Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

The K-12 Online Evolution 21st-Century Solutions for 21st-Century Learning

Magazine article Multimedia & Internet@Schools

The K-12 Online Evolution 21st-Century Solutions for 21st-Century Learning

Article excerpt


In his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas L. Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, discusses a global, web-based playing field and the sharing of knowledge and work in real time, without regard to geography, distance, or even language. As Disney says, "It's a small world after all." And as a result, an increasing number of K-12 academic institutions are going online, changing the way they teach in response to how today's students today want to learn.

Industry organizations such as the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) believe online learning is more than a trend. It's revolutionizing global education, and those academic institutions with strong elearning strategies will advance to help prepare students to reach their full potential in a digital age. Today's students want more options when it comes to education, and online learning is providing new opportunities for universal access to the best possible education for all students, regardless of ability, background, income level, or geography.


The iNACOL publication, "Fast Facts About Online Learning," provides ample evidence that online learning is growing explosively. Here are some highlights of the K-12-related research, trends, and statistics presented in that document.

* K-12 online learning is a new field consisting of an estimated $50 million market, which is growing at an estimated annual pace of 30% annually.

* The overall number of K-12 students engaged in online courses during 2007-2008 is estimated at 1.03 million, a 47% increase from 2005-2006 (The Sloan Consortium).

* Online learning is currently used by 4% of K-12 students, and this number is expected to grow to 15% by 2011 ("America's Digital Schools 2006").

* 44 states have significant supplemental online learning programs, significant full-time programs (in which students take most or all of their courses online), or both.

* 34 states offer state-led programs or initiatives that are designed, in most cases, to work with existing school districts to supplement course offerings for students.

* As of January 2007, there were 173 virtual charter schools serving 92,235 students in 18 states.

* 57% of public secondary schools in the U.S. provide students access to online learning.

* 72% of school districts with distance education programs planned to expand online offerings in the coming year.

What's more, not only is online learning for K-12 growing rapidly, it can be as effective as face-to-face learning. According to "A Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning" from the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), on average, students seem to perform equally well or better academically in online learning. In addition, teachers who teach online report positive improvements in their face-to-face teaching as well.


Because 21st-century students learn differently, 21st-century educators need the tools to reach them. Online learning is no longer about sitting in front of a computer and working in a vacuum, without contact with instructors and other students. 21st-century students demand more, including personalized, interactive learning that meets the needs of mobile learners, facilitates formal and informal learning, and fosters a sense of community.

Synchronous collaboration software, such as the virtual classroom, allows for real-time interaction between students and instructors. The desired outcome of using synchronous communication tools, including integrated VoIP and teleconferencing, application and desktop sharing, polling and quizzing, and recording, as well as technologies such as multipoint videos, shared whiteboards, web tours, and breakout rooms, is to add the value of real-time interaction rather than just static content. …

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