Celebrating National Online Learning Day – September 15th
Several years ago, I spent a number of months traveling around the State of Washington, introducing families to an innovative concept: a statewide, public alternative high school that was 100% online—intended to serve students who, for a variety of reasons, couldn’t attend traditional high school. Similar to other public high schools, we offered a state-aligned curriculum with state-certified teachers, and an array of clubs and extra-curricular activities. But in our school, students attended online—wherever they were and whenever it fit into their daily lives.
As I traveled, I heard many stories from parents about their hopes for how this new school could help address their child’s unique challenges: work schedules, health issues, child- or family-care responsibilities, or other such issues. It became clear that online learning could open up a number of opportunities for those who may not otherwise be able to attend high school. Within four years our school was the largest high school in Washington State, and we created similar schools in a dozen other states, which continue today.
Online learning first gained significant introduction into the K-12 sector around 20 years ago. However, in many ways, online (or blended) learning is still in its infancy in K-12. Surveys indicate that 90% of teachers are using online learning in some fashion, but the usage of online learning is a fraction of the instructional activity at most schools. However, a recent survey indicated that 85% of districts expect that, within three years, half of their instructional materials will be digital…and that’s exciting news!
Online learning provides many important benefits that are driving its adoption in K-12 education:
- Access: online options can bring education to those who otherwise may not be served due to schedule conflicts, teacher shortages, health issues, or other challenges
- Cost: replacing print textbooks with less-expensive digital materials
- Improved Engagement: digital materials are more readily updated and thus more current, and also provide more interactive, engaging experiences for learners
- College and Career-readiness Development: online work and group collaboration is a key component of today’s workplace, and digital learning helps to develop those skills in our learners
- Personalization: digital learning materials can help districts move toward the goal of providing a personalized learning experience for each student, tailored to that student’s skills, interests, reading levels, and learning styles.
I believe that all of these factors together are driving the move among our nation’s schools and teachers to increasingly incorporate online learning into their classrooms.
Since Learning.com’s inception in 1999, we have partnered with schools and districts to offer online and blended learning curriculum programs. We are now serving roughly 20% of the districts in the country, and 1 in 7 schools. Our partner districts, as compared to national demographics, are over-represented in both urban AND rural settings—helping to reach students who otherwise might not have access to digital learning opportunities.
I have witnessed personally the powerful impact of online learning on the lives of students, families, and teachers. And I have spoken with teachers in traditional schools who have discovered the potential for using online learning in their classroom—to create more engaging learning experiences and to personalize learning for their students.
We are honored to join with others around the nation today to celebrate the opportunities and advances that online learning provides!