This new report just out makes for challenging reading. Although based in the US experience, the principles that are discussed are applicable in other contexts.
For those whose interest is in outcomes, the report identifies that the small body of research focused on the effectiveness of K???12 virtual schooling programs supports findings of similar studies on virtual courses in higher education which have found “no significant difference” in student performance in online courses versus traditional face-to-face learning.
But the report goes on to show that in K???12 education, the Internet is enabling deep structural changes. In each case, new organizations are developing alternative management structures, distribution methods, and work models.
The report compares the way that virtual schooling is driving transforming changes in public education with the way Apple’s iTunes has changed the music industry.
Where successful, virtual schooling demonstrates that innovative reforms can be readily integrated into the public school system. As a result, it is increasingly important to understand both the innovations that are emerging from online schooling and their potential to leverage reform on a far larger scale in public education.
It has long been my contention that the introduction of online/distance learning options such as what is happening in the NZ video conferencing clusters has the potential to do far more than simply cater for the needs of students in rural schools where some subjects may not be available. This report is certainly worth considering in the NZ context with the numbers of schools that are now participating in the Virtual Learning here. The section on policy recommendations in particular is worth considering in terms of how some of these might be generalised outside the US context.
Laboratories of Reform: Virtual High Schools and Innovation in Public Education (259K) [download]