Nationwide, online learning is booming. Just over a decade ago, fewer than 50,000 K-12 students took an online course; today several million students do, and the growth of online learning is accelerating. According to one study, in 2010, 30 percent of high school students reported taking at least one online course.
Some students enroll in full-time online programs, in which they do their schooling from home and access highly qualified teachers and content via the Internet. Increasingly, students are enrolling in blended-learning environments, where they learn at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction where the student has some control over time, place, path and/or pace and at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home. Today this happens most often where a student takes just one or two online courses and takes the rest of their courses in the traditional brick-and- mortar classroom arrangement, but we are seeing rapid innovation in the field of blended learning.
Louisiana is no stranger to online learning, as it has a state virtual school that offers courses as a supplement to a student’s courses in a traditional brick-and-mortar school, two full-time statewide virtual charter schools, some districts that contract with online learning providers, as well as whole blended- learning school models operating in New Orleans. The state has made even greater strides recently thanks to the recent passage of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s sweeping education reform package. Beginning in the fall of 2013, far more Louisiana students will be able to take online courses from providers approved by the State Board.
But even with these experiences with online learning, many in the state continue to see it as merely a small part of education that provides students with more choices for their education that may better fit their needs. That is certainly true, but online learning is much more than that.
Online learning is a disruptive innovation that has the potential to help transform the present-day monolithic, factory-model education system into a student-centric and far more affordable fit for the 21st century. If the state continues to play its cards right, Louisiana has the potential to provide many more students and families with quality choices for their education and transform public education in the process.