“Online and blended schools have provided more than a decade’s worth of evidence to suggest that teaching and learning online can work,” Watson said, citing research from Dr. Rick Ferdig of Kent State University. “So, instead of asking, ‘Does online learning work?’ we need to ask, ‘Under what circumstances does online learning work?’ Then, all stakeholders need to work together to develop and support measurement vehicles that reflect and reward ‘what works.’ The last step is to acknowledge the limitations of applying our current accountability systems to online learning programs and develop new, more effective models that employ the best possible measurement tools.”

International trends

iNACOL also released a study examining online and blended learning programs around the globe.

Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice of K-12 Schools Around the World” found that nearly 60 percent of the more than 60 countries included in the study reported government funding for blended learning or full-time online education programs at the primary and secondary levels. Teacher training for online learning is currently required in 25 percent of the countries surveyed.

Other results include:

  • China’s first online school was created in 1996; today, it has expanded to more than 200 online schools with enrollments exceeding 600,000 students.
  • Seventy-two percent of the surveyed countries reported that their online and blended learning teachers participated in professional development for online teaching.
  • Universities and colleges were reported as the primary source of training for educators, followed by regional centers and local schools.
  • In British Columbia, online schools provide complete programs or individual courses to 71,000 students, which is about 12 percent of the student population.
  • In 2010, Hong Kong enacted a policy recommendation for digital learning that “debundled” textbooks and teaching materials to make them more affordable and accessible to schools, and accelerated the development of an online depository of curriculum-based learning and teaching resources. A pilot project later resulted in a program made available to all 410,000 primary and secondary students in 300,000 low-income families—especially the 8 percent without internet access at home—to gain access to the internet for the purpose of learning.