The K-12 Online Education Revolution Part 3

Up and Away with Online Learning

But is online learning merely a poor, cheap substitute for traditional schooling? A recent Department of Education study has this to say: “The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed modestly better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.”3 In other words, we are not talking about sacrificing quality for quantity. We are talking about the dawn of a new era in education, one that solves many of the severe problems inherent to the classroom environment.

In fact, George Washington University, in collaboration with K12 Online Schools, is launching an elite online high school specifically targeted at advanced students who are aiming for top colleges and universities. GWUOHS will offer over 100 high school courses across varying disciplines, including honors and AP classes. Michael Feuer, dean of the GW Graduate School of Education and Human Development, says, “This collaboration with K12 will afford unique research, teaching and professional development opportunities for our students and faculty. There is little doubt that online learning will continue to be viewed as an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar schooling in the U.S. and elsewhere, and it’s vital for the nation's best scholars to be involved in the design of such programs and to undertake research on how people learn in these environments.”4

With all these advantages, how quickly is online K-12 education expanding? According to a Sloan Consortium study, over a million students were “engaged in online courses” in 2007 - 2008, a 47% increase since 2005 – 2006. And 75% of all schools surveyed had students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.5

Even the military is starting up an online high school program (including AP courses) for students who are eligible to attend a Defense Department school but are living in remote locations. Acting director Marilee Fitzgerald says, “It’s a wonderful opportunity to close gaps and enhance students’ educational experience in a 21st century environment. I think it opens up possibilities for learning that we have yet to understand, yet to explore.”6 Considering the impact of relocation/redeployment, often overseas, on soldiers and their families, it is only natural that the increased use of and support for online education by the military is increasing at all levels, including distance learning for active duty soldiers.

3 Barbara Means, Yukie Toyama, Robert Murphy, Marianne Bakia, Karla Jones, Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, U.S. Department of Education Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development Policy and Program Studies Service, Center for Technology in Learning, Sept. 2010, p. ix

4 The George Washington University, K12 Inc. Launch Online High School, Jan. 13, 2011

5 Anthony G. Picciano, Jeff Seaman, K-12 online Learning, A 2008 Follow-up of the Survey of U.S. School District Administrators, The Sloan Consortium, Jan. 2009, p. 1

6 Elaine Wilson, Virtual High School Opens ‘Doors’ to Learning, American Forces Press Service, Washington, Aug. 27, 2010