Yesterday marked the release of the Digital Learning Council’s recommendations for transforming American education—10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.

The Digital Learning Council, convened by former Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise, has worked for the past several months to produce a roadmap for transforming the American education system so that all children can have an education that allows them to maximize their human potential and pursue their loftiest dreams. The pathway to realizing that vision is digital learning, as it can allow us to create a system that personalizes for students’ different learning needs—the thesis really of our book Disrupting Class.

As a member of the council and as the executive director of Innosight Institute, I (along with Innosight Institute’s staff) am excited to now join the effort with Digital Learning Now–a national initiative to advance the policies that stem from these recommendations, which aim to accelerate this shift from our current analog system to a student-centric, digital one–by working with state leaders and policymakers.

There are many risks along the way.

As a disruptive innovation, online learning will continue to grow. I do expect our prediction that we made in Disrupting Class—that by 2019 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online whether in schools or at a distance—will be reasonably accurate. And I believe that as it grows, the technology worldwide will increasingly allow us to personalize learning with great results.

But whether this will result in this transformation of the country’s public education system into a student-centric one that is of higher quality from its present monolithic, factory-model condition is not certain. The big danger is that we simply layer technology over the traditional system, which would then co-opt it. That wouldn’t produce the shift we need.

This is why focusing on quality at the level of each individual child—and tying funding to that, as the Digital Learning Council recommends—is so vital. Policies that adopt digital learning in the absence of this focus could take us horribly awry.

There are many reasons to be optimistic. This is a proposal that is not in search of more funds; ultimately there are many reasons to believe this will cost less money. The technology is improving rapidly, as technology always does. And we have good people everywhere working together to put students first—where they need to be. Digital learning can take us there.


  • Michael B. Horn
    Michael B. Horn

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