A new report says the time has come for states to work together to manage the mix of new options that could soon be available to students through digital learning.
The report by Digital Learning Now calls on state policymakers to “formalize the establishment of a multi-state network, focused on Course Access programs.”
“Course choice” or “course access” is the next wave in educational choice. In Florida, for example, it won’t be long before students who can’t take, say, a physics or calculus course at their local high school can browse an online course catalog, find a class that works for them, and enroll.
Some might already be able to do that with courses available through Florida Virtual School or a virtual program run by their district. But the state Department of Education is developing an online course catalog that will allow them to choose from a wider range of options. Due to legislative changes approved in 2013, courses offered in other school districts could also be on the menu. And still other new providers could soon start offering classes through the state’s nascent course choice system.
Florida isn’t alone. States are developing new digital learning programs that expand education options in several ways, notes the report by Digital Learning Now (an effort of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush). As they do so, they can create new entrepreneurial opportunities for teachers, expand systems that allow students to learn at their own pace, and give school districts a new way to grow enrollment by attracting students outside their geographic boundaries.
Digital learning advocates have started to coalesce around the term “course access.” Only about half of U.S. high schools offer calculus, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education, and less than two thirds offer physics. If they’re managed properly, and made accessible to students who need them the most, new digital learning policies have the potential to allow students to take courses that aren’t available on their physical campuses.
The DLN report tries to push the discussion a step further. If blurring geographic boundaries between school districts can expand the number of options available, why not allow the programs to cross state lines too? Continue Reading →