Clayton Christensen, author of a new book that predicts an explosion in K-12 online learning, has another data point for his projections spreadsheet. Top line from Friday’s National Center for Education Statistics report on K-12 technology-based distance education is that enrollments increased by 60 percent, from an estimated 317,070 in 2002-03 to 506,950 in 2004-05.
The trend lines are becoming clearer, as these figures reinforce last year’s Sloan Consortium estimates of 700,000 K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2005-2006. (Yes, the Sloan data was released last year and covers a more recent time period. Sigh.)
The NCES data is mostly as expected, with a few interesting tidbits.
- While the NCES data covers all forms of technology-based distance education, the survey finds a significant shift away from two-way video delivery to Internet-based delivery. Have to believe this shift has continued to accelerate from 2005 to 2008.
- As expected, the vast majority of enrollments are at the high school level. Moreover, 39 percent of public high schools offered technology-based distance education courses in 2004-05.
Going Against Conventional Wisdom:
- Common perception is that online learning serves mostly advanced students. The NCES survey finds that AP and dual-credit enrollments are only a small part of total enrollments, at 3% and 12% respectively.
- They’re not all homeschoolers. In districts with students enrolled in online courses, 86% of students accessed these courses from school. In a subset of higher poverty districts, the number of students accessing from school rose to 92%.
The table below shows course completion rates and passing grades by district characteristic (click table for larger image). Both large districts and urban schools had exceptionally low percentages of students that completed courses with a passing grade. Urban schools reported 39% of students completing with passing grades and didn’t know the course completion status for an additional 46% of their students. My guess is that these are credit recovery students and the districts only really keep track of who gets a credit. Interestingly, poverty concentration was not a significant driver of course completion status.
**PS: Edison Schools, granddaddy of private education management organizations, gets into the online learning business (via EdWeek $). The article cites Terry Stecz, Edison’s CEO, describing the company’s “hybrid” school design model “that would enable students to learn both through traditional classroom and newer technological means.”