How to start a successful virtual learning program

Buy-in is critical to a virtual learning program's success.

Virtual learning can help districts address many needs, such as filling a gap between courses a school offers and courses students might want to take but aren’t currently offered—and a new report offers insights on starting a virtual learning program from a number of seasoned experts.

Statistics indicate that more than 1.5 million students attended fully online or blended learning programs during the 2009-10 school year, and more school districts are turning to online instruction for its expanded curriculum offerings, flexibility, and cost-saving potential. Some experts predict that roughly half of high school courses will be offered online by 2019.

In “How to Launch District Virtual Learning,” a new report from the Blackboard Institute, 17 virtual learning experts agreed that getting buy-in from teachers, administrators, parents, and the community is absolutely essential to success.…Read More

Annual report reveals online learning’s rapid rise

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.…Read More

More states look to online learning for students

In 2010, more than 4 million K-12 students participated in formal virtual learning programs.

As more students opt to enroll full-time or part-time in virtual learning programs, a growing number of states are considering proposals mandating that students take at least one online course before graduating from high school.

An important step for states considering such a requirement is to define what they mean by virtual learning and taking an online course, because definitions can vary. The motivation behind the requirement is key, too.

“Access at home and in school is really important,” said Allison Powell, vice president of state and district services at the International Association for K-12 Online learning (iNACOL).…Read More

Report cites 40 diverse examples of blended learning

The sample of programs studied was large enough to indicate trends in blended-learning usage.

The term “blended learning” encompasses a number of different instructional models in use across the country, but who has the time to compare and contrast these programs for an analysis of what blended learning means today? A new report does just that, and it also collects instructors’ opinions of this type of learning.

The report, titled “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models,” is part of a series on blended learning by Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, and Heather Clayton Staker, a senior research fellow for education practice at the institute.

Horn is also co-author of the 2008 book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, and the reports are intended to study K-12 blended learning and measure its potential to become a disruptive technology in education. (See “Report: Blended learning could hit or miss.”)…Read More

Report: Blended learning could hit or miss

There are still obstacles that are preventing blended learning from reaching its full potential, says the report.

Blended learning has the ability to transform education, according to a new report—but if certain guidelines and practices aren’t ensured, blended learning could become just another add-on to an archaic system on its way out, the report warns.

The report, titled “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning,” by Michael B. Horn, co-founder and executive director of education at the Innosight Institute, and Heather Clayton Staker, a senior research fellow for education practice at the institute, describes how blended learning can affect education, but why it also could fall short of its potential.

The report defines blended learning as “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.”…Read More

Panel: Remove barriers to digital learning

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.”…Read More

Live vs. distance learning: Measuring the differences

The educational value of online courses has been debated for years, based on a large but uneven body of research. An analysis of 99 studies by the federal Department of Education concluded last year that online instruction, on average, was more effective than face-to-face learning by a modest amount. But that analysis has been challenged because so few of the underlying studies include apples-to-apples comparisons, reports the New York Times. Mark Rush of the University of Florida and colleagues tried to do just that by contrasting grades of students who sat through a semester of his live microeconomics lectures with those who watched online. Their conclusion, reported in June by the National Bureau of Economic Research: some groups of online students did notably worse. Hispanic students watching online earned a full grade lower, on average, than Hispanics who attended class, and all male students who watched online were about a half-grade lower. The results surprised the researchers; after all, the live lectures were delivered in a hall to scores of students, who rarely engaged the professor or one another. David N. Figlio, a professor of education and social policy at Northwestern University and a co-author of the study, had been prepared to find that “watching online didn’t make a lick of difference,” he said. “What we’re saying is, ‘Hang on for a second, maybe it does.’ ”

Click here for the full story

…Read More

Gates Foundation launches $20 million program to expand technology use

The initiative will fund practices that help prepare students for college completion.
The initiative will fund practices that help prepare students for college completion.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Oct. 11 announced the Next Generation Learning Challenges, a collaborative, multi-year initiative that aims to help dramatically improve college readiness and college completion in the United States through the use of technology tools and educational technology. The program will award grants to organizations and innovators to expand promising technology tools to more students, teachers, and schools. It is led by the nonprofit EDUCAUSE, which works to advance higher education through the use of information technology.

Next Generation Learning Challenges released the first of a series of requests for proposals (RFPs) on Oct. 11 to solicit funding proposals for technology applications that can improve postsecondary education. This round of funding will total up to $20 million, including grants that range from $250,000 to $750,000. Applicants with top-rated proposals will receive funds to expand their programs and demonstrate effectiveness in serving larger numbers of students. Proposals are due Nov. 19, 2010; winners are expected to be announced by March 31, 2011.

“American education has been the best in the world, but we’re falling below our own high standards of excellence for high school and college attainment,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re living in a tremendous age of innovation. We should harness new technologies and innovation to help all students get the education they need to succeed.”…Read More

Interest in hybrid courses on the rise


Hybrid courses combine the benefits of online and face-to-face instruction.
Hybrid courses combine the benefits of online and face-to-face instruction.


Several colleges and universities say they’ve seen double-digit increases in the number of students taking online courses in recent years. Increasingly, some of the online offerings are what’s known as “hybrid” courses, which mix an online experience with traditional classroom learning.…Read More