The Online Learning Imperative: A Solution to Three Looming Crises in Education

Dan Woolf

Alliance for Excellent Education
Bob Wise & Robert Rothman
February 2010 

In this issue brief by the Alliance for Excellent Education, former West Virginia governor Bob Wise makes the case for online learning as a solution to the “perfect storm” brewing within K-12 education. The three major crises pushing us toward our tipping point are: the need for an increasingly skilled workforce contrasted by the U.S.’s lagging college graduation rates; threats to school funding caused by depressed tax revenues at all levels of government; and the shortage of highly-qualified and capable educators.

Wise argues that only by doing more with less will schools and districts successfully navigate these crises, and advocates specifically for embracing technological advances and adapting them for the purposes of K-12 education. Online learning, either entirely virtual or blended teacher-online classrooms, is a significant part of the solution. First, fostering students’ familiarity with cutting-edge technology would prepare them better for success in the 21st century workforce. Second, technology could help streamline the development and implementation of curricula, monitor teacher effectiveness, and track student success in the face of tighter school budgets. Finally, new online models of learning would address the teacher (and budget) shortages faced by some districts by providing a pathway for in-demand teachers of special subjects to teach at many different schools simultaneously.

Wise’s call for online learning is germane to Ohio. The state faces an impending $8 billion dollar budget deficit in 2011. The Buckeye State is also committed to increasing its college graduation rates, and will need an additional 13,600 new teachers by 2014 just to meet Ohio’s class-size reduction mandates in grades K-3.

The question now is whether Ohio can realize the potential of online learning to improve the quality of education while doing more with less. Lawmakers recently discussed schools using online learning to make up for calamity days, which brought to light the need to transition towards blended learning environments. If executed properly, Ohio could turn its current challenges into a golden opportunity. Read the report here.

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