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Report: Online Learning Nearly Doubles Among High School Students

The percentage of high school students taking online courses nearly doubled in a single year. According to the latest data available from Project Tomorrow's annual Speak Up Survey, more than one-quarter (27 percent) of all high school students took at least one class online last year, up from 14 percent the year before. But the numbers could have been higher, according to the researchers.

According to a new report released at this week's ISTE 2010 conference, "Learning in the 21st Century: 2010 Trends Update," the percentage of middle school students taking online classes has also climbed. Twenty-one percent of middle school students reported taking online classes in 2009 versus 16 percent in 2008.

The statistics were released as part of an update to the latest annual Speak Up report, which surveyed 299,677 K-12 students, 38,642 teachers, 3,947 administrators, and 26,312 parents in fall 2009. The update was sponsored by ed tech developer Blackboard.

The researchers noted that more students actually should have been participating in online classes, but the supply of classes was not yet meeting demand as of the latest survey period. A fourth of students who had not taken an online class cited the lack of availability of classes as a factor. Another 16 percent said they could not afford to take a class online. More than half of middle school and high school students described "the availability of online classes as part of their ideal school experience," according to Project Tomorrow.

"Students clearly want online learning to be a bigger part of their overall school experience,
said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow, in a statement released Tuesday. "They're eager to personalize their learning with technologies they are already comfortable with. And so far schools have not fully capitalized on this interest to create more relevant, engaging, and productive learning experiences for students."

Other findings from the report included:

  • 52 percent of pre-service teachers are experiencing online classes, and 38 percent are engaged in online teaching communities, but only 4 percent said they were learning "how to teach online classes in their instructional methods courses";
  • 40 percent of district administrators and 35 percent of principals, according to the report, said state funding was limiting their ability to offer online courses; and
  • 26 percent of administrators said they doubted their teachers' ability "to effectively use tools for online classes, suggesting a need to provide educators with more training and additional support in online instruction."

Further information, including registration for the full update, which will be available later this month, can be found on Project Tomorrow's site here. Other full Speak Up reports can be freely accessed here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .