With our friends at iNACOL, we’re writing a paper about the myths and realities of K-12 online learning.  We hope to address common misconceptions, address the realities of what needs to improve, and recommend productive policies.

Here’s 10 reasons we think online learning matters:

1.Opportunity to quality personalized learning at scale. See Secretary Duncan’s comments, March 2013

2.Provide all students access to rigorous well taught college preparatory courses.

3.Provide access to a broad array of foreign languages and electives.

4. Expanded access to college credit options including dual enrollment and every Advanced Placement course.

5.Opportunity for platform, assessment and data advance. Online platforms are powering blended schools; see What’s Next? A Flex Plus School Model by Connections Education.

6. New employment alternatives for teacher. See Improving Conditions & Careers

7. Extend the reach of great teachers.  See OpportunityCulture.org

8. Improve sustainability of rural schools.  See How Online Learning is Saving and Improving Rural Schools.

9. Reduce dropout rates. Sometimes online courses are the only way for young people with difficult life circumstances to complete high school.  Enriched online programs with onsite support systems and blended formats offer personalized competency-based learning with strong supports.  See 10 Reasons Every District Should Open a Flex School.

10. Reduce facilities demands.  See SRI report for ED on a variety of productivity improving strategies.

Nearly every student will learn online in whatever postsecondary setting the choose–college, work, or the military.  It’s time to improve the quality of and expand access to online learning opportunities.

If you have questions or concerns about online learning, let us know and we’ll try to address them in the paper.  We’d also be happy to highlight productive strategies and share representative stories.


Connections is a Getting Smart Advocacy Partner.  Tom is a director of iNACOL.


  1. “Tom is also a partner in Learn Capital, an education venture capital firm investing in edtech startups.”

    I would find it a bit more informative to read about the possibilities of online education, in terms of what they can do for our students and schools, from someone who does not stand to profit from their expansion.

    • Marilyn, my interest in online learning goes back to 1995 when the district where I was superintendent launched (what we think was) the first K-12 online school. We’re writing the paper with Susan Patrick from iNACOL, the K-12 online learning association–they pride themselves on being a student-center “Switzerland of online learning.”

      Learn Capital doesn’t have any positions in any online learning provider or tools commonly used by online providers. Getting Smart works with a couple but we always disclose any relationships in anything we publish.


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