If you have not yet read Cathy Cavanaugh’s white paper titled Getting Students More Learning Time Online: Distance Education in Support of Expanded Learning Time in K-12 Schools, you must make the time to do so.

Published by the Center for American Progress and funded by the Broad Foundation, the report came out in May. I’ve been meaning to blog about it since but am only getting around to it now.

The report’s initial premise is on how online learning specifically can help to achieve policymakers’ desire to expand learning time to boost student achievement in a flexible, individualized, and affordable way.

What struck me in reading the report was the array of options and flexibility around what “online learning” means or how it is structured. There are so many different paths out there—different hybrid models, different distance models, and so forth—to really allow people to find things that make sense for their circumstance. The concept of moving from the micromanagement of time to macro-management—in which the student spends time where he or she needs it—is well articulated.

All of this hit a chord as what it really points to is that online learning is not a tool per se, but a new platform that allows for far more individualization than the old factory-model school system. This isn’t just a point-based solution inserted into the old classroom. This platform allows for lecturing for those for whom it makes sense; it allows for project-based learning for others in certain circumstances; it allows for robust simulations and games; it allows for work that is online but also—especially in younger grades—work that is offline and in the physical world. The degree of individualization achieved by shifting to an online platform that is flexible and modular is stunning.

The report addresses how an online strategy can help with the quality of teachers and the variety of models out there for teaching in an online world. It also offers snapshots of various models—from Florida Virtual School to the Chicago VOISE Academy. It talks about how this will change practice—from the teaching job to teacher retention to funding models to childcare to school leadership and management to data.

It’s breathtaking in its scope–and well worth the time to read.

– Michael B. Horn


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

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