New Keeping Pace/Foundation for Blended and Online Learning study looks at how digital learning can address rural education needs

During the summer of 2017, the Foundation for Blended and Online Learning (FBOL) approached Evergreen about creating a study looking at the ways in which digital learning can help schools tackle rural education needs.

My initial response was that the topic didn’t strike me as all that interesting. Weren’t most rural education advocates aware of online and blended learning, and was there much to add to the conversation?  

But after digging a bit further I realized that the folks at FBOL were right, that there would be value in such a study. There is, in fact, a surprising lack of knowledge about digital learning among many rural education organizations and resources. We felt that a study would address this gap.

Read More
kpstaff Comment
The latest on post-secondary online learning

Post-secondary institutions and their students tend to be ahead of K-12 schools in their adoption of online and blended learning, so it’s useful to keep an eye on the college digital learning landscape for clues about the directions that K-12 digital learning may take. Fortunately, the federal government tracks post-secondary distance learning (the large majority of which is online) with data tables and a summary report, and e-Literate reports on and interprets the latest government numbers (which are from fall 2016) here and here. In addition the Babson Survey Research Group, which used to conduct its own survey, reports on the numbers as well. Babson provides a useful summary:

Read More
kpstaff Comment
Does online learning work?

Some variation of the question “Does it work?” is the most common question that I get from policymakers and reporters regarding online learning, blended learning, and other innovative instructional strategies using technology.

In some cases, the question is easy to answer. These are cases in which, to borrow (and alter) a phrase from the Christensen Institute, online learning is filling a non-consumption gap. When a student takes an online Advanced Placement course that was not available at her school, and gets a five on the exam, then that course has clearly “worked.” Similarly, when a student in a blended early college high school like Innovations in Salt Lake City, or Oasis in California, graduates high school with several college credits accumulated, that is another fairly clear instance of a successful outcome.

Read More
kpstaff Comment
Questioning personalized learning

“Personalized learning” is among the current buzzwords in K-12 education. Many buzzwords lack clear definitions, are used to describe a wide range of practices, and are linked to unsubstantiated hype, and “personalized learning” is no exception. For one example see this NPR article in which a CEO refers to his company’s software as “a robot tutor in the sky that can semi-read your mind and figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, down to the percentile.”

Read More
kpstaff Comment
Online snow days are still a thing

From time to time we are asked the extent to which schools can use online learning to continue instruction during snow days or other school closings. The overall answer seems to be:

  • Yes it happens occasionally
  • Not very much, though, because…
  • In order to shift instruction to online at that level, a school must have a program in place that is more robust than most have.
Read More
kpstaffComment
Policy can’t make people do things well

The best sentence I read in 2017 was this:

“Policy turns out to be a pretty lousy tool for improving education because policy can make people do things, but it can’t make them do them well.”

That’s from Rick Hess, via Larry Cuban’s blog (where I first saw it), and the journal of the American Federation of Teachers. As he explains further:

“Policy is a blunt tool, one that works best when simply making people do things is enough. In schooling, it’s most likely to work as intended when it comes to straightforward directives—like mandating testing or the length of a school year. Policy tends to stumble when it comes to more complex questions—when how things are done matters more than whether they’re done.

Here’s what I mean: Say a governor wants to mandate that all schools offer teacher induction based on a terrific program she’s seen. Her concern is that if the directive is too flexible, some schools will do it enthusiastically and well, but those she’s most concerned about will not. So, she wants to require schools to assign a mentor to each new teacher. But then she worries that the “problem schools” will treat the mentoring as busywork. So, she also wants to require that mentors meet weekly with their charges and document that they’ve addressed 11 key topics in each session. But this still can’t ensure that mentors will treat their duties as more than box-checking, so she wants to require…” (The dot-dot-dot is in the original.)

Read More
kpstaffComment