March 5, 2012 by Susan Patrick
The Virginia legislature has an opportunity in the waning days of this session to ensure the rights of Virginia families to choose the educational option that best suits their needs. Senate Bill 598 (Virtual School Funding), as introduced in January, was well-written and balanced, and ensured fair funding for public school students who wanted to access high-quality, full-time online schools available to students throughout the state – schools that were state-approved during the rigorous Virginia Department of Education review process. Last-minute changes made to the bill in late February included striking well-balanced language in the bill, and instead inserting clauses designed to limit student access to online learning programs. (more…)
February 14, 2012 by Susan Patrick
Late last month, I blogged about the Utah State Office of Education’s new initiative to support open textbooks, a type of open educational resource (OER) enabling learning materials to be made available online for free through open licenses.
This week, while attending the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) Wave I grantees convening in Austin, Texas, I had the opportunity to learn about an open toolkit resource to aid in the development and scaling of blended learning programs.
The OER project, created by the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), with funding from the NGLC, is called the “Blended Learning Toolkit,” which seeks to provide higher education institutions and instructors with a guide for developing and managing blended and online learning programs.
Yet, while the Blended Learning Toolkit may have been developed by (more…)
January 31, 2012 by Susan Patrick
The concept of an “open textbook,” commonly referred to in our field as a form of open educational resources (OER), enables learning materials that are produced and vetted by experts to be made available online for free through open licenses, allowing for the content to be easily accessible, printable and shared for the purpose of personalizing education for students.
The Utah State Office of Education (USOE) announced in a press release last week that it will support open textbooks to pave the way for students in K-12 education across the state to have access to up-to-date content.
The press release reads: “Texts get into classrooms quickly and can be updated as needed rather than on a publishing schedule – something that’s particularly important in science. The open textbook also adds to Utah’s reputation as the most cost-efficient school system in the country. This is a fantastic way to get the latest textbooks into the hands of Utah’s nearly 600,000 public school students.”
As education costs continue to rise, (more…)
January 27, 2012 by Susan Patrick
The National Education Association (NEA) this week released a position paper on blended learning – and its conclusions are positive. The largest teachers union in the country announced it supports blended learning programs. It notes that “technology in the educational process improves learning opportunities for students, quality of instruction, effectiveness of education employees, and provides opportunities to reduce educational inequities.”
At a time when it seems much of the media coverage around online learning is determined to paint the educational landscape as a fierce battle between the traditional teacher and digital technology, NEA’s position on blended learning is heartening. It acknowledges the promise of technology to provide “instruction that best meets the educational needs of the student.” It notes that “early evidence suggests that a blended instructional approach can result in learning outcome gains and increased enrollment retention.” And it reaffirms the importance of qualified, licensed teachers in the blended learning environment.
Of course, iNACOL has always believed (more…)
January 12, 2012 by Susan Patrick
There is a general lack of information available when it comes to determining the costs associated with online and blended learning. Yet, at a time when all state legislatures and education agencies are wrestling with funding issues, accurate cost data is essential.
A new report released this week by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation takes a closer look at those costs, showing a range of figures based on the different program options offered to students of K-12 education in the U.S.
Comparing the costs of online and blended learning programs (both full and part-time) to those associated with traditional brick-and-mortar schooling (which varies school by school, state by state and district by district) presented the report’s authors with an important and difficult challenge.
The Foundation’s new report is a serious effort to look into the cost drivers for online and blended programs. Much of its reporting is based on in-depth interviews with a number of sources. It provides useful insights that will help to foster a better understanding of resource allocations in education, not only for those within our field, but also for the policymakers who need to make equitable and sound funding decisions that affect students in online and blended learning programs across the country.
The report also touches on the proper role of technology in education (more…)
January 1, 2012 by Susan Patrick
Happy New Year, iNACOL colleagues and friends! As online learning continues to grow for K-12 students across the globe in 2012, a new resolution was signed into law by the President that benefits high school graduates of full-time online learning programs in the U.S.
In the past, seniors graduating from full-time online high schools have faced obstacles in their efforts to join the U.S. military. With the Department of Defense classifying an online high school graduate’s diplomas as “non-traditional,” the graduate is given a different recruitment rank, or tier, than a graduate of a traditional, brick and mortar high school, who would be classified as “Tier I” military recruit, compared to the “Tier II” title given to a graduate with an online learning diploma.
Based on the Defense Department’s policies, the military is limited to the number of recruits it will admit each year from the Tier II division, accepting up to 10 percent for the Army and the National Guard, 5 percent for the Navy and the Marine Corps, and 1 percent for the Air Force.
Thanks to the House Armed Services Committee this outdated policy has changed, (more…)
December 20, 2011 by Susan Patrick
Education experts have for decades encouraged more middle schools to offer high-achieving eighth graders the option to take Algebra 1, a course that has been traditionally offered in the ninth grade. The rationale for offering algebra to younger students is strong – studies show that students who take algebra earlier do better in math throughout high school and college.
A new study from the U.S. Department of Education, Access to Algebra I: The Effects of Online Mathematics for Grade 8 Students, finds promising results for middle schools that do not typically provide the course: offering students the option to take Algebra 1 online is an effective way to broaden opportunities for students, and to lay the foundation for future success in mathematics.
Currently, only about 30 percent of eighth graders take Algebra I. (more…)
December 12, 2011 by Susan Patrick
Last year, iNACOL, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Educause, League for Innovation and CCSSO, launched the Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grant initiative.
Since then, the initiative — created to address the barriers to educational innovation and tap the potential of advanced learning technology to improve upon college readiness and completion in the U.S — has awarded $17.5 million in grants to 48 organizations and institutions in 33 states, the District of Columbia, and the United Kingdom.
The grants, which are made through multiple funding waves, are launched every six to twelve months via Request for Proposals, and target specific challenges associated with the barriers to educational success.
Now, with two full waves of funding behind us, (more…)
December 7, 2011 by Susan Patrick
A report released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) at the U.S. Department of Education offered up new data from the 2009-2010 public school year, revealing rapid growth in K-12 online and blended learning.
Surveying over 2,300 public school districts throughout all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the NCES report found that K-12 enrollments into online courses soared to 1.8 million during the 2009-10 school year, marking it as more than three times the amount reported during the 2004-2005 school year.
And while innovation in technology continues to pave the way for next generation learning — providing more K-12 students with access to a quality education — it may come as no surprise that nearly three quarters of the school districts surveyed are planning to expand their online learning programs over the next three years.
Other key findings from the report revealed:
- Online learning is for all students: Fifty-five percent of the public school districts polled (more…)
November 10, 2011 by Susan Patrick
Every year iNACOL presents our Online Learning Innovator Awards to some of the most dedicated, inspiring and innovative leaders in our field, and last night I was honored to recognize this year’s winners at our Virtual School Symposium.
As online and blended learning programs continue to expand exponentially in our nation’s primary and secondary schools, these individuals and the organizations that we’ve presented the awards to have played a key role in ensuring that every student is given the opportunity to succeed.
Congratulations to the following (more…)