Online learning reports…

I’ve just had a look at some reports released this week at the  iNACOL Virtual School Symposium. Each report provides some interesting persepectives on what is happening at the school level, and the tertiary level in the US. While the context is different, there are some clear messages here that we can be taking notice of in NZ (see my note at the bottom of this post).

The first report is from iNACOL itself, titled “A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning” which suggests the biggest emerging trends in online learning include the growth of (US) district-led online schools, the expansion of blended (or hybrid) learning, and the acceptance of mobile learning.

In talking about blended learning, the report describes two approaches. The first is defined as a “buffet model,” where a student takes traditional face-to-face course and also enrolls in one or more online courses. The second is an “emporium model” in which face-to-face courses that implement elements of online learning. Both models are growing  according to the iNACOL report.

The second report is from the Sloan Foundation. Titled Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010, it is their is their eighth annual survey of online education in colleges and universities. According to the survey, 2010 showed the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online, with nearly thirty percent of all college and university students now take at least one course online in the US. Other report findings include:

  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.
  • The 21%growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.
  • Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.
The third report is published by the Evergreen Education group, and is titled, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning – an annual review of policy and practice (PDF download). There’s plenty of good reading in this report – but I couldn’t help but note for my blog entry here the following quote which parallels the situation here in NZ where we’ve been experiencing considerable growth in online learning at the school level which has been driven from the ‘bottom up’, and where the greatest obstacles to progressing further lie in the lack of robust and future-focused policy work at a national level.
Despite the growth of online and blended learning, policy and access barriers still exist for many students who wish to take an online course or attend an online school, and for many educators who seek to start an online program. A continuing need exists for policymakers to develop a framework to allow and encourage online and blended teaching and learning to enhance, expand, and transform learning. Online learning has proven to be meaningful to students, igniting their passion for learning using real-world applications, stimulating their creativity and innovation, and communicating on the global stage—taking teachers and students beyond the class walls and beyond the class period in order to open new possibilities for both teaching and learning.

Reading these reports suggests emphatically that:

  1. online and blended learning is now gaining considerable traction in our schools, so schools need to be taking seriously the opportunity for engaging with this, and
  2. some serious work is required that involves knowledgeable people to create the supporting policy frameworks to allow this growth to continue.

6 thoughts on “Online learning reports…

  1. I think we are now at the point in NZ where policy is beginning to hinder, not just shadow, real-world developments with real children in virtual classrooms. I don’t yet see any signals that policy will change. Whenever ‘policy’ is mentioned, people shrug and imply it’s something that they can’t influence.


    1. Hi Trevor
      I believe you are right here. As you know, I’ve been attempting to influence the policy in this area in NZ for some time. The system is certainly lethargic – some would argue that this is a sign of ‘safety’, a way of avoiding costly mistakes etc. while others argue change needs to be more rapid. Whatever the opinion, we have to believe that we can influence, and work at finding the ways that will enable that. We simply cannot give up – there’s too much at stake.

  2. iNACOL has worked very strategically and the initial leverage in the educational system. Perhaps it is time for an organization such as DEANZ to support networking and build the ground swell and knowledge about ways in which online learning could increase quality and access to education in New Zealand. This might help us to move forward at a time of austerity where there is potential to become stalled.

    I’ve just finished my Virtual Schooling column for CINZS and it includes this quote which seems to me to be relevant here:

    “We hope to be supported in that development by two visitors from the USA in 2011. Michael Barbour plans to return to New Zealand and some of you will be familiar with his Blog Virtual School Meanderings A recent post gives news of the annual Virtual School Symposium in North America, where virtual schooling continues to grow exponentially. Michael is also prolific in journal articles and one due out in the scholarly journal Distance Education shortly is titled “Researching K-12 online learning: What do we know and what should we examine?”

    I am also discovering more about the history of Virtual Schooling in Australasia as I assist the DEANZ journal to get past issues online in its new home at The first issue of the journal in 1995, then called The Journal of Distance Education, contains tow relevant articles that will help to ground me as a recent immigrant to New Zealand. Amaru, Rae, and Shadbolt (1995) described The Correspondence School’s (now Te Kura, TCS) emerging model for isolated Māori secondary students and the first trial project that established secondary learning centres at Matahiwi and Rautāhuna. Stevens (1995) described his new vision for teaching and learning in New Zealand and warned that unless there was consideration of ICT in educational planning and policy education “may soon face a new challenge in the form of increased provision of education in this country from overseas educational networks.” (p 37) It has not happened yet, but the exponential growth of VS in the USA may be an indication of challenges that are really on the horizon now (see Wicks, 2010). You will also find some useful articles in the December issue of the DEANZ Magazine – the Distance Education Association of New Zealand of which I am President.

  3. The results of this touched on the various aspects of online classes and the increase in enrollment. However, I was shocked to see that the downturn in the economy increased the demand for face-to-face classes. I will review the report to get a better understanding of this study and the reason for this result. Presently in our community college, the demand for DL classes are increasing rapidly and these classes are filled before the traditional classes.

    Great post and will talk to you again.

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