In fact, single-district programs, which are usually blended learning models that combine face-to-face and online instruction, are the fastest growing segment of online and blended learning programs. Though data on these programs is unavailable at the state level, published reports and unpublished research suggest fully 50 percent of districts nationwide have at least one student taking an online course. Riverside, Calif.; Plano, Texas; Broward County, Fla.; and Chicago are among the major single-district programs offering online courses in 2011.