Back to blogging

We’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging recently—for about the past 15 months in fact. With this post and with the launch of our revised website, we are ending our blogging hiatus. Our plan is to post once per week, and occasionally more often, to help spread news items of interest, comment on developments in the field and new reports, and share our own research and findings. 

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State virtual schools continue to grow and evolve

In Keeping Pace 2015 we wrote extensively about state virtual schools, in particular noting some of the new directions that state virtual schools are taking as they face increasing competition from other providers and from districts developing their own online content. This past week we met with a group of state virtual schools that are part of the Virtual School Leadership Alliance, and found that they continue to grow and evolve. Keeping Pace characterizes state virtual schools as operational intermediate supplier organizations that provide online learning programs to schools statewide. 

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
The growth of post-secondary online learning: implications for K-12 education

Among the reasons that schools, students, and parents are interested in online courses is that they believe that the use of online learning is growing in colleges, and they want high school graduates to be well prepared for post-secondary learning. Therefore, tracking recent developments in online learning at the post-secondary level is valuable for people primarily interested in K-12 education, and fortunately several good sources of information exist, including WCET, the Babson Survey Research Group, Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein at E-Literate, and the federal government. The WCET Distance Education Enrollment Report 2016 analyzes fall 2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). It counts students in two categories: those who are exclusively in distance education, and students who are mixing distance learning and on-campus courses. A third category, “at least one distance education course,” combines the two categories.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
“Solve is a loaded word”

The last post, “We grew the blended program by solving one problem at a time,” explored the ways in which two successful blended programs in Oregon had grown. As the title suggested, those programs, Bend La Pine and Crater Lake, focused on challenges faced by students or schools, addressed those challenges, and moved on to the next. I had spoken with Tres Tyvand of Bend La Pine to make sure the post captured ideas in her presentation accurately, but reading the post once it went live got her thinking more about what she presented last week in Portland. The thoughts she sent in her email are worth adding as a coda to the earlier post:

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
“We grew the blended program by solving one problem at a time”

Last week Fuel Education held a Blended Learning Leaders Forum in Portland, Oregon, that featured two excellent speakers: Tres Tyvand of Bend La Pine Schools, and Bryan Wood of the Crater Lake Charter School. Both gave inspiring presentations, and one element that stood out for me was that both gave similar answers to how their programs had grown. Each emphasized that their programs expanded by focusing on a problem faced by the district or by individual students, solving that problem, and in doing so showing how blended learning can be a critical element of success for students and schools. Then they moved on to the next problem, solved it, and in doing so the programs grew.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Additional findings from New York State’s Online Learning Recommendations

An earlier blog post highlighted a key aspect of the recent New York State Online Learning Advisory Council Report that is especially promising: the recommendation to spend $100 million on professional development for teachers and administrators. The report is one of several state studies released since the publication of Keeping Pace 2015 that are worth examining in more detail. The professional development recommendation is the first of four:

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
New York state online learning recommendations show promise

The Final Report -- Findings and Recommendations of the New York State Online Learning Advisory Council includes two aspects that are promising for the future of online learning. Both are contained in the Council’s first recommendation, which is “that the Legislature and Governor allocate $100 million to support multi-year professional development grants. These grants will support both planning and implementation to expand development of instructional skills using online tools in classrooms, and online course availability and capacity.”

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Poudre Global Academy continues to show blended learning success

Our 2015 Proof Points project, which we completed in partnership with the Christensen Institute, looked at examples of blended learning success in traditional school districts. Christensen tells us that the series was among their most downloaded publications of the year, and the profiles received considerable media attention as well. The project scope did not include any follow-up with the schools to determine if their success would continue beyond the data that were originally reported, so we were pleased when one of the profiled schools contacted us to report their latest test scores.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
How hype trumps reality: an online learning cautionary tale from ASU

Why do some fads develop, become prominent, and then slowly fade with many people barely noticing that the fad is no longer a thing? One reason is that news outlets tend to prominently cover launches, reporting on and repeating the promise of new technologies, products, courses, etc. But if the new “thing” doesn’t pan out as planned, the ensuing media coverage tends to be much smaller than the launch reporting. The average person remembers the launch and the promise, and doesn’t see the reality-based follow-up. Here’s an account of one such situation showing how this phenomenon occurs.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Profiles of online learning in school districts

Several previous posts have explored key data points in the overall K-12 online learning landscape,and examples from specific states and districts. Here we add information drawn from some of the many profiles that we published in the report to further describe some prominent examples of online learning. These are all condensed versions; for more detail see the full report. Note that we do not suggest that these districts are representative of school district activity generally; in fact these are among the districts with some of the larger and longer-established programs.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Online learning in public schools: data from states and districts

(The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from Keeping Pace 2015. For all graphics below, click on the image to see a larger version.) The previous post discussed online learning activity in school districts, using information that Keeping Pace researchers had gathered from state virtual schools and other suppliers. Our understanding of the state of digital learning in public schools is bolstered by reports out of a few states that we cited, and a review of activity in a dozen districts.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Online learning activity in public schools and districts

(The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from Keeping Pace 2015; see previous related posts here and here) This and subsequent blog posts will look at online learning and digital activity across the various U.S. K–12 education sectors, including public schools and districts, charter schools, private schools, university schools serving K–12 students, and homeschool. These are the organizations that are the firsthand educators, directly responsible for students’ learning and outcomes in our education system. Our goal is to increasingly understand how and to what extent they are delivering online and digital learning within these sectors.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson is wrong about online learning

(Back when Ben Carson was a leading GOP presidential candidate, he talked about education in an interview with Campbell Brown, and I drafted this blog post. Today Carson is no longer getting as much attention, but his views on education and online learning remain instructive for their implications about how educators and advocates talk about online learning.) Early in an interview with Campbell Brown, GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson gets this question exactly right:

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Online learning activity in U.S. K-12 schools

(The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from Keeping Pace 2015) A previous post looked at the digital learning landscape generally, and in particular traced the roots of today’s online and blended learning to both distance education courses and classroom-based computer-aided instruction. Subsequent posts will explore key sectors across K-12 public education. These definitions, sectors, and categories are not naturally and clearly delineated, and as such Keeping Pace imposes taxonomy on a discipline that is indistinct and chaotic.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
The status of K-12 digital learning as of late 2015

(The following is excerpted and slightly adapted from Keeping Pace 2015) Roughly 20 years has passed since the World Wide Web began to be used widely, and indeed the oldest K-12 online schools and programs are between 15 and 20 years old. These examples include the Laurel Springs online private school, which dates to the early 1990s, the Virtual High School, launched with a federal grant in the mid-1990s, the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which grew out of a Florida Department of Education grant to two districts in 1996, and several small district online schools, such as the Monte Vista Online Academy in Colorado, which launched in 1997.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
“I turned minecraft maps into google maps, and then using some python code…”

Back in September, iNACOL hosted a “teacher talk” webinar by Chris Aviles, a teacher at the Fair Haven school district in New Jersey. I’ve never met Chris, but his webinar, website, and twitter feed all show experience, energy, and a solid grounding in reality. His blog post titled “the makerspace is doomed” struck me as right on target in calling makerspaces “shop class 2.0” and predicting that they are a fad that will soon fade.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson
Leadership in successful "proof points" blended learning programs

In addition to the main points about the recent iNACOL symposium discussed in a recent blog post, another highlight was listening to educators from many of the schools discussed in our proof points series. We had leaders from Spokane, Salt Lake City, Washington DC, Randolph and Middletown (New York), Horry County (South Carolina), St George (Utah), Poudre (Colorado) and Putnam County (Tennessee) take part in two separate discussions.

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UncategorizedJohn Watson