After some recent visits with educators in Texas, I remain struck by how diverse and increasingly complex the growing online learning landscape is becoming. Within districts I visited, it was common for multiple online implementations to be underway—each with its own set of distinct instructional objectives to be addressed. And the underlying commonality to success was clear: delivering effective online instruction in such a dynamic and multifaceted landscape requires close coordination of many moving pieces—administrators, teachers, hardware, software, labs, and more.
Everyone must focus on giving students the best shot at success.
It was great to hear firsthand how educators at districts of various sizes are dealing with this complexity. Beyond the common dedication and clear passion exuded by all I met, everyone was focused on ensuring that all students had the best shot at success. It was great to see the numerous ways in which districts defined the needs of their particular populations and then crafted plans that leveraged every appropriate resource (human, technical, brick-and-mortar, etc.) to facilitate new online and blended initiatives. Below, are some of my key impressions from my time at schools in Texas.
Growth is going beyond initial online courses.
By and large, districts have notable experience and success with online learning and are expanding use beyond credit recovery. Educators are using online courses to address learning needs for a wide range of implementations: initial credit, credit advancement, end-of-course preparation, concept recovery, honors courses, and summer school. There is also an increased use of blended learning implementations as part of alternative school programs, each with a very distinct charter and set of instructional goals.
Increased demands lead to new educator needs.
The increased demand and diversity of instructional needs will result in educators requiring increased flexibility, not just in how platforms and tools operate, but also in terms of quick and easy end-user customization options around content, assessments, and reporting. Despite new variations, providing a framework whereby student performance can be tracked, assessed, and effectively measured will still be vital.
This is an exciting time.
For developers of online curriculum content moving forward, the notion of creating an online “course” for singular, end-to-end use will not be enough. Content creation will need to be broader based and multidimensional, while using all means possible to stay close to educators and intimately understand (and predict) their future needs.
As one who loves to develop new products and drive innovation, this is an exciting time.