iNACOL Releases New Online & Blended Learning Study

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) released the new study Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice of K-12 Schools Around the World today at the Virtual School Symposium in Indianapolis.
The study reports significant growth for online and blended learning models in K-12 education in the U.S. and world. The authors found that nearly 60 percent of the more than 60 countries included in the study reported government funding for blended learning or fully online programs at primary and secondary levels.
“Primary and secondary school students today are using the Internet for research, accessing greater resources and original sources, collaborating with students, teachers and experts and creating their own content. More than half of high school students are creators of content. Online learning is emerging as a powerful force for tapping this phenomenon to transform the way our students learn for the 21st century, via highly personalized instruction and performance-based models of assessment,” said Susan Patrick, President and CEO of iNACOL.
The report uncovers global trends gearing toward blended models or online learning mixed with face-to-face time. The report included the following interesting facts:

  • Twenty-five percent of countries surveyed require teacher training for online learning.
  • China’s first online school was created in 1996; today it has expanded to more than 200 online schools with enrollments exceeding 600,000 students.
  • Seventy-two percent of the surveyed countries reported that their online and blended classroom teachers participated in professional development for online teaching.
  • Universities and colleges were reported as the primary source of training for educators, followed by regional centers and local schools.
  • In British Columbia, online schools provide complete programs or individual courses to 71,000 students, which is about 12 percent of the student population.
  • In 2010, Hong Kong enacted a policy recommendation for digital learning that “debundled” textbooks and teaching materials to make them more affordable and accessible to schools, and accelerated the development of an online depository of curriculum-based learning and teaching resources.  A pilot scheme later resulted in a program made available to all 410,000 primary and secondary students in 300,000 low-income families—especially the 8 percent without Internet access at home—to gain access to the Internet for the purpose of learning.

Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice of K-12 Schools Around the World is available online at the iNACOL Online Bookstore: or at the iNACOL Annual Conference, the Virtual School Symposium, November 9-11, 2011 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis. Follow the buzz around the event on Twitter with @Getting_Smart and the hashtag #VSS11.

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1 Comment

Paul W. Bennett

The iNACOL international report bears close scrutiny because of the scope of the study and the difficulty in trying to analyze online learning in countries like Canada with 13 different authorities (provinces and territories) responsible for education.
In the case of Canada, British Columbia is the chosen example. That is a peculiar decision because that province is totally unrepresentative of the state of online learning in Canada. Indeed, using BC is downright misleading because it paints a tremendously rosy picture of the state of online learning across Canada.
How do I know? Because I was hired by the Canadian Society for Quality Education (SQE) in early 2011 to conduct an independent study of the Sate of Online Learning in Canada, essentially reviewing past INACOL reports and digging deeper into the findings.
My independent research study, for SQE and the Atlas Economic Foundation, “THE SKY HAS LIMITS”:
ONLINE LEARNING IN CANADIAN K-12 PUBLIC EDUCATION" (April 28, 2011) reached significantly different conclusions about the state of online learning here in Canada.
Here's a brief summary of my findings:
"A comprehensive analysis of online learning, drawing upon recent authoritative research studies, provincial websites and reports, and key interviews reveals that the promise of online learning remains largely unfulfilled in K-12 education. In spite of the tremendous advantages afforded by introducing online learning programs, significant barriers stand in the way of its natural growth and expansion. In all of Canada’s provinces and territories, including Alberta, school choice is rationed or channelled, learning conditions are carefully state regulated, and the delivery of education limited by teacher union contracts. Some private sector virtual schools have recently arrived, but no online public charter schools exist, even in Alberta, the only province with Charter School legislation. Distance education and online learning student enrolments are growing only modestly, given the limits imposed by structural impediments, regulatory constraints, and – in some “have not” provinces – by budgetary restraint programs."
What's my point? The iNACOL reports, prepared by Michael Barbour and his colleagues, should not be accepted as the definitive word on the state of online learning in Canada and perhaps in other nations. It's still an immature field of educational research and one that is too important to be left to the "techies" alone.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Paul. Data collection on policies, practices, and participation in online learning is very challenging.

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