Greater use of online learning in schools would address several looming crises in education–declining government revenues, a growing teacher shortage and falling graduation rates, says a new issue brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“Although computers are pervasive in schools, they tend to be used more like electronic textbooks–high-tech tools in a nineteenth-century system. Students know this. Young people talk all the time about ‘powering down’ when they enter the classroom,” says the Alliance for Excellent Education brief. “A Commerce Department study finds that education is the least technology intensive among fifty-five industry groups.”
There is steadily growing evidence of the cost-effectiveness of online learning, whether used in a virtual school or in a classroom that is blending a classroom teacher with online material. With online courses, schools can offer courses that they could not previously afford to offer and that can meet the unique interests and needs of students. For instance, rather than 3 schools each trying to recruit an instructor in Chinese or advanced calculus, with online education, one teacher can reach all interested students regardless of their location.
While there are upfront costs, schools and districts soon see cost efficiencies, according to the brief.
The number of students learning online is growing rapidly. K-12 online learning enrollment in school districts was 1,030,000 in school year 2007-2008, up from 700,000 just 2 years earlier.
“The Online Learning Imperative: A Solution to Three Looming Crises in Education,” Alliance For Excellent Education, Issue Brief February 2010.