Technology Counts 2009: E-Learning Opens New Doors for School Improvement

Friday, March 27, 2009; Read the transcript.

As the world of online education continues to evolve, brick-and-mortar schools are incorporating digital curricula and virtual teachers into their classrooms in ways that have surprised even e-learning advocates, according to findings in Technology Counts 2009, Education Week’s annual report on the state of education technology, released on March 26, 2009. Once mostly catering to advanced students seen as having the motivation to pursue education online, virtual course have expanded and are growing in popularity for struggling students, too.

At the same time, school districts and educators who once felt threatened by the surge of online education are embracing the technology, often in hybrid models that blend face-to-face learning with digital teaching for classroom lessons and professional development.

Still, some educators and researchers caution that the success of online-only education depends largely on the quality of curricula and teachers, both of which have sometimes been uneven.

This in-depth discussion answered your questions on how online learning is changing K-12 education.

Featured guests:

Bill Tucker, the chief operating officer for the Washington-based think tank Education Sector.

Pamela H. Ice, the online support director for the Colorado department of education.

Julie Young, the president and chief executive officer of the Florida Virtual School.

Live Chat: Technology Counts 2009: E-Learning Opens New Doors for School Improvement(03/27/2009) 
11:37 Kevin Bushweller:  

We just opened the chat for questions. So please submit some. The chat will begin at noon.

11:55 Julie Young:  

Hello Kirkwood , Missouri! Instructional Design is an important component of online learning, not only for kids who need credit recovery--which we call learning recovery, by the way--but for any student. AT FLVS, we have a variety of pedagogical models that supports our design including Gagne's Nine Events of Instruction, 21st Century Skills, Schlechty's Working on the Work, and MANY MORE! Consider looking to a provider for content.

11:56 Kevin Bushweller:  

Julie, thanks for saying hello. We'll start the chat in a few minutes.

12:00 Kevin Bushweller:  

Welcome to today’s chat to talk about Technology Counts 2009 and how online learning is opening new doors to raise student achievement, sponsored by CDW-G

12:01 Pam Ice:  

Good morning, everyone,
I echo what Julie is saying, Kirkwood. Instructional design should include all tools needed for different learning styles. Allow for an honors track for accelerated students. Most importantly don't forget how important the role of the teacher is, especially for the credit recovery or at risk student who needs that constant and consistent support.

12:01 [Comment From Amy Sandidge]
How do you foresee e-instruction impacted by the American Recovery and Reinvestment act with the funds allocated for education?
12:03 Kevin Bushweller:  


You might want to address this questin from Amy Sandidge.

12:03 [Comment From Guest]
I see that so many states either require or are considering requiring an online course for high school graduation. State money is being used for many of these state online programs. Where does this place private schools where the parents must pay for the full cost?
12:04 [Comment From Barbara]
Will you explain the depth and breadth of e-learning now and in the future.
12:05 Kevin Bushweller:  


Please address the question just posted from Barbara. What about the breadth and depth of online learning?

12:06 Kevin Bushweller:  


The debate about virtual vs. hands-on lab experiences is growing? See the following question. What are your thoughts?

12:06 [Comment From Kenneth Rainis]
Can you please comment on the role virtual labs play in a virtual school setting.
12:08 Bill Tucker:  

Good afternoon and thank you to Education Week and my fellow panelists for hosting this chat session. Most of the money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus) flows through to the states (and through Title I and other formulas). States will have quite a bit of discretion, so the state level is where the determinations about any funding for virtual schools will be made. I'd like to see virtual schools get involved through consortia with another pot of money, called the "Race to the Top Fund." These funds are meant to spur innovation and scale "what works."

12:09 Kevin Bushweller:  

Stand by Readers: The guests are working out the kinks for this chat.

12:09 Pam Ice:  

Virtual labs play a very important role in the e-learning environment. Labs are so complete and comprehensive that they can provide a very "real" experience for students. Additionally, science experiments that use every day items can be of great benefit to students.

I'm looking forward to the ever developing and improving virtual labs as they continuously evolve.

12:09 Kevin Bushweller:  


12:09 Kevin Bushweller:  

Welcome Bill. Thanks for that insightful answer.

