The number of K-12 students using online courses has increased dramatically in the past few years, according to a new report from the Needham, Mass.-based Sloan Consortium, an advocacy group that promotes online education.
Researchers estimate that more than 1 million students now take classes online, a 47 percent increase from the consortium’s original K-12 survey done in the 2005-06 school year.
The 2007-08 survey of 867 chief administrators from public school districts in each state and region in the country found that three-quarters of the districts polled are offering online courses or courses that mix online and traditional instruction. Seventy-five percent of those districts had one or more students enrolled in a fully online course.
“Survey results indicate that online learning is meeting a wide range of student needs from remedial to accelerated instruction,” said Anthony G. Picciano, a study co-author and a professor in the school of education at Hunter College at the City University of New York. “It provides the ability to offer coursework that is otherwise unavailable at a child’s school, which we find to be especially significant in rural counties.”
The survey found that online learning helps meet the needs of both high-achieving students and those who need additional help. The report also shows that districts are using multiple online-learning providers for their services, including postsecondary institutions, state virtual schools, and independent providers, as well as devising their own offerings.
“We are seeing online learning grow in relevance and acceptance throughout education,” said Frank Mayadas, the program director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which underwrites the Sloan Consortium, and the consortium’s president.
The growth is on an upward trajectory to continue, the report also found. Two out of three school districts surveyed expect their online-course enrollments to climb.
A version of this article appeared in the January 28, 2009 edition of Education Week