Reports of this sort are very encouraging. At the same time, though, it is good to remember that the use of digital learning (blended or 100% online) is in and of its self not a "cure" for low student achievement. Like many other things, implementation of blended learning can be done well - or not.
Success in using blended learning isn't so much about money or resources as it is about the people involved in implementing it. Blended learning is a tool and, like any tool, may be used well or poorly. So what do successful teachers and schools do?
- They plan - a lot.
- They evaluate and revise the plan often.
- They focus on particular goals.
- They assign certified teachers to design and implement instruction in each subject area.
- They evaluate students before the students start the course work.
- They adapt the learning to suit the needs of the student.
- They orient students to using digital learning tools and guide them through the process of becoming effective users of these tools.
- They give and receive constant feedback about student success, including formative and summative assessments.
- They never stop learning, collaborating, or adjusting their own approach to digital learning.
The world of digital learning for K-12 is in flux. Large educational companies are reaching into communities and taking state funds intended for local schools. In turn, local schools are under a lot of pressure to offer digital learning opportunities to their students. The pressure can include laws like the one in Michigan which requires public schools to provide up to two credits per academic term in online instruction for students 5-12.
If implementing effective digital learning is a challenge for public schools, it is even more so for private schools, home schools, and parents of K-12 students trying to stay involved in their children's education. If parents thought helping their children with "new math" was tricky, try understanding and keeping up with the tools and techniques of digital learning! Add to that parents with poor academic skills or for whom English is not their primary language, and the challenge becomes even greater.
That is where resources like this web site and networking with others become vital. Digital learning is ubiquitous. Knowing how to use it effectively is necessary for students, parents, and teachers.