K–12 Online Learning: A Survey of U.S. School District Administrators

Abstract: 

K–12 Online Learning: A Survey of U.S. School District Administrators explores the nature of online learning in K–12 schools and establishes base data for more extensive future studies. This study was based on a national survey of American school district chief administrators during the 2005-2006 academic year. It is one of the first studies to collect data on and compare fully online and blended learning (part online and part traditional face-to-face instruction) in K-12 schools. The distinction between fully online and blended learning is a most important refinement of previous studies on this topic.

Full Article (PDF): 

 

Anthony G. Picciano, Hunter College and Graduate Center of the City University of New York
Jeff Seaman, The Sloan Consortium, Olin and Babson Colleges

This project was funded through the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Executive Summary

The purpose of this study was to explore the nature of online learning in K–12 schools and to establish base data for more extensive future studies. Issues related to planning, operational difficulties, and online learning providers were also examined. This study was based on a national survey of American school district chief administrators during the 2005-2006 academic year. It is one of the first studies to collect data on and compare fully online and blended learning (part online and part traditional face-to-face instruction) in K-12 schools. The distinction between fully online and blended learning is a most important refinement of previous studies on this topic. This study also notes that a number of states including Florida and Michigan have established very progressive school reform policies with regard to K-12 online learning.

Highlights and Issues

1. Almost two-thirds of the responding public school districts are offering online courses:

  • 63.1% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online or blended course.
  • 57.9% had one or more students enrolled in a fully online course.
  • 32.4% had one or more students enrolled in a blended course.

2. Over 60% of school districts with students enrolled in online courses anticipate their online enrollments will grow. Over the next two years districts predict online enrollments will increase by 19% and blended enrollments by 23%.

3. The overall number of K-12 students engaged in online courses in 2005-2006, is estimated at 700,000.

4. Respondents report that online learning is meeting the specific needs of a range of students, from those who need extra help to those who want to take more advanced courses and whose districts do not have enough teachers to offer certain subjects.

5. School districts typically depend on multiple online learning providers, including postsecondary institutions, independent vendors and state virtual schools as well as developing and providing their own online courses.

6. Perhaps the voices heard most clearly in this survey were those of respondents representing small rural school districts. For them, the availability of online learning is most important in order to provide students with course choices and in some cases, the basic courses that should be part of every curriculum. These rural districts might be providing models and lessons for other districts facing teacher shortages in high-need subject areas such as science and mathematics.

7. While concerns about the quality of online courses, funding, and teacher development were expressed, it appears that many of these issues are gradually being resolved.