Wednesday, October 29, 2008

NACOL Annual Review of States' Online Learning

The North American Council for Online Learning (NACOL) has released its annual review on the different online programs offered in the 50 states.  There are 21 states who offer a statewide virtual school (4 are charter schools only).  There are 23 states that offer supplemental programs for online learning.  Iowa is one of these, with their online AP academy and their Iowa Learning Online.

Some of my perceptions from the review:
• Iowa is definitely in the lower half of states in terms of the breadth of what is offered.  Not surprisingly, statewide online education in Iowa has not gotten a toe-hold, being overwhelmed by the desire for local control and the recent focus on the Iowa Core.  But the review also points to online education being seen as a competitor to distance education through the ICN, which the state has made a considerable investment in.
• The review took special note to point out the "little state policy activity" in our state.  
• Florida continues to be the largest statewide provider of online learning, as it had 120,000 registrations last year.  That is 10 times as large as second place.
• Two states, Michigan and Alabama, now require students to complete an online component in order to graduate.  Both will start to implement that requirement next school year.
• Wisconsin, meanwhile, made news this past year because of the court ruling declaring the Wisconsin Virtual Academy in violation of state laws and not eligible for state funding.  Lawmakers have since looked to amend the law to keep the academy a viable option.

And on a final note, I always enjoy the thoughts and work of Clayton Christensen, who argues that unlike what some legislators think, online academies are products not in competition with brick-and-mortar schools, but rather with "non-consumption".  Meaning, students not attending school or taking courses that a traditional school couldn't offer.  But, NACOL has an interesting rebuttal worth the read.

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