12:10 Kevin Bushweller:  


Good question here about calculating credit

12:10 [Comment From Guest]
How do teachers calculate the amount of time/credit a student earns for a course as they are planning content?
12:13 Bill Tucker:  

Per the question about private schools and online graduation requirements. Many state programs, for instance in Florida where Julie heads up the Florida Virtual School, allow all students -- public / private / charter / home school to take courses. But, enrollment caps mandated by funding limitations are big issues for many state-run virtual schools. States considering mandates need to consider how to make course experiences accessible for all students.

12:14 Pam Ice:  

Regarding course credit and time-Whatever the credit granted for a face to face course which would require the same amount of time and effort should also be applicable to the online course. Design courses to cover all of the standards and that would take about the same amount of time and effort for the student to complete.

12:15 Kevin Bushweller:  


We have a good question about national standards for technology.

12:15 [Comment From Guest]
Are there national standards for using technology in schools? If so, what are states doing to meet those standards?
12:17 Kevin Bushweller:  

Bill: Interesting question on cyber charters. What do you think?

12:17 [Comment From Guest]
How are the cyber charters working to support the students who would are falling through the cracks. As the director of an Upward Bound program, I am seeing students selecting this option for all the wrong reasons (free computer, they can work full time, etc.) and they do not have the organization skills to monitor themselves through the process. Worst case scenario, they drop out all together. Those who do not drop out are often losing an entire year of education before realizing this is not for them.
12:17 Pam Ice:  

The ISTE standards are out and most states are using those as they move forward. Many states are requiring technology standards as part of their state standards (either built into the curriculum standards or separate). States are also requiring assessments for 8th graders and for teachers.

12:17 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Barbara, you asked about depth and breadth. That's a big topic.

12:18 Kevin Bushweller:  

Julie: Does FLVS encourage schools to have on-site proctors? See Toni's question.

12:18 [Comment From Toni Hull]
Hello from Deming, NM : When schools utilize online courses do they normally have a faculty proctor or administrator overseeing the process?
12:18 Julie Young, FLVS:  

The short answer is that just about any course can be offered online as long as as instruction and good content are at the heart!

12:18 Pam Ice:  

Comment on cyber charters- This is a very good observation, guest. This again is an area where the teacher support is critical. If good teaching and student support is not there, then those students will continue to fail.

12:19 Kevin Bushweller:  

Heather is interested in teacher preparation for online instruction. See Heather's question.

12:19 [Comment From Heather Duncan]
I'm interested in teacher preparation for online instruction. I wonder how many teacher education programs are including online instruction methodologies in their courses?
12:19 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Hi Toni! There's no easy answer about proctors, either. In the cases where kids are working online while sitting in a brick-and-mortar campus, there are usually adults there. They are not always certified teachers.

12:19 Pam Ice:  

Proctoring is handled differently by different programs. It depends on the philosophy of the organization

12:20 [Comment From Christina from Charlotte]
Hi, Kevin and Julie,I am new in online instructional design, and would like to have some good books, online courses, or websites from leaders in this field to get my feet wet.
12:20 Julie Young, FLVS:  

At FLVS, we have several hundred "facilitators" who support students face-to-face while their teacher of record is at a distance. We offer a short training for those folks in how to support the kids and work with the teacher--it's a great partnership.

12:20 Kevin Bushweller:  

Anybody have any good resources to share with Christina?

12:21 Pam Ice:  

Teacher preparation is critical. Many states are currently working with their colleges of education in higher ed to incorporate both use of current technologies and coursework in how to teach online. I'd like to see more of this collaboration.

12:21 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Heather, your question is a good one. We are currently working with two of Florida's state universites to help them build online instruction into their programs. We're even piloting a few interns right now!

12:22 [Comment From Janis Spracher]
I'm interested in how an elementary school could best utilize E-Learning in the classroom using netbooks.
12:22 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Most online schools have a rigorous induction program for new online teachers. Ours includes both online and f2f work for cohorts of new teachers, complete with mentoring and content support.

12:22 Bill Tucker:  

Cyber charters are publicly funded, fully online schools that students "attend" on a full-time basis. There is exceptional variability across these schools -- quality included. Ideally, these different kinds of schooling experiences could help students who are not succeeding in traditional schools -- and in some places you see that. I want to see more freedom for innovative methods and approaches to learning. We need incentives for these schools to serve disadvantaged students and accountability for helping them succeed. But, we also need to be careful because traditional regulations like class sizes, seat time, or any other number of traditional measures—will not guarantee quality, and may stifle the innovation and flexibility that gives virtual learning its strength.

