Requiring an online experience for students in secondary public schools is a topic that has recently come to the forefront of my work over the last two weeks so I thought I would share just some of the arguments for why this just might make sense…
Online learning is emerging as an essential part of K-12 education with two states (Michigan and Alabama) and many districts finding value in requiring their students to participate in an online experience. There is national support for this movement, particularly in the latest U.S. Department of Education National Educational Technology Plan. Reasons for these initiatives include:
- Today’s learners need a unique set of 21st century skills to succeed in a global economy. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates for models of learning that emphasize creative problem-solving, synthesizing, use of networks and workgroups, cultural and global awareness, and the ability to communicate effectively in multiple media. Online learning supports acquisition of these skills by focusing on learner needs, essential skills and building community relationships.
- Online learning often results in increased learning time, which has clearly been shown to improve student outcomes. In addition, research consistently suggests there is no significant difference in student outcomes in online environments compared to face-to-face instruction. A comprehensive study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, suggested that students performed better in online environments, particularly in blended environments (those with both face-to-face and online components) and the primary reason for this was attributed to increased learning time.
- Online course offerings have been a staple in higher education for some time now. One-in-four college students report taking an online course and it is expected that this number will continue to increase dramatically in the near future. Providing this experience early-on gets learners one step closer to college-preparedness.
- If you allow learners to fulfill the requirement with courses outside your district, the potential expansion of course offerings can enrich their educational experience by providing them with courses that might not be available locally and by providing opportunities to join other culturally diverse learners from across the country and the globe.
- Online learning offers an approach that allows more flexible and individualized learning. The teachers that we come in contact with often express the belief that their face-to-face teaching practices are literally transformed as a result of taking and teaching online courses. Teachers find that lecture-based instruction simply does not work online. The online environment requires thoughtful consideration and planning, a natural movement from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side”, and attention to the needs of individual learners.
Here is a short list of the most pertinent reports that will be helpful for anybody considering this option:
- The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) is the premier organization in the field. You will find a plethora of resources on their site, including research reports, parent guides, and K-12 online standards and guidelines: http://www.inacol.org/
- John Watson and the Evergreen Education Group prepare a “national snapshot” report every year called Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: An Annual Review of State Level Policy and Practice. It is an excellent resource for keeping up with current initiatives in K-12 online learning: http://www.kpk12.com/download.html
- Evaluation of Evidenced-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies is the report by the U.S. Department of Education mentioned above: http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf
- The National Educational Technology Plan: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/os/technology/plan/2004/site/edlite-default.html
- This Sloan-C report, Learning on Demand: Online Education in the United States, 2009, provides the most up-to-date information on the number of students learning online: http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/pdf/learningondemand.pdf