You are here

online learning

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

Falcon Virtual Academy gives teachers 1,000 Macbooks.

Do school district leaders receive even close to a full return on investment for 21st-century technologies like online learning, videoconferencing and interactive whiteboards? Technology vendors and their most engaged, enthusiastic customers say that many educators leave significant potential untapped because they are unable to see how technology could be more transformative or are unwilling to make the bold moves necessary to align curriculum with technology rather than the other way around.

Teachers need training, professional development, curriculum ideas, and avenues to brainstorm with peers—all at the right time to make an impact in their classroom. This DA Web seminar, originally presented on May 16, 2012, demonstrated how schools are using Blackboard Collaborate to set up synchronous PD sessions where teachers can learn and connect throughout the school year, without having to leave the classroom. The event featured case studies from Georgia’s Cobb County School District and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School.

In the near future, we will see fewer traditional school buildings. Taking their place will be affinity schools, organized around students’ interests, and more STEM labs strategically located to offer easy access. Blended learning will be the norm, with individual students needing their own device. Networks will deliver higher levels of broadband performance to accommodate the growth in online learning. Technology combined with global learning will change the ways schools look today.

1. Seek out ideas. Those who have already implemented virtual schooling can offer plenty of suggestions on how to get an online learning program off the ground and keep it flying.

2. Invest in design. Spend time and resources up front on instructional and Web design to make sure that online courses deliver their content effectively.

3. Get competent teachers. Find teachers who are adept in areas such as promoting collaborative learning, pacing long-range student projects, and working individually with students.

Virtual school programs—especially online high school courses—are gaining traction in school districts around the country. According to a report issued in November 2011 by the National Center for Education Statistics, 55 percent of the more than 2,000 school districts surveyed had students in distance education programs during the 2009-2010 school year.

While Facebook and Google+ are popular social networks for everyday life, dozens of other networks have been created to provide safe and effective social learning environments for K12 education. Social learning networks (SLNs) allow students to learn 21st-century skills. Students can build online portfolios and resumes and collaborate with peers through project-based learning, which will help them in college or the workforce.

When Mechanicsburg Exempted Village Schools opened its state-of-the-art campus in 2007, A+ Anywhere Learning System by K12 was a major part of the landscape. Within four years, the elementary building’s “School Improvement Status”—assigned by the Ohio Department of Education because of poor student performance—was replaced with “Excellent,” and the district received its first-ever “Excellent with Distinction,” the state’s highest rating.

For a Colorado public school system bursting at the seams during a crippling economy, online education has been key.

“We are a very crowded school district struggling to pass bonds,” said David Knoche, principal of Falcon Virtual Academy in Colorado Springs. “Falcon Virtual has provided us some real options to deal with outgrowing our buildings while keeping students moving forward academically.”

Nearly half the 31,000 students in Tennessee’s Clarksville-Montgomery County School System live in poverty. Nearly a fourth are military dependents, given the close proximity to Fort Campbell. Together, these factors present a big challenge for educators.

The district’s 39 percent mobility rate means a regular stream of new students, many of whom arrive with incomplete courses, learning issues or achievement gaps.