At its heart, is e-learning about improving educational opportunity or lowering instructional costs? Last week, Eduflack was talking with a school district in West Virginia. Following a growing wave, school districts in the Mountain State are prohibiting new textbook purchases in a tough budget environment. As an alternative, districts are being directed to use e-learning to replace textbook adoptions and ensure students have up-to-date learning materials.
But in a district that doesn’t have the technology to deliver optimum e-learning, is such digital instruction really a cost saver? Do we get around that $100 textbook, which is usually good for seven or nine years, by purchasing a low-cost laptop (which have to be replaced often due to loss, breakage, or general wear-and-tear) and then purchasing the curriculum and other instructional needs? Are there enough high-quality open educational resources (OER) to secure the free digital instructional materials to effectively replace a textbook and its supplementary materials? And does making the shift from paper to electronic actually boost student achievement and school effectiveness?
These are some of the questions that many are working to find answers to. Late last year, the Foundation for Excellence in Education released its Digital Learning Now! report as part of the coming out of its Digital Learning Council. The report offers up 10 reccs for high-quality digital learning. Written specifically for governors and state-level policy makers, the Foundation makes clear that real action on e-learning is going to happen in state capitals, and not necessarily in our nation’s capital.
Next week, it looks like the discussion is going to drill down even further. Some of the true leaders in e-learning will gather in Columbus, Ohio to talk about how digital learning can have a positive impact on education in Ohio and in the United States. Those in politics know that as goes Ohio (or maybe Missouri), so goes the nation. We also know that the Buckeye State now has a new, cost-conscious governor and a state budget in need of significant reductions.
So on Tuesday, leaders from Ohio’s business and education sectors, as well as the community at large, will hear from folks like Bob Wise, former West Virginia governor and current President of the Alliance for Excellent Education: Andy Ross, the GM of Global Services for Florida Virtual School; and Tom Vander Ark, partner at Vander Ark/Radcliff and e-learning connector extraordinaire. They’ll also hear the Ohio perspective from KnowledgeWorks CEO Chad Wick and Ohio Education Matters ED Andy Benson.
Why is this summit important? For one, it signals that a state like Ohio is serious about re-imagining the K-12 experience and exploring what a 21st century education really looks like. More importantly, though, it is looking to do so through a practical lens, where the hopes and aspirations of e-learning will be explored through the very-real view of the very-scary Ohio budget.
We also know that if the intellectual firepower speaking from the rostrum in Columbus on the 25th can’t figure out how to make this work in Ohio, no one can. Florida Virtual School is the gold standard when it comes to online learning in the K-12 environment. Vander Ark/Radcliff has led the primary drumbeat for successful digital learning leadership, particularly at the state level. And KnowledgeWorks has successfully led change in Ohio’s high schools through its Ohio High Schools Transformation Initiative and its NewTech Network. So it looks like the e-learning A team will be in the house, ready to “dot the i.”
Hopefully, we will see a real action plan coming out of this Learning Unbound summit. A plan that Ohio Gov. John Kasich can adopt as part of his leaner, ROI-focused budget and a plan on which other states can model their own e-learning opportunities. That isn’t too much to ask for, is it, A focused plan of action coming out of a positive day of rhetoric?