In the 21st century, it is impossible to dismiss the powerful possibilities that exist due to online learning delivery systems. I have seen that learning evolve over the years from models where teachers simply tried to "teach as they did face-to-face" in these online environments, to today, where teaching has evolved with techniques only possible in these virtual places of learning. I've seen more and more universities embrace virtual learning, while K-12 public schools continue to pay homage to the necessity of students sitting physically in front of teachers.
We K-12 educators have dabbled in virtual learning with our online class providers, but we still have this need to make sure that learning is still placed within the context of a four-by-four block schedule. Somehow the idea that learning can only occur within the four walls of classroom stubbornly hangs on. We still limit students to taking only four credits a semester or six credits a year because why? Somehow we are afraid that students might get ahead and learn something earlier than they should. In other words, K-12 education has hindered the growth of online learning because of an unwillingness to let go of structures and rules designed to make sure all students advance through the system and graduate at the same pace. But why? Why can't K-12 embrace online learning as much as higher education has?
Certainly we do have students not ready to effectively learn online, but perhaps it's our job to make them ready. Do we use this excuse to avoid allowing students to expand their learning virtually because some aren't ready for it? There are many of our students capable of learning just as well through online learning. Public schools have an obligation to meet the needs of all students, and that includes not holding those back who could take 10 classes a year rather than the prescribed 8. So what if they earn enough credits to graduate early! Perhaps we should rethink the length of time it takes to graduate. At any rate, as the infographic below indicates, online learning continues to grow. With this growth, let's start talking about ways of capitalizing on the learning opportunities this phenomenon offers instead of continuing to force all students to learn at the same rates and in the same manner.