New state profiles from the Alliance for Excellent Education examine how three educational challenges—global skill demands versus educational achievement, tight state budgets, and looming teacher shortages—play out in each state and detail to what degree a state is using online technology to help overcome them.
The profiles, “Online Learning: Addressing Challenges and Seizing Opportunities,” are a supplement to an earlier—and now updated—Alliance report, The Online Learning Imperative: A Solution to Three Looming Crises in Education. The report, written by Alliance President Bob Wise, argues that state and local public officials are faced with stark realities that will force major changes in traditional education processes, especially for middle and high schools. This educational “perfect storm” includes:
- Global skill demands vs. educational achievement. At present, the nation cannot meet increasing national goals for college completion without dramatically improving the quality of learning in secondary schools. Improving high school graduation rates alone will not result in achieving much greater postsecondary achievement unless students are better prepared in high school.
- The funding cliff. The current recession will not permit continued education spending increases for most states. As a result, state policymakers and education leaders are challenged with public demands for improved student performance while dealing with tightening budgets.
- Looming teacher shortages. Placing high-performing teachers in thousands of low-performing classrooms becomes even more difficult due to large-scale retirements of experienced teachers in the coming years as well as low retention rates for new educators.
“Just as the internet has transformed how people receive information, interact with each other, and conduct business, online-learning opportunities can positively revamp how students learn and teachers teach, whether it’s through advanced course work for students, online instructors to address staffing shortages, or educational tools for teachers and students,” said Wise.
In addition to examining how these challenges play out in each state, the state profiles summarize the degree to which each state has embraced online-learning opportunities. For example, each state’s profile examines the kind of access its students and teachers have to computers and the internet and compares that to the average for the United States. Also highlighted is whether students and teachers in each state have access to online-learning opportunities such as virtual schools and other online programs.
“Whether offered through a completely virtual school or a traditional high school classroom, online learning is a smart investment for states facing budget dilemmas,” Wise said. “If there is a shortage of qualified or specialized teachers, technology can help fill the gaps by granting students access to effective teachers in a neighboring county, state, or even another country. Teachers can also tap into professional development opportunities outside their geographic area, build networks of peer support, and connect with experts and other online resources.”
The state profiles also summarize whether each state’s policy infrastructure nurtures online learning for students and teachers in the form of computer-based assessments, technology literacy, and other policies. Finally, they examine to what degree federal policy supports online-learning opportunities in each state through federal grants.
“Education has trailed most other sectors in effectively applying new technologies to boost productivity and outcomes,” Wise said, “but now is the time to move from thinking about technology as an add-on tool to ensuring that it is integrated into all educational settings.”
During an Alliance webinar on July 8, panelists discussed how creative educators are using technology to better meet the needs of students and teachers. The webinar featured Bob Wise; Allison Powell, PhD, vice president at International Association for K–12 Online Learning; Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online at the Education Development Center; and Lori Westhoff, principal of Humboldt High School in Humboldt, Iowa. (To watch video or download audio from the webinar, click on the image to the right).
The “Online Learning: Addressing Challenges and Seizing Opportunities” state profiles are available athttps://all4ed.org/publication_material/OnlineLearningStateProfiles.
The Online Learning Imperative: A Solution to Three Looming Crises in Education is available here.