Monday, September 15, 2014

Online Learning Part 2

What is Online Learning?



In tracing the roots of online learning, it is first necessary to put forth a basic understanding of what sets online learning apart from other forms of learning. For the purpose of this article, online learning is learning that takes place via the Internet when there is a lack of physical presence between the learner and instructor due to geographic separation. Given this perspective, evidence of learning at-a-distance is seen in a 1728 advertisement for a Boston mail-based correspondence course for
PLATO learning system
learning shorthand. Recognized formal education at-a-distance can be found as early as 1858 at the University of London and in 1873 through the Society to Encourage Studies at Home in Boston. Early forms of technology-enhanced distance learning are found in the early 1900s with the use of new technologies such as the radio, slide projector, and motion picture. Starting in the 1940s, television provided another medium for distance learning. The first noted use of computers that formed an organized and connected system of learning was PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) in 1960 at the University of Illinois. With the conception of the World Wide Web in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee and it being made publicly available in 1993, modern forms of online education began developing.

Current Practice

Today’s online learning occurs through the use of digital devices such as personal computers, laptops, tablets, or mobile phones that are connected to educational content, events, and activities via the Internet. Depending upon personal choices, needs, and resource availability, web-based learning is available in a variety of formats from instructor-led massive open online courses (MOOCs) to self-paced personalized web-based tutorials. Online learning usually involves gaining access to rich learning environments, experiences, and events which might otherwise not be possible in a typical classroom. 

At the level of primary grades, online learning is usually limited to teacher-led activities in the classroom or parent-monitored web-based activities at home. At the secondary level, online learning options become more varied and with increased individual access. For higher education and adult education, learners typically have open access to a variety of digital technologies which allow full access and use of web-based learning resources. 

Today the term online learning is often incorrectly used interchangeably with e-learning. In actuality online learning is a subset of e-learning, which actually encompasses all forms of teaching and learning through the use of educational technologies whether via the Internet, a network, or a standalone system. This broad expanse of e-learning includes multimedia learning, computer-based training (CBT), virtual learning environments, and mobile learning.

Final Words

In summary, online learning involves achieving intended learning outcomes using a digital device that has access to web-based educational content, resources, events, and activities.

Reflection Point - “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” ~W. B. Yeats

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Global Online Learning - Part 1

Global Online Learning Part 1 – Internet Trends

This is part one of a six part series on online learning. It examines Internet trends and its growth as the medium for online learning.

International Internet Use

The use of the Internet for purposes of communication and information has experienced rapid growth during the past two decades. The 2013 Pew Internet Use Survey results show that over 86% of all adults (18+ years of age) in the United States are connected to the Internet, whereas in 1995 it was 14%. The Miniwatts Marketing Group maintains global Internet usage statistics, which indicated in June 2012 that over 34% of the global population were connected to the Internet and that this indicated a 566% increase since 2000.

Global Internet Penetration

Internet Users

What This Means

The point made by this Internet usage information is that the path is for the broad use of the Internet as an education conduit for online learning is widening. In a 2012 global Internet user survey by the Internet Society, 98% of the participants agreed that the Internet is essential for access to education and knowledge.

Internet for Education

Evidence indicates that the use of the Internet for education is steadily increasing and has seen the fastest growth in higher education. An August 2011 Pew Research Center survey, The Digital Revolution and Higher Education, found that 77% of colleges and 89% of four-year universities of offer online courses. Also reflecting this growth in online courses is a Sloan Consortium / Babson Survey Research Group report, Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States, 2013, which found that over 7.1 million higher education students (33.5%) took at least one online course in the Fall 2013 term. In terms of fully online higher education institutions, the Online Education Database organization currently contains reviews of over 1847 higher education schools in the US that offer online courses. 

In the K-12 setting, there has also been a rapid increase in the use of online courses and resources. There is an increasing emphasis on online and blended courses and online learning systems, such as found in the National Education Technology Plan, released by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010. A Project Tomorrow survey report, Learning in the 21st Century: 2011 Trends Update, found that three times as many high school students and twice as many middle school students are learning online as compared to the original 2007 report. It was also noted that in 2011, 27% of all high school students took at least on class online. In Project Tomorrow’s 2013 Trends in Online Learning Virtual, Blended and Flipped Classrooms, it is reported that 43% of US school districts offer access to online courses. In iNACOL’s 2013 Fast Facts About Online Learning states that five states – Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Virginia, and Michigan – require online learning for students in the public schools. According to the Evergreen Education Group’s 2013 Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning Report, 26 states have state-led virtual schools, 24 states have blended schools, 30 states have fully online schools, and the number of private online learning options is increasing.

