Notable developments in online learning

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Jul 30, 2009

There are some notable developments and reports out there currently on online learning that are worth highlighting briefly and providing the information so people can learn more about them. I’ll try to do one a week over the next few weeks.

First, a report from Project Tomorrow and Blackboard, Inc. says that there is a growing divide between the demand among students in 6th through 12th grades for online courses (40 percent have researched or demonstrated an interest in taking an online course it says) and the supply, as only 10 percent have taken an online course through their school.

There are of course vested interests behind this report, but nevertheless, it does call attention to some notable and believable observations including the variety of reasons for the gap between supply and demand (these match in many cases my own observations and research). This mismatch in particular stems from many policy barriers that still exist for schools to open up this option for students. Additionally, according to the report, 14 percent of schools said that one reason they don’t offer online courses for students is that they don’t have the expertise to create online courses. To me, with the number of high-quality online course offerings in existence and improving constantly, why a school would feel the need to reinvent the wheel and create something from scratch is mystifying. This one should not be a barrier, but that it is cited as one is revealing.

Interestingly, this lack of supply for students clashes with the report showing that districts overwhelmingly offer more opportunities for professional development online for teachers than for students—and a third of teachers say they’ve taken an online course, which is a 57-percent increase from 2007 (a positive development). There are some other interesting findings as well so it’s worth reading the whole report—and the comments at the bottom of the eSchool News article are also fascinating.

– Michael B. Horn

Michael is a co-founder and distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute. He currently works as a principal consultant for Entangled Solutions.