12:22 [Comment From Gene Weisfeld]
Has any state considered creating its own online courses which could then be provided to all schools at little or no cost?
12:23 Kevin Bushweller:  


What do you think about Gene's question?

12:23 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Christina, resources for online design are plentiful! As I mentioned earlier, we have several folks we include: Gagne and Kovalik come to mind quickly.

12:24 Kevin Bushweller:  

Anyone else have resources they can share?

12:24 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Gene, that is precisely what Florida did! FLVS is a public school and partners with all districts in our state.

12:24 [Comment From Steven Forman - NY]
We have absolutely no Virtual Learning in our district. How would I get this off the ground. We are located in NY State (not city).
12:25 Julie Young, FLVS:  

FLVS was on of the first to do this, Gene, and we have worked with many other states interested in ventures like ours.

12:25 Bill Tucker:  

A number of states are working on ways to make online courses and tools also available to help traditional classroom teachers supplement and enhance their instruction too.

12:26 Pam Ice:  

Steven, before jumping into course design, etc. , take a look at some of the "turn key" providers that are available. It can not only be a cost savings, but also can give you very good quality from the beginning.

12:26 Kevin Bushweller:  

Bill, Pam, and Julie,

Can anyone help Steve Forman? How can you get this off the ground?

12:26 [Comment From Alissa]
Gene - Missouri's state department is also offering online courses
12:27 Kevin Bushweller:  

Thanks Alissa

12:27 Pam Ice:  

Steve, It is also important to do your homework. Look at what programs are successful and which ones are having problems. Above all, look at the data on student achievement.

12:27 Kevin Bushweller:  


12:27 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Steven, it can be a challenge to be the starter of a grass-roots program. I would suggest finding a connection at your district office to work as your advocate. Planning and preparation take budgets, but online learning is very cost effective. Show them the benefits to your students. For a starter, pull up the November 2007 report done by Florida TaxWatch on us. It has good data on performance, but the item of interest to district leaders includes statements about us being a good expenditure of public funds!

12:28 Kevin Bushweller:  

FYI Correction: SREB has links to onilne courses for all its member states

12:28 [Comment From Karen]
Steve - Look at
12:28 [Comment From Guest]
Are there other course providers for "global services" besides FLVS?
12:29 Pam Ice:  

Do you mean national providers? There are such programs as Apex Learning and Aventa and many others.

12:29 Bill Tucker:  

Hi Steve -- I know several regional cooperatives in NY State, but in general, the state policy environment there has not been very accomodating. One thing an individual school can do is join a consortium that works with schools across the country, such as Virtual High School.

12:29 Julie Young, FLVS:  

There are several content providers out there, including some other state-wide virtual schools and commercial vendors.

12:30 [Comment From Guest]
Do you see online courses as one solution to teacher shortages, such as for math teachers in rural areas?
12:30 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Oh yes! The issue of expanding course access in rural areas was one of the reasons we were created! More than 50% of Florida is considered rural, believe it or not!

12:31 Pam Ice:  

Yes, it can be a solution to teacher shortages, especially in rural areas. But don't assume that a virtual teacher can handle 100's or thousands of students. The student-teacher ratio for good teaching remains the same.

12:31 [Comment From Bob Fortney (KY)]
New money means new "players" in online teaching & learning. How to we insure quality and teach education policy makers to recognize true quality that is research based?
12:32 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Excellent question, Bob!

12:32 Pam Ice:  

Good comment, Bob. Colorado has implemented 15 Quality Standards for Online Programs which are used as a measure of accountability.

12:32 Julie Young, FLVS:  

SREB has several tools to help folks evaluate quality content and even teacher performance. I highly recommend a visit to their site.

12:32 Kevin Bushweller:  


What types of things do those standards cover?

12:33 Julie Young, FLVS:  

iNACOL has some tools as for evaluation as well.

12:33 Bill Tucker:  

Yes, online learning is increasingly being used to counter teacher shortages. One great example is in West Virginia, where they've done an extensive project using virtual education to offer Spanish to all middle schools -- they had no way to do this in a traditional fashion.

12:33 Pam Ice:  

The standards cover capacity and quality in curriculum, budget, technology support, guidance counseling, services for ELL and SPED students.

