A new report by research firm Ambient Insight says that by 2014, 10.5 million PreK-12 students will attend classes online. As many will recall, in the book Disrupting Class, we predicted that by 2019 50 percent of all high school courses will be online—and by 2014 we had predicted 25 percent. Guess we’re not the only ones making a bold prediction here anymore.

According to THE Journal, Ambient Insight’s Chief Research Officer says that about 450,000 K-12 students attend virtual school full time and another 1.75 million take some of their classes online. If true, those numbers—particularly the first—represent higher estimates than I had been seeing.

You can download the executive summary of the report here; unfortunately the full report is out of my price range, although if people have read it, please comment here for our other readers.

One interesting thing that emerges from this is that this market is a reasonably robust private sector one at the moment. This is a bit of a rare phenomenon in K-12 education, but these signs of investment activity are positive ones. This suggests that the government’s role may be first and foremost one of providing the context for this to grow in an efficacious way, but also to be careful not to crowd out the private investment with its own competing investment dollars or to create too much process-focused regulation such that it stifles the potential innovation that comes from this. If we manage this correctly, we will hopefully see not just the boom of online learning, but also the boom of a student-centric system that provides every student—regardless of geography, income, or learning preferences—a rich set of choices.

Judging from the article, one thing I think the report may miss is that the growth of online learning is increasingly less of a distance phenomenon and more of a hybrid one. I want to be careful about concluding that, however, because I know our own book was misinterpreted by many in this regard.

– Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

    Michael B. Horn is Co-Founder, Distinguished Fellow, and Chairman at the Christensen Institute.