Visiting New Hampshire was on the agenda this week--spending some time with the good folks at the Advancing Online Learning, Virtual High School Conference. From the VHS president and CEO, Liz Pape, to the instructors and administrators attending the conference, the conversation could not have been more engaging. Some fascinating findings from recent research were presented. For example, today 30 states have state-led online learning programs and 42 states have significant supplemental online programs or full-time programs. In addition, more than half of all school districts offer online coursework, which is a 30% increase from 2004.
What was most encouraging, however, is that the conversation here wasn't about basking in glow of the expansion of online options. More dialogue was happening about how these options are blended with on-ground education and how the quest for even higher-quality could be continued. From the recently released North American Council for Online Learning's national course and teaching standards (a GREAT document by the way) to the National Education Associations course and teaching standards, they showcased the benchmarks and presented the challenge--innovate with online education, but don't forget the quest for quality in the process.
Above all, my favorite characteristic of the educator conversations at this event surrounded their commitment to leveraging online education in the high school space to expand our ability to help students develop 21st-century skills. These folks were all about advocating new techniques to help inspire the learning of everything from critical thinking to decision making to interpersonal skills to information literacy to media savvy. I just loved it! Because thinking about how we leverage new tools and techniques--in conjunction with the tried and true--to reach for higher learning is always more compelling than the tired "get on board or be left behind" technology rhetoric we hear far too often.