Online Learning Growing, Needs More Oversight
Most online learning programs are growing by 25 percent each year, with 42 states running either significant supplemental or full-time or combined supplemental and full-time online earning programs, according to Keeping Pace, a new report on K-12 online learning researched and written by Evergreen Consulting Associates.
However, Keeping Pace also reported that the majority of education leaders seek sufficient policy oversight to maintain student opportunities and demonstrate quality to stakeholders.
Key findings from he report, which is available as a free download from the North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL), include:
- Of the eight states that don't offer significant supplemental or full-time online learning programs, several are planning to develop online learning programs.
- Of the 42 states running online learning programs, 38 offer significant supplemental programs, 30 of which offer state-led initiatives. Eighteen states offer "significant" full-time online programs.
- Forty percent of programs in the study grew by 25 percent or more during the 2006-2007 school year, with half of those reporting growth rates higher than 50 percent.
- Fifty-nine percent of programs in the report operated in all or most of the districts in their states, with 17 programs serving multiple state districts and 24 percent serving just one district in their state.
- While Advanced Placement instruction is sometimes attributed as a driving force for online learning, 81 percent of programs surveyed said 15 percent or fewer online education enrollments were for AP courses.
The report said that online education programs would support the implementation of policies that increase oversight of online education after audits conducted in Colorado, Kansas, and Idaho over the past year increased calls for scrutiny of online education. But, respondents said policies should be transparent, measure outcomes data rather than mandating inputs, and be flexible enough to still accommodate innovation.
Keeping Pace identified three key areas where government and other organizations could help shape oversight:
- Crafting data collection and reporting standards that allowed for cross-state comparisons.
- Disseminating best practices across states.
- Helping set cross-state policies to support efficiencies and quality of programs.
Evergreen Consulting conducted research for the report between May and September of 2007 via web-based surveys, Internet research and phone interviews. A full description of the research methodology is contained in the report.
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David Kopf is a freelance technology writer and marketing consultant, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.