Report Offers Plan for Digitizing Kentucky Education

Published February 6, 2012

Creating a digital learning system that provides access for all students could further Kentucky’s goals of equipping students for colleges and careers, says a report presented to the Kentucky Board of Education.

The report considers 10 goals ranging from content quality to funding, to increase equality of student access to quality education. It concludes with recommendations to policymakers for beginning the shift from traditional to digital classrooms.

“Online learning expands access to great teachers and great content,” said Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Open Education Solutions and a report contributor. “There’s no reason that every student in Kentucky shouldn’t have access to every [Advanced Placement] course, every advanced science course, and all dual enrollment courses.”

Compiled by the Kentucky Department of Education and consulting firm OpenEd Solutions, the report is part of a broad effort to improve Kentucky’s education system. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported only one out of three Kentucky students rates “proficient” or better within their grade level. The writers of the report said they hope their work will encourage reforms that increase educational quality.

Concerns: Access, Quality
The Board of Education’s major concerns were whether students could engage digital opportunities and that learning was well-monitored, said Lisa Gross, communications director of the Kentucky Department of Education.   

“[The internet] is not present in everyone’s home. There may be free internet access through libraries or community centers, but many students don’t live close to those,” Gross said.

Vander Ark says access to quality learning for all students is not out of reach, since all Kentucky schools have internet access.

“It’s quite possible now to create a learning playlist that’s cached on a laptop hard drive,” he noted. “Even with a house without internet access, students would still have access to great learning content.”

Lower Long-Term Costs
Board members raised concerns digital learning would increase costs. But the report stated digital learning lowers long-term costs after the initial investment.

Vander Ark said a Kentucky high school could offer two AP courses at approximately $2,000 per student in 25-person classes. Digitally, that same high school could offer 32 AP courses at $700 a student.

“You have to stop buying books and start buying laptops,” Vander Ark said.


Internet Info:
“Digital Learning 2020,” Kentucky Department of Education and OpenEd: 

“Digital Learning Now,” Bluegrass Institute:

Image by Vancouver Film School.