2007 March 24 Saturday
K-12 Online Course Use Growing

The Sloan Consortium (funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation which was funded with money from the guy who built up GM into a massive corporation) produces interesting reports about education, especially about online education. A recent Sloan Consortium report finds widespread and growing use of online education for kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12).

1.  Almost two-thirds of the responding public school districts are offering online courses:

  • 63.1% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.
  • 57.9% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online course.
  • 32.4% had one or more students enrolled in a blended course.

The quantity and quality obviously varies. But offerings will continue to improve on both scores.

School districts expect big growth in the use of online courses.

2.  Over 60% of school districts with students enrolled in online courses anticipate their online enrollments will grow.  Over the next two years districts predict online enrollments will increase by 19% and blended enrollments by 23%.

3.  The overall number of K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2005-2006, is estimated at 700,000.

4.  Respondents report that online learning is meeting the specific needs of a range of students, from those who need extra help to those who want to take more advanced courses and whose districts do not have enough teachers to offer certain subjects.

5.  School districts typically depend on multiple online learning providers, including postsecondary institutions, independent vendors and state virtual schools as well as developing and providing their own online courses.

6.  Perhaps the voices heard most clearly in this survey were those of respondents representing small rural school districts. For them, the availability of online learning is most important in order to provide students with course choices and in some cases, the basic courses that should be part of every curriculum.  These rural districts might be providing models and lessons for other districts facing teacher shortages in high-need subject areas such as science and mathematics.

7.  While concerns about the quality of online courses, funding, and teacher development were expressed, it appears that many of these issues are gradually being resolved.

Note in item 6 the benefit to rural schools. They have smaller student bodies and can't offer as much different specialized classes. But with online courses and video recordings (and some of the online content is very likely streaming media) the kids in rural areas can watch lectures on a huge variety of topics.

High bandwidth web connections and growth in content deliverable over the web will reduce the educational advantages of cities and suburbs. Also, online content will increase the value of home schooling. Why waste a kid's time with bus and car rides back and forth to school if a parent can supervise video viewing and use of interactive learning software? If a kid fails an online test a parent can receive an automated email notification. Or a page can show a report of current scores in all subjects and how far along each child is on each course.

A lot more of the smart kids will zip through elementary school and high school at faster speeds when they gain the ability to pace their own learning. Some will study 12 months of the year and watch more lectures, do more learning exercises, and take more tests when they gain the ability to work on courses any hour of the day or night and any day of the year.

This trend is going to change demographic patterns since parents will not need great schools to provide their kids with first class educations. While parents will still want to avoid dangerous areas the need to live in a top notch school district will lessen. The lower costs of online learning will reduce demands for greater school spending and reduce support for bricks and mortars schools.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2007 March 24 04:54 PM  Education Online

Jerry Martinson said at March 25, 2007 8:13 PM:

Some of these on-line things can be dramatically more effective. I know that www.starfall.com was much more effective teaching phonic sounds and blending than anything I or my kids's teachers did. It seems perfectly matched for 2year old to 5 year olds and uses a sound methodology to teach kids early reading. It isn't complete though but it really held my kids attention for 30 minutes at a time.

Tamela Blalock said at April 2, 2007 11:41 AM:

Agreeing with Jerry M., I have witnessed the dramatic effect that an online program can deliver. My favorite example is the My Mastery Network at www.mathmastery.com. My younger brother is preparing for the SAT, and has experienced some difficulty in the Math sections of the test. After incorporating MathMastery into the routine, his practice scores have been improving. Like the article mentioned, using that online program has allowed for him to focus on one lesson at a time (i.e. adding fractions or converting decimals into percents) so that he could rebuild the skills that are necessary to be successful for the SAT Math section. My niece who is the 1st grade, has also been using My Mastery Network to excel as she is a very quick learner. She is not a huge fan of math, but she will get on the MathMastery website and engage in her online lessons and practice problems. I believe that this company has found a way to engage students in Math using the appeal of a virtual learning environment.

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