Research & Commentary: Virtual Schools

Published August 23, 2010

The movement toward e-learning is strong in many sectors of the U.S. economy. In higher education, for example, 3.9 million students were enrolled in online courses in 2007, an increase of 70 percent (1.6 million students) since 2005, according to a Sloan Consortium report. E-learning takes place in 77 percent of the nation’s corporations.

Although online learning has proven successful and popular, public K-12 schools have been slow to take advantage of new technologies. They’re hurting students, teachers, and taxpayers alike.

Virtual schools give students access to higher-quality teachers, allow greater flexibility and individualization of learning, decrease costs, and improve student achievement. A U.S. Department of Education report on K-12 and postsecondary students who took all or some of their coursework online found they fared significantly better than those without such opportunities.

The following articles provide information about the value of virtual K-12 education programs.

How Online Learning Is Revolutionizing K-12 Education and Benefiting Students
Dan Lips of The Heritage Foundation provides an overview of empirical research and the policy implications of e-learning and virtual schools.

2005 Skills Gap Report–A Survey of the American Manufacturing Workforce
Phyllis Eisen, Jerry J. Jasinowski, and Richard Kleinert report the public schools are failing to give students the skills they need for future employment. Nearly 75 percent of employers saw this as a major problem.

Virtual Schools and 21st Century Skills
The North American Council for Online Learning makes the case for a market-driven virtual school system. The inflexibility of current schooling is a cause for great concern that can be addressed by virtual education.

Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies
This U.S. Department of Education study finds improved achievement among K-12 and postsecondary students who take one or more classes online.

A Synthesis of New Research on K-12 Online Learning
This meta-analysis of eight studies on online learning finds all point to great advantages created by the flexibility of virtual schooling.

Laboratories of Reform: Virtual High Schools and Innovation in Public Education
Education Sector COO William Tucker notes enrollment in K-12 online learning in 2007 was twice as great as the U.S. Department of Education had forecast four years before. He provides an extensive list of policy recommendations for those interested in implementing or increasing virtual education in their state or locality.

A Special Report on the Emerging Policy Debates in Virtual Education
This special report from Education Week on the virtual school movement and the policy debate surrounding it identifies impediments to the adoption of virtual learning.

For further information on this subject, visit our Web sites at School Reform News and The Heartland Institute.

Nothing in this message is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. If you have any questions about this issue or Heartland’s work on education reform issues, contact Marc Oestreich, legislative specialist in education, at 312/3774000 or [email protected].