12:34 [Comment From Amy Sandidge]
Isn't credit calculation left up to the district to decide? That is the case in Texas.
12:35 [Comment From Guest]
Checklist for Selecting, Preparing and Evaluating Online Teachers for K-12 Students is great for evaluating teachers from SREB
12:35 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Well, Amy, I'm sure the practice varies state to state. In our case, we're an accredited school, and our legislature set us up so that schools working with us take our grades and credits at face value.

12:35 Kevin Bushweller:  

Other states?

12:36 Pam Ice:  

Julie is correct. In some states where local control exists, the district can make that decision individually. In more centrally controlled states, the decision is made at a state level

12:37 [Comment From Cliff Brush]
Describe a successful online student. What knowledge, skills and characteristics does (s)he have?
12:37 Bill Tucker:  

Per Bob's question about quality -- ensuring quality is a critical question that we haven't yet solved in traditional education either. Virtual schools have the potential to lead by collecting much better data / being much more transparent about student learning / teaching and developing more innovative ways to assess student learning using technology.

12:37 Kevin Bushweller:  

Let's hear from everyone on Cliff's question

12:38 Pam Ice:  

Successful students usually are more self-directed and self-motivated. But that doesn't mean that those are the only ones that can succeed if there are appropriate supports in place for the student. Don't expect an at risk student to succeed without teacher and other supports in place

12:38 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Our answer to that question has changed over the years, Cliff. We have a saying...
Some folks think online learning isn't for everyone.
Would they say that LEARNING isn't for everyone?
I doubt it.

12:38 Bill Tucker:  

I'll flip that on its head. Describe a successful online school: How does it ensure that all students can be succeed in its programs?

12:39 Julie Young, FLVS:  

I love that question, Bill!

12:39 [Comment From Guest]
how do you make the decision about whether to provide online courses inhouse or to use a provider?
12:40 Pam Ice:  

Making a decision about in-house really depends on the resources you have. Not just budgetary, but staffing. Also you need to consider the sustainability of the model you choose. There are continual costs associated with updating and maintenance.

12:41 Julie Young, FLVS:  


12:41 Pam Ice:  

Again, it is critical to do your homework. Research what has been successful and what hasn't been.

Is your district using online-only courses for:
Advanced Placement classes
 ( 12% )
Online Credit Recovery
 ( 21% )
 ( 27% )
 ( 39% )

12:42 [Comment From Guest]
I agree with Pam--the answer to Cliff's question depends a lot on how much teacher support is provided. I've seen courses in that have almost no support; in those, a student must be highly motivated, resourceful, and able to forgo the social interactions with teachers and other students. Teacher support must be readily available, if only by phone or email. Also, regular chat sessions among students is very helpful.
12:42 [Comment From Bob Fortney (KY)]
Recent predictions indicate 50% or more on all education will be online in ten years of less. Can we continue to even say, "Online isn't for everyone". Walmart Managers MUST do their continuing ed online NOW. State Farm agents get their training online line NOW. 25% of ALL public higher ed in the state of KY is online today.....
12:43 Julie Young, FLVS:  

So true! We use Elluminate quite a bit for synchronous support by teachers and a small team of tutors. We also use that tool for student clubs!

12:43 Pam Ice:  

In regards to the voting. I would like to ask if those credit recovery programs include teachers or are they purely digital content?

12:43 Kevin Bushweller:  

Good question Pam

12:44 Julie Young, FLVS:  

You've got in Bob. Online learning IS for everyone. :)

12:44 [Comment From Guest]
teachers, for sure!
12:44 [Comment From Sonya Gates]
Are there currently any states or schools that are using a blended approach at the elementary level?
12:44 Kevin Bushweller:  

Per Sonya's question, what are some potential problems at the elementary level?

12:45 [Comment From Guest]
In Kentucky, there's a mix. Kentucky Virtual High School offers lots of teacher support, but some districts feel they can get more from their money with a purely digital off-the-shelf software package.
12:45 Pam Ice:  

We have some districts here in Colorado that are currently piloting that model with elementary students coming in about twice a week.

12:45 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Hi Sonya! We have a small pilot running right now with two elementary campuses in Florida in a blended model. It's early yet, but ask me in a couple of months how it's going! (So far, so good, but we are learning a great deal!)

Is virtual ed. a more cost effective approach than traditional schooling?
 ( 43% )
 ( 4% )
not sure
 ( 53% )

12:46 Pam Ice:  

For our state, there are a few things for districts to consider for these elementary programs. One important piece is funding. Currently there is no funding available for a "blended" model...but rather they must either meet the definition of online program or of a brick and mortar school.