Reflection Point - “The next big killer application on the Internet is going to be education.” ~John Chambers

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Think Virtual Schools

Think Virtual Schools - A Global Expansion

Even though the majority of information presented here concerns virtual schools in the United States, the major takeaway from this post is that there’s a growing amount information, research, and support concerning the establishment of a virtual school. With an expected annual growth of e-learning in North America and Western Europe being less that 6%, other areas of the world such as Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America are anticipating an annual increase of over 14% (DoceboE-Learning Market Trends and Forecast, 2014-2016). This relatively rapid expansion of e-learning opportunities beyond those countries that have historically led in virtual school development indicates that an opportunity may exist for the global expansion of virtual schools. 


Made possible by the public availability of the World Wide Web in 1991, the digital facilitation of web-based education was born, giving eventual rise to online learning and virtual schools. Within three years, an education event known as the Virtual Summer School (VSS) for Open University was held and it hosted a web-based undergraduate psychology course. The earliest recognized web-based high school curriculum was made available through CALCampus, which began its operations in 1994-1995. Shortly thereafter the first virtual school, titled Virtual High School, was launched in 1996 and is still in operation today. In 1997, Florida established the first statewide web-based virtual public high school (Florida Virtual School), which recently served an estimated 240,000 students in the 2012-2013 school year (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin & Rapp, 2013).

Clark (2001) defined a virtual high school as “a state approved and/or regionally accredited school that offers secondary credit courses through distance learning methods that include Internet-based delivery” (p. i). Extending the definition beyond the high school level, United States virtual schools now offer curriculum, programs, and services for all K-12 grades. The operation of these virtual schools does not take place within a traditional “brick and mortar” educational facility, but rather through electronically connected students, teachers, administrators, parents and communities who are separated by geographic location and/or time. Clark (2001) identified six types of virtual schools based upon to the founding organization: university-based, state-sanctioned, consortium, local education agency, charter school, and private school. A seventh type, for-profit providers, has now been added.


Since their debut in the late 1990s, virtual schools have had notable increases in terms of the number of schools and their course enrollments. For example, according to Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, and Rapp (2013), state-led virtual schools existed in 26 states in the 2012-2013 school year and had 740,000 course enrollments. Based upon Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, and Rapp’s previous annual course enrollment numbers, this is an increase of over 19% compared to the 2011-2012 school year, over 38% compared to the 2010-2011 school year, over 64% compared to the 2009-2010 school year, and over 131% compared to the 2008-2009 school year. For the 2007-2008 academic year, Picciano and Seaman (2009) estimated over one million K-12 students used an online course, which was a 47% increase over the estimate was made two years prior. Based upon current rates, Mincberg (2010) projects that it is possible by 2020 for 50% of all high school classes to be delivered online.

The need to improve learning outcomes and to address educational standards and policy have been important motivators in the development of virtual schools. An early catalyst for virtual schools was that they offered an array of courses and related services that otherwise would not be available to students or that would not fit into the usual school or student schedule (Patrick, 2007; Russell, 2004). At the national level, the expansion of virtual schools has been encouraged by the advent of two policies, the 2001 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the 2004 National Educational Technology Plan (NETP) (Archambault, Crippen, & Lukemeyer, 2007). Since then other proclamations concerning U.S. education such as the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan and the Common Core State Standards have continued to motivate the growth and acceptance of virtual schools (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin & Rapp, 2011). Currently, most virtual schools offer courses that supplement traditional school offerings, with learners being accounted for as members of their home school rather than the virtual school.

virtual school

Globally, each country that is developing or is considering the development of a virtual school will have its own needs, rationale, and standards. Reviewing what’s been done previously in creating virtual schools, both the failures and successes, is a recommended exercise in planning for a virtual school or in improving existing operations. This is a rapidly evolving field that is being impacted by ongoing practice and a growing body of research.

Reflection Point – “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Archambault, L., Crippen, K., & Lukemeyer, A. (2007). The impact of U.S. national and state level policy on the nature and scope of k-12 virtual schooling. Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2007, 2185-2193.
Barbour, M. K. (2010). Researching K-12 online learning: What do we know and what should we examine. Distance Learning, 7(2), 6–12.
Clark, T. (2000). Virtual high schools, state of the states: A study of virtual high school planning and operation in the United States.
Mincberg, C. (2010). Is online learning a solution in search of a problem?
Patrick, S. T. (2007). Preface. In J. Watson, A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning (pp. i4-i5).
Picciano, A. G., & Seaman, J. (2009). K-12 online learning: A 2008 follow-up of the survey of U.S. school district administrators.
Russell, G. (2004). Virtual schools: A critical view. In C. Cavanaugh (Ed.), Development and management of virtual schools: Issues and trends (pp. 1-25). Hershey, PA. IGI Global.
           Saba, F. (2005). Critical issues in distance education: A report from the United States. Distance Education 2, 255-272.
Searson, M. Jones, W. M., & Wold, K. (2011). Editorial: Reimagining schools: The potential of virtual education. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42, 363-371.
Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2011). Keeping pace with K-12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice.
Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2013). Keeping pace with K-12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice.