Students deserve access to quality digital content & online courses

All students deserve access to high quality digital content & online courses
Digital Learning Now, chaired by Jeb Bush and Bob Wise, promotes online and blended learning as a key strategy for boosting student achievement.  Released on December 1, 2010, DLN’s 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning is a framework for state policymakers.  This week, DLN released a video on Element 2, student access.  It recommends that all students have access to quality content and courses.
While a few barriers to access are erected in the name of quality education, most are simply protection of school district enrollment and budgets.  Having managed a district budget, I know it’s hard to cut the budget and manage down an enrollment decline.  But erecting artificial barriers that limit online enrollment by district or county, or placing enrollment or budget caps on virtual schools shortchanges students and families.
Class size restrictions don’t seem to pay off in traditional schools and they unnecessarily limit online schools and restrict blended schools from using differentiated staffing strategies that leverage the talent of master teachers.
States should require at least one online course for graduation
In addition to attacking barriers, Element 2 suggests that states should add a gradation requirement that all high school students take an online college/career prep course.  I’d go a step further and require at least one online course each year of high school.  Nearly all young people will learn online after high school whether it’s in college or corporate or military training.  High school is a great place to start learning online.
DLN also anticipates that the requirement for at least some online learning will increase the supply and will expand student options.
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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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