Interested in Online Learning?

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Where Online Learning Has Been—and Where it's Going

To help you learn more about online schooling, we have compiled a collection of research and white papers from education and government organizations.

Reports and White Papers on Online Learning and Virtual Schools
  • K-12 Online Learning: A Survey of U.S. School District Administrators
    The Sloan Consortium, 2007

    This study explores the nature of online learning in K-12 schools based on a national survey of American school district chief administrators during the 2005-2006 academic year.

    Download the PDF.

  • Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States
    The Sloan Consortium, 2006

    This report is based on data collected for the fourth annual national report on the state of online education in U.S. higher education. The survey found that nearly 3.2 million higher education students are taking courses online. It also found that a larger percentage (62 percent) of chief academic officers agree that learning outcomes in online education are now as good as, or superior, to face-to-face instruction, while 57 percent say it is critical to their institution's long-term strategy.

    Download the PDF.

  • A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning
    John F. Watson, Evergreen Consulting Associates on behalf of North American Council of Online Learning (NACOL), April 2007

    This document provides a comprehensive overview of online learning by examining the basics—teaching and learning, evaluating academic success, professional development, technology, and other topics. This report serves as a tool for parents seeking the best education opportunities for their children and for educators and policymakers who must understand the essential elements of online learning in order to make informed decisions about implementing such programs.

    Download the PDF.

  • Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning: A Review of State-Level Policy and Practice
    Updated 2008 report
  • Promising Practices in Online Learning: A Series of National Reports
    2009, iNACOL
  • iