10 Big Advances in the last 12 months

Susan Patrick, iNACOL

Fifteen years ago when I was a superintendent, online learning was a new idea in K-12.  Six years ago when Susan Patrick joined iNACOL as Executive Director, it represented a small but growing fringe.  And now, while many reform groups continue to fight old battles, iNACOL is front and center helping to invent the future of learning.
My year as board chair for the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) concluded today.  It has been a year of great progress in online and blended learning.  Following are 10 big advances over the last 12 months.
1. New Normal. Last November Secretary Duncan gave his New Normal speech at AEI.  Echoing new language incorporated in the nations edtech plan, Duncan talked about the need to improve productivity—to achieve more with less.
2. New Formula. Last December Public Impact released a report that said if all the human capital initiatives were successful, the country would still fall well short of the goal of a great teacher in every classroom.  Author Bryan Hassel pointed to the need to use technology to leverage teacher talent.
3. iNACOL Strategy.  A sponsored planning process helped the iNACOL board shift to an agenda focused on advocacy, quality, and new learning models.  With partners organizations, iNACOL helped move the needle in a couple dozen states.
4. Blended successes. The academic success of early blended school models including Rocketship, Carpe Diem, KIPP Empower, NYC iSchool are chronicled in the seminal report of 2011, the Rise of Blended Learning, Innosight Institute.
5. Quality Standards. Recognizing the increasing challenge to the quality of online learning, iNACOL was out in front with iNACOL National Standards of Quality for courses and content and the iNACOL National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, Version 2.
6. Competency-based learning. With the publication of several reports iNACOL emerged as the leading advocate for competency-based learning.  See Cracking the Code: Synchronizing Policy and Practice for Performance-based Learning.
7. Digital Learning Now. Sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Digital Learning Now (DLN) released the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning in December 2010 and last month released a detailed Roadmap to Reform.
8. State progress.  A number of states took the DLN framework and ran with it.  Florida, Utah and Idaho expanded online options for all students.
9. Common Core and online assessment.  Higher college/career-ready standards have been embraced by 44 states and  they all plan to roll out online assessments by 2014.  Making the critical connection, Linda Pittenger of CCSSO was appointed iNACOL Chair-Elect today.
10. Acquisitions.  Over the last few years a number of companies achieved medium size—and important milestone in education—and some of them have seen successful exits.  Most important was Pearson’s acquisition of Connections, a signal that online learning has gone mainstream and that publishers like Pearson now view themselves as learning platform and services companies.

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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