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.

“In 2011, sixteen states enacted legislation related to online learning,” said Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL.  “But there are still policy barriers that hinder student access and equity. While we continue to see K-12 online and blended learning programs grow at a rapid pace on a national scale with strong demand from students interested in online courses, the growth remains uneven state by state.”

Digital learning can be defined as any kind of learning using technology and giving students some type of control over where, how, and what they learn, said Deirdre Finn, deputy executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“We think we’re entering a really exciting time, where students are going to be able to embrace new learning technologies,” including technologies that let students truly customize education to their own learning style and pace, Finn said.

New digital learning technologies are interactive, adaptive, and provide real-time data that educators can use to immediately tailor instruction to students who might need extra attention or more time with a given concept.

Interactive, adaptive content will improve the quality of digital learning, she added.

“We think the future rests with blended learning,” Finn said.

Laura Ascione

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