12:47 [Comment From Alissa]
Pam - What in-house positions (staffing) are critical to a successful program?
12:47 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Florida is facing the same funding issues you mention, Pam.

12:48 Pam Ice:  

Alissa, I'm assuming you mean a "blended" model? If so, you must have an HQ teacher available on site for the students when they are face to face as well as for the online portion.

12:49 Bill Tucker:  

Pam makes a great point. We do a disservice by thinking about this in an either/or fashion. Funding models help to enforce this thinking. It should be about student learning. Two things are sure to happen -- students will increasingly have virtual learning experiences and at the same time the vast majority of students will continue to want to attend some type of in-person traditional school.

12:49 Pam Ice:  

Alissa, You also need to have the guidance counselor, and staff for any special needs students or ELL students

12:50 Julie Young, FLVS:  

We believe the students will begin to push the models out of their comfort zones. The digital natives expect to have choices and to find quality available on their terms.

12:50 Pam Ice:  

Bill, you are absolutely right

12:51 Pam Ice:  

As programs and schools continue to innovate, I believe that policies will have to change.

12:51 [Comment From Gene Weisfeld]
How can virtual education be less expensive than traditional teaching when you have to purchase and maintain the necessary equipment and still have a teacher there?
12:53 Pam Ice:  

Gene, I agree. I don't believe that it really is a cost savings and I don't believe it should be approached in that manner.

12:54 Pam Ice:  

Julie can address this better than I

12:54 Julie Young, FLVS:  

Good question, Gene. (You really will find value in the TaxWatch report I mentioned earlier!) There are many expenses to schools that go beyond a teacher, and some of them are irrelevant for online schools. Sure, we have server expenses, but we don't think about buses and drivers or cafeteria furniture! We don't skimp on the teacher cost! Pam and I agree on the importance of instruction.

12:54 Bill Tucker:  

Education Week has done some nice coverage on the costs of online learning -- both in its reporting and blogs. Bottom line on costs -- it depends. One example where it can be less expensive. Take a school with only ten students wanting to take a particular AP class. That's an expensive class and usually the school will not offer the course. Even thought there's still an online teacher, the online class can combine those ten students with six from one school and six more from another.

12:55 Julie Young, FLVS:  

SREB has a report on cost as well.

12:55 Bill Tucker:  

We should be looking for much better results and student success at the same costs rather than the same level of success (~70% grad rates) at lower costs.

12:55 Pam Ice:  

Hear hear, Bill!!

12:56 Julie Young, FLVS:  

WOO HOO! Well said!

12:56 Kevin Bushweller:  

Thanks for the props, Bill. We plan to continue covering that issue in Digital Directions.

12:56 Pam Ice:  

We need to consistently be looking at improving student achievement.

12:57 Kevin Bushweller:  

We have time for one more question.

12:57 [Comment From Cliff Brush]
What is the description of a successful online school? How does it ensure that each general ed., SpEd, 504, TAG, ESL/ELL, and FRPL eligible student will succeed? Is there a published study or set of studies you recommend on this?
12:59 Julie Young, FLVS:  

That can be a tough list to compile, Cliff. Virtual schools aren't built for apples-to-apples comparisons. With that said, I suggest you review the Keeping Pace reports that are released each year. They do a nice overview of data surrounding virtual schools.

12:59 Pam Ice:  

For general information,Take a look at the Keeping Pace document from John Watson, it will give you a good overview of what all the states are doing. Also the Sloane Foundation has some good reports available.

12:59 Bill Tucker:  

Per the earlier point, to be successful with each student is going to require creativity in putting together the right mix. It may be some combination of online/traditional -- and perhaps a different mix in each case -- that leads to success for each unique student in those broad categories.

12:59 Pam Ice:  

Thank you everyone for the great questions.

1:00 Julie Young, FLVS:  

What a treat to spend time with all of you today! Many thanks!

1:00 Bill Tucker:  

I agree. Thanks for the great questions!

1:01 Kevin Bushweller:  

Thank you for joining us for today's chat, sponsored by CDW-G. And a special thanks to our guests for taking time out of their busy schedules to address your questions. A transcript of the chat will be available shortly on Have a good weekend.

1:02 Web Person: Jeanne McCann:  

A transcript will be posted momentarily. Thanks again to everyone.


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