Some see blended learning as future of education

Interactive and adaptive learning technologies can help advance U.S. education, experts say.

More and more school districts are embracing digital learning as the next step in improving education, and a number of stakeholder groups are hoping to guide policy makers in their efforts to implement state-level online learning policies.

A Jan. 11 International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) webinar focused on the continued work of the Digital Learning Council on the reform needed to provide all students with the opportunity to engage in high-quality online learning.

The Digital Learning Council was established in 2012 when former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and former Democratic Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia came together to create implementation guidelines for states and schools.…Read More

Virtual schools booming as states mull warnings

iNACOL acknowledges that states need to do a better job overseeing online schools.

More schoolchildren than ever are taking their classes online, using technology to avoid long commutes to school, add courses they wouldn’t otherwise be able to take—and save their school districts money.

But as states pour money into virtual classrooms, with an estimated 200,000 virtual K-12 students in 40 states from Washington to Wisconsin, educators are raising questions about virtual learning. States are taking halting steps to increase oversight, but regulation isn’t moving nearly as fast as the virtual school boom.

The virtual learning debate pits traditional education backers, including teachers’ unions, against lawmakers tempted by the promise of cheaper online schools and school-choice advocates who believe private companies will apply cutting-edge technology to education.…Read More

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

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

Virtual learning acquisitions shake up marketplace

Experts say virtual learning's rapid growth is attracting notice.

As K-12 virtual learning expands across the nation, two of the nation’s largest ed-tech providers have jumped into the virtual learning market with significant acquisitions they hope will boost their offerings and help them appeal to a wider set of students and teachers.

But the moves also come as a new report from the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado argues that K-12 virtual learning needs stronger government oversight.

Education publishing giant Pearson announced last month that it will acquire Connections Education for $400 million in cash. Connections Education’s Connections Academy business operates online schools in 21 states, with more than 40,000 students.…Read More

Could the internet spell the end of snow days?

“Virtual snow days” would help ease pressure on school calendars.

Could the internet mean the end of snow days? Some schools think so, and they are experimenting with ways for students to do lessons online during bad weather, potentially allowing classes to go on during even the worst blizzard.

“Virtual snow days” would help ease pressure on school calendars. Because districts are required to be in session for a certain number of hours or days, losing teaching time to winter weather can mean extending the school day or cutting short spring break or summer vacation.

And canceling school in the winter, when some of the most difficult material of the year is covered, risks leaving students with a learning deficit heading into the spring, when many states administer standardized tests.…Read More

‘Teacher cheerleaders’ make online learning successful

Virtual learning can help many at-risk students graduate on time.

As online learning reaches more students in districts across the country, some educators struggle with how they can become successful virtual teachers—but tips from the 2011 National Online Teacher of the Year might help.

Kristin Kipp, who teaches English online at the 21st Century Virtual Academy in Jefferson County, Colo., has been teaching online for three years. Kipp teaches 11th and 12th graders, is an instructional leader for the English department, and is a part-time adjunct English teacher with Colorado Online Learning.

Jefferson County’s 21st Century Virtual Academy is a district-led program that accepts students both from the district and across the state. Many Jefferson County students are enrolled part-time in the virtual academy, taking two or three classes at a local high school and a few courses online. This, said Kipp, has been especially successful, because students are still in “school mode” for their online courses.…Read More

eSN Special Report: Convergent Education

eSNSpecialReportConvergentEducation_CoverFew would argue with the idea that education–not only the business of education, but also the way educators teach and students learn–is undergoing great change, and it could be on the cusp of an even greater transformation. Technology has changed the way the world works, and inevitably, it’s changing the nature of learning as well.

Today’s students are wired 24 hours a day and seven days a week with laptop computers and mobile devices. Content is available from a variety of sources and content experts online, and much of it is available free of charge. Students of today, growing up in the Information Age, have a vast world of knowledge available at their fingertips: If they learn something of interest in school, they know they can find out more about the topic in just a few clicks. Sometimes, what they learn online differs from what they were taught, and they are learning to question the veracity of information.

In short, students no longer are limited to learning only in classrooms under the tutelage of certified instructors during designated school hours–and this change has profound implications for educators.…Read More