Online learning poised to grow in public education

Most of the talk in recent weeks about education reform in Idaho has focused on restoring recessionary cuts in schools spending and increasing teacher pay.

But a more far-reaching proposal from Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education is the idea of moving education from a system based on the time students spent in class to a system that requires students to demonstrate mastery of one subject before moving onto the next.

It’s a seminal change in how education would be conducted.  It could change how schools are funded, how teachers teach and blur the traditional grade level lines.

And it would be almost impossible to attain without a heavy dose of digital and online learning, says Tom Vander Ark, a Washington state-based author who has written about the impacts of digital learning.

Vander Ark spoke Tuesday at Ed Sessions 2.0, a monthly speaker series on education sponsored by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation.

He said online instruction gives students some advantages, such as providing adaptive learning, meaning students are working at their educational level.

“Students can work at their own pace,” he said.

Digital learning provides teachers nearly instant feedback on how students are doing — no more waiting to grade 30 quizzes before you realize Johnny doesn’t understand percentages. Teachers could come to school in the morning, turn on their iPhones and instantly get information on how every student is performing, Vander Ark said.

But online learning could expose kids to a lot more apps, many of which may not be familiar to parents.

Vander Ark suggests going to Common Sense Media which give parents reviews of kids’ apps to help guide them.

Video: Tom Vander Ark talks about how parents can help with online learning at

Posted in In The Classroom