Growth in K12 Online Learning – Not Just a Trend

Did you know that in 2010, more than 4 million K-12 students participated in formal virtual learning programs?  The continued growth in K12 online learning is not just a trend.  As enrollments in non traditional learning environments grow, states are working on proposing mandates that students take at least one online course prior to graduating from high school. according to a recent article in eSchool News,  in 2006, Michigan was the first state to implement such a requirement followed by Alabama in 2008. Soon Florida and Idaho are were on board while it appears Indiana willl be next in line.

One challenge states are faced with when proposing required online education is defining what that is and what it looks like.  Most states recognize that a fully online course is not the only way for a student to experience an alternative learning environment.  Like any organization, the end goal must be examined in order to determine the path to reach it.  Guidelines allowed include technology rich courses, a hybrid model of using a laptop onsite to take an online class, using live webinar teachings, participating in web chats about course content, and using learning management systems to access content and assignments among others.

K-12 online learning is about a decade behind the same concepts in higher education.  However, it seems to be growing at a much more rapid pace.  There seems to be less controversy about the usefulness of it, pedagogy discussions, and academic integrity that has plagued higher ed for so long.  Rather, it seems educators in the K-12 space are embracing the new found freedom to assist their students in learning through technology and pushing the boundaries of traditional learning.  Is that because we’ve already fought the battle in higher ed or do you think it is because K12 administrators are less resistant to change?  Interesting topic for discussion.