Policy

Foundation for Blended and Online Learning Report Examines Tech Solutions to Rural Ed Challenges

Foundation for Blended and Online Learning Report Examines Tech Solutions to Rural Ed Challenges 

Rural schools face a raft of challenges schools in more densely populated areas do not, including declining enrollments, high socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, high transportation costs, lack of computer and internet access in student homes, low teacher pay, high teacher turnover, fewer teachers and fewer courses available to students. A new report from the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning (FBOL) and the Evergreen Education Group looks at policies and programs in 15 states that use technology to help address some of those problems.

"There is no reason that a first class education should be out of reach for any student, regardless of where they live," said Amy Valentine, executive director at FBOL, in a prepared statement. "Digital learning tools and practices are filling curricula gaps, allowing students to learn from anywhere, and providing deeper contextual learning experiences traditionally unavailable in many rural schools. This report uncovers a number of strategies that states and districts can employ to boost academic and career achievement in even the most geographically remote communities."

Digital Learning Strategies for Rural America looks into programs such as state virtual schools, course access initiatives, blended learning programs, online learning initiatives and regional partnerships in an effort to highlight solutions. The report features 15 profiles, including nine state profiles that each look into various programs in one particular state, and six program profiles that examine one program in a state.

Each state profile offers a summary of the state's population distribution, a rundown of specific challenges the state faces related to rural education and how the state is using technology to address them, as well as examples of schools or districts with interesting policies or programs.

"It seems as though a new technology-based education initiative for America's schools is announced daily," said John Watson, founder of Evergreen Education Group, in a prepared statement. "Just as often, it seems, many of these initiatives fail. Across the country, however, innovative leaders are developing thoughtful, successful and replicable models for supporting the unique challenges of rural education. What began as a pulse-check of rural schools' use of technology to address the obstacles facing their communities evolved into a deep look at what is working to increase college and career readiness and economic opportunity in historically underserved districts. Each program profiled in this report offers to educators and policymakers who are tackling similar issues an example of possible solutions."

The full report is available at blendedandonlinelearning.org.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at jbolkan@gmail.com.

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