Susan D. Patrick, the president and chief executive officer of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, recently talked to Education Week Staff Writer Katie Ash about the impact the common-core standards are likely to have on e-learning.
How will online students and teachers likely be affected by the common-core standards?
The common core of academic standards are a revolutionary change to helping both teachers and students access and understand clearer learning “objectives” that are internationally benchmarked and rigorous for college and career readiness. Online teachers and students—not just from the same state, but across states—can collaborate on the best ways of approaching personalized instruction through digital learning. It opens up a national conversation [among] teachers in various states to provide all students with access to the best content and curriculum anywhere in the country. This is a revolution in education that will begin to take place, and the common core provides a road map to begin answering the complex questions of how to personalize instruction and allow competency-based pathways along those learning progressions.
What do you think is the most pressing challenge to using common-core standards in online learning?
Curriculum development that is high-quality, adaptive, and embeds artificial intelligence, and recommendation engines—think of video games and the complex background coding to allow “leveling up.” The challenge is that this is expensive. The opportunity to address the challenge of the expense of high-quality digital content is that now it can be distributed across a multitude of states, instead of different academic curriculum one state at a time across 50 states. So, in the end, the common core will enable better economies of scale and we will likely, as a nation, spend more efficiently on very high-quality content that can be shared, accessed, and redistributed anywhere. It also opens up incredible opportunities for states to collaborate on open educational resources and bring high-quality content, professional development, instructional materials, and assessments that are open and can be shared across states, and accessed by any school or teacher, and encourage collaboration for continuous improvement within and across states.
Will common-core standards make online learning more affordable?
Yes, the economies of scale of having a common framework and the ability to share and collaborate is likely to make online learning better-quality and more affordable. The biggest expenses in online learning are people and human capital, but the economies of scale can be realized in the content, professional development, and assessments developed and aligned to the common core.
What would you like to see in the new assessments being created to evaluate student comprehension of common standards?
With the common core, I believe we can begin to have the conversations we should have been having for the last 30 years about assessments “for learning,” rather than the summative assessments “of learning” that only show one snapshot in time per year, per pupil. I hope policy will follow and focus on the assessment of student learning, in real time. This kind of assessment for learning can be embedded in online and blended learning. We need policy to focus on competency-based pathways with assessments for learning and reward those education institutions that do the most with students who need the most help, while allowing all students to move at their own pace and reach their potential.
A version of this article appeared in the January 12, 2011 edition of Education Week as Common Core Q&A