When an idea as innovative as online learning starts to gain traction in our school systems, it’s important that we take the time to study both how it is impacting the educational environment now and how we can continue to leverage it in the future. In many cases, the educators—who live on the frontlines of this major development—have little time to step back to identify the trends and make sense of how they should be applied. So, it’s a great thing when a non-profit, such as Project Tomorrow, is able to provide educators with the “big picture” of how students, parents, teachers, and administrators feel about online learning options and what they need to be more successful in each of their roles.
In the report, “Trends in Online Learning Virtual, Blended and Flipped Classrooms,” Project Tomorrow’s 2011 Speak Up research survey was designed to elicit information to answer four core questions:
- What are the expectations of K-12 students for personalizing learning with digital tools?
- How well are today’s K-12 schools meeting the expectations of students?
- What is the parent perspective on digital learning and emerging technologies?
- What are the emerging trends in learning that we all should be watching?
The bottom line is that of the more than 400,000 survey participants, all groups are interested in online and blended learning options and integrating more technology, such as mobile devices, into both the physical classroom and the delivery of lessons. Moreover, the data also shows that key constituencies feel they are not equipped, at present, with the tools they need to maximize value from online learning. The good news, however, is that all groups have pretty definite ideas about what they need for students to be empowered digital users.
Administrators, as the lynch pin of the education system, are in a particularly tough spot. Nearly two thirds of administrators responded in the survey with concerns about how they will fund education technology budgets. As much as 50 percent of administrators reported that their education technology budgets have been reduced since 2009, despite the growing demand for more digital learning options. Interestingly, many administrators are also looking to leverage digital learning options to accommodate overall budget reductions, particularly through strategies such as replacing physical textbooks with digital texts, and moving away from computers in the classroom to tablets. However, the bottom line is that nearly half (46%) of administrators reported that education technology projects had been placed on hold because of budget cuts.
Despite these obstacles, administrators are forging ahead with implementing educational technology programs where they can in support of overall educational goals and the needs of teachers, parents, and students because they recognize that online learning is vital for student achievement and lifelong success in the 21st Century.