Friday, November 27, 2009

Cyber Monday!

ABCTE is running a Cyber Monday promotion. Always great to see online programs fully leveraging the web to build their business.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Getting the blog out

Doing a little push with Technorati on the blog to boost our presence - ZRQ569JVMACQ

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cyber Monday for Teachers

The great team we have at ABCTE continues to push the digital envelope when it comes to marketing. Since they are an online teacher training program, they are launching a Cyber Monday deal to provide a $150 discount on the full program price. Since this is a widely searched term, it once again increases traffic and sales at a time when sales are normally slow.

ABCTE Cyber Monday for teachers - just another great way to get the word out about a great program

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tipping Point for Digital Texts - Teacher Approval

At the VSS2009 conference this week someone asked Pearson if they, as a publisher, were really on board with the digital revolution in learning. Of course he answered yes - but also clearly stated that text book approvals at the state level happen every six years basically creating a huge barrier for innovation in the text book arena. At least Texas has begun the process of opening the door to digital textbooks.

So in order for innovation in digital texts to happen, text book approval has to decentralize. When I first started writing this, I was going to advocate for moving it to the district. But even that doesn't make sense as rapidly as technology is changing in education.

We will have true innovation when the teacher decides what text to use. We will truly serve each student when the teacher can pick chapters, or even pages, from the texts they want in order to meet the standards for that particular subject. Then student learning can really be customized. So if teachers know what has to be taught from solid state standards and have access to great digital content, they can put together some amazing lesson plans each year.

Instead, they are stuck with a text book that was approved 5 years ago by a state board that has no idea what is going on each classroom.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The future of online learning

Interesting session yesterday on the future of online learning. I have posted the notes I took below. The main takeaway is that explosive growth could cause problems for virtual schools if poor schools stay open. The other take away is the commoditization of virtual content as a result of the incredible growth. Schools, content providers, LMS and others are all going to have to find new ways to innovate to survive. Very exciting time to be in virtual education.

See the report here:
Online Learning – issues and opportunitiesChallenges:
• Movement of online courses to district level – groundswell of districts offering their own programs in blended learning model – the challenge is finding data from those programs
• Past the novelty phase – now a real player and much higher expectation for accountability and will be forced to compare to brick and mortar students
• Getting people to understand that there really are a lot of different programs and the laws need to appreciate those differences
• Quality - how to measure, who will measure, especially with multiple delivery models• Districts is where most education reforms have to move to scale – but there are so many competing priorities that it will make it incredibly difficult
• Continual struggle with sustainability in light of drastic budget cuts at the state/district level
• Missouri virtual school lost all funding - - can this spread and is this a highlight of sustainability issues?
• Too much choice with low quality programs could be problematic delivering low cost in a tight market – will overall hurt online learning and students

• No K-8 supplemental and it is time and we will see this expand in the upcoming year
• More interest for supplement programs at the district level
• Florida funding creates a more stable model that more states need to look at to create sustainability
• FTE funding dollars can create sustainability
• Small rural school districts can sustain through online learning to be competitive – and without it could fail
• Giving students a choice - especially over dropping out
• ARRA – influencing education and creating choice and could provide a moveHow do we counter quality issues?
• Consumer awareness and increased data is key
• Need to say to consumers; “here is what you need to see in order to make the buy decision”
• Low cost provider may be a solution – but districts, parents, teachers all need to know what they are buying
• We don’t have enough research to say what a quality online experience actually is – we need a lot more research to test the standards
• Need longitudinal data on how students are succeeding all through school
• The data is usually 3-4 years old so it is not really applicable to the situation we have now since online learning is accelerating

Why are we holding virutals to a higher level of scrutiny than other delivery models?
• Because it is so different - - price is driving a commoditization of virtual but districts are getting much smarter, much faster and reviewing more for quality and leaving price last
• School Districts and states learning that they have to very clearly define what they want due to the number of options
• Course review processes are getting much more rigorous looking for teaching, interactivity, content and process in order to increase quality – Texas is helping define
• Not just evaluating online courses – we are evaluating a cultural shift - have to involve students since they are the digital natives

Are publishers moving with us?
• Moving from publisher to a solution provider - every dollar invested is how to get content to students through education as a service
• Pearson is looking at the world in an entirely different way
• Students may want it as a text book and virtually
• Textbook processes at the state usually keep a text for 6 years and cannot change and that has to change

What is the online learning experience?
• Constantly changing because all the ways people are using it and the report updates the definitions continuously – wont ever have a final definition
• “online learning” actually hurts us – it is using the internet to deliver instruction that carries over to all learning to individualize instruction – need to stop sticking ourselves in that box

Any progress on the seat time requirements that are hurting online schools?
• Wyoming was able to go to milestones and away from seat hours
• Michigan is fighting districts and budgets and having difficulty in this area
• Seat time and achievement – will move more towards mastery and further away from time as the main factor

Key emerging trends for online learning?
• We haven’t addressed the mobile device and we know it is what students want – might not be 2010 but in 18 months we will see mobile devices
• We will continue to see the conversation changing from what is it to how we manage it
• We will see integration into special education in much greater numbers
• We will see more states require online learning experience - MI, AL already have this
• Several different waves are coming – growth in elementary, blended learning – adults needing a high school diploma are a huge audience coming to virtual schools
• Within corporate training, we will see more cohort based collaborative learning in the corporate world
• More multiple pathways to learning – more ability to just in time resources to support the learning that needs to happen for students
• All states will finally have online learning and the discussion will dramatically change

This is the wave, the wave is coming – you either ride the wave or wipe out!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The future of online learning

Great panel discussion on the Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning report.

I kept up with the discussion on the wikispace dedicated to the event which was a good discussion. A lot of information on virtual schools.

Web 2.0 in the Classroom

Here at the iNACOL Virtual Schools Symposium and it is THE highest energy education conference I have ever been to. These are the people that will transform education and it shows. Entrepreneurs working closely with outstanding educators with an incredible focus on students.

Yesterday I attended a Web 2.0 session and it was pretty cool. The number of tools available to teachers today is just outstanding. He demonstrated the following which can really bring any class to life: - great way to animate - text to video so cool
The Week in Rap - amazing current events
Moviestorm - 3D video
Wikispaces - great way for students to collaborate
LearnCentral - amazing teaching community

These are great ways to create improved learning – not just using technology for technology sake. And so very cool - -

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online Education Expansion

Great new online education statisitcs from iNACOL just updated in time for the conference.

K-12 Online Learning and Virtual Schools Expanding Options

  • K-12 online learning is a new field consisting of an estimated
    $300 million market, which is growing at an estimated annual
    pace of 30% annually.
  • 45 of the 50 states, plus Washington D.C., have a state virtual
    school or online initiative, full-time online schools, or both
  • 24 states, as well as Washington, DC, have statewide full-time
    online schools.
  • Many virtual schools show annual growth rates between 20 and
  • 35 states have state virtual schools or state-led online programs.
  • As of January 2007, there were 173 virtual charter schools
    serving 92,235 students in 18 states.
  • 57% of public secondary schools in the U.S. provide access to
    students for online learning.
  • 72% of school districts with distance education programs
    planned to expand online offerings in the coming year.
  • 14.2 million computers were available for classroom use in the
    nation’s schools as of the 2005-2006 school year. That works out
    to one computer for every four students.

Scholarity is looking forward to being down in Austin and getting more great information on the impact of virtual classes!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Education Technology Fail

The “coolest education map ever” award has to go to the Leaders and Laggards report on education innovation from AEI, Center for American Progress and the Institute for a Competitive Workforce. Besides being very slick, it presents some interesting information on education innovation. It will be really cool to see if the billions spent actually move any of the state grades on innovation.

We care about technology so it is good to some of the states with strong technology in use scoring high. They used four indicators to rate states on technology and assigned a grade. The first was students per high speed Internet connected computer with 3 being the highest grade – so still not all that great. The second was an established virtual school (oh yeah!). The third was computer based assessment for students and the final indicator was requiring teachers to demonstrate technology competence (not mastery - let's just get some basic competence to start).

Only one technology fail which was Nevada. Sad as the requirements to pass were really low. A lot of states receiving a D including Washington and California - so the tech capitals of the US can’t put tech in their schools. Really sad. Other D states include Utah, Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Tennessee, Indiana, Alabama, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware and DC.

Hopefully this is a wake up call to these states and with all the money floating around they can at least get to average. Wow – striving for a C – that just doesn’t feel right.

Note: ABCTE just received a grant to create a course for using technology in the classroom! So give them a call to boost your tech grade.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Distance Learning Week

Apparently it is National Distance Learning Week! A great way to recognize the millions of students in the US who are studying online. Also kind of a nice way to build the excitement for the other online learning group, iNACOL, as they kick off their annual meeting.

Scholarity is looking forward to finding that forward thinking organization looking for a truly adaptive platform for their amazing content. Let us know if you would like a demo while you are at iNACOL.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Always love the acronyms in education. But we are pretty excited to be heading down to San Antonio for the International Association for K12 Online Learning's Virtual School Symposium. Since Scholarity has developed state of the art education software to deliver a tutor like experience for students, we will be working to demonstrate this product to some of the great content providers at the conference. If you are interested, please let us know by going through the Scholarity site.

There is some great content and some great content management and even some great delivery. Combine those with dynamic insight technology and you could rule the web.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Drupal vs Joomla a cage match

One of the toughest things to stay on top of right now is our web strategy because everything changes so fast. What worked a year ago no longer works now. Creating websites in-house made sense but now it is so cheap that doing it with contractors seems to make more sense. Right now you can have a group design and launch a new website cheaper and faster than you coudl do it on your own and you can then maintain it in-house with the great tools that exist today.

Right now we have a mini-test going on to see two things;
  • Is Joomla or Drupal better for us as an organization
  • Does having a micro-site with a real purpose help traffic to our original site
So is our core site for teacher certification and we just launched to help charter school teachers and charter school leaders with professional development, teaching job searches and job postings as well as a forum for charter teachers.

We are deploying the full social media push as well as everything we have learned on SEO on this site as well as revamping our core site. Very excited to track the data to see how this will impact our future online strategy.