Classroom Technology

Report Tracks Growth of Online Education

October 24, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

If you are tracking the rise of virtual schooling, you’ll find the best current information about the growth and maturing of this new way of teaching and learning in “Keeping Pace With K-12 Online Learning: A Review of State-Level Policy and Practice,” sponsored by 10 groups and companies in the industry, including the North American Council for Online Learning.

The fifth annual edition of the report, released Oct. 23, gives evidence that growth continues apace, though not uniformly.

Programs that are supplemental to students’ enrollment in regular school are growing fastest overall, with one in three increasing enrollment by more than 40 percent last year, according to a survey of 114 online providers that was conducted for the report.

Among online programs that are full-time, however, the largest of those virtual education providers saw “no change” in the last year, a response defined as having “full time-equivalent” enrollments within 5 percent of the level of the previous year.

Still, of the 21 full-time online schools that did change in size, 17 grew larger. Of those 17, ten grew by 25 percent or more.

The day the report was released, I chatted with Mickey Revenaugh, a vice president of the Baltimore-based Connections Academy, a virtual school provider and sponsor of the report. She also co-authored an article in the report about online offerings for special education.

“The places where growth is not happening have nothing to do with lack of demand,” Revenaugh noted. “The lack of a sustainable, scalable funding mechanism is standing in the way of most programs that don’t seem to be growing very much.”

Looking at the online programs established by states, for example, most of those are funded by appropriations by state legislatures. As such, they are subject to the vagaries of state budgets. (And that status may put these programs into a politically vulnerable position, as states respond to the current economic crisis.)

By contrast, funding for the Florida Virtual School, which is experiencing rapid course enrollment growth, operates under the state’s per-pupil funding formula, just as regular school districts do. If a Florida student enrolls in an online course, the state pays for it.

Online Education as Disruptive Innovation

The report, of which John Watson, of Evergreen Consulting Associates, in Evergreen, Colo., was the principal author, also addresses the much-talked-about recent book, Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen, Curtis Johnson, and Michael Horn.

In a business-school-style analysis, the book argues that online learning is a “disruptive innovation” that will cause a growth curve leading to more than half of U.S. high school courses being taught online by 2019.

But the report points out that K-12 education is a minefield of public funding and policy that may itself disrupt the smooth functioning of the model in the book.

Revenaugh said Disrupting Class is “very exciting to everybody in this field,” but “it is the futurist’s prerogative to present this picture of inevitable adoption and change.”

“As John pointed out in the report, the barriers of this kind of rapid adoption are real,” she said. “The idea that it will be half of all high school classes in 10 years from where we’re sitting right now seems a little bit of a stretch.”

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Can Digital Tools Detect ChatGPT-Inspired Cheating?
Tools purporting to detect AI writing may help teachers but they come with their own set of complexities.
7 min read
Image of a examining a piece of written material.
ojogabonitoo/iStock/Getty + EdWeek
Classroom Technology Opinion Will ChatGPT Unflip the Classroom?
21st-century technology helped flip the classroom, and now, ChatGPT may make the case for having students write in class again.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Classroom Technology Explainer Is the Gas App Safe? Here's What You Need to Know
Gas is billed as a positive, safer alternative to other popular social media apps. But experts see problems.
2 min read
Photograph of a group of young people holding their mobile phones together
Classroom Technology We Gave ChatGPT 5 Common Teaching Tasks. Here’s How Teachers Say It Did
EdWeek asked ChatGPT to generate a lesson plan, a response to a concerned parent, feedback on student work, and more.
5 min read
Monochromatic image of items on a teacher's desk, with vivid color on an apple and a plant.
Laura Baker/Education Week and Irina Strelnikova/iStock/Getty