The Digital Learning Council's blueprint aims to personalize learning.

Digital and blended learning opportunities have the potential to improve U.S. education dramatically, because they can help teachers provide a more personal learning experience for their students, according to the Digital Learning Council (DLC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group led by former governors Bob Wise of West Virginia, a Democrat, and Jeb Bush of Florida, a Republican. But for this to happen, policy makers must remove barriers to digital learning such as archaic school funding formulas and seat-time requirements, the council argues.

The DLC on Dec. 1 introduced its “Ten Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning,” a blueprint for how digital learning can transform education. On Dec. 2, the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), of which Wise is president, held a webinar to discuss the DLC’s blueprint.

“Students today are living in a digital age, and they are learning digitally everywhere except for school,” said Wise. “If you are eligible for public school, you should be eligible for publicly-funded digital learning.”

Panelists addressed three looming challenges facing the education system: declining fiscal revenues, a mounting teacher shortage, and increased demand for skilled workers. While the demand for highly skilled workers is increasing, the webinar noted, only seven out of 10 students graduate from high school, and only half of those graduates are college and work ready. Panelists said they believe digital and blended learning can help the U.S. overcome these issues.

“When [students] sit in a classroom lined up in desks with a single textbook, a single lecture, and a single teacher trying to convey information to them, it shuts them down,” said Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning and an executive DLC committee member.

“Every student deserves a world-class education, and we can provide that through digital learning,” said Patrick.

Patrick and fellow panelist Lisa Gillis, project director of the DLC and author of Virtual Schooling, believe schooling can be greatly improved through the use of blended learning that provides more personalized instruction. Blended learning combines live teaching and a variety of technological tools, including online learning, to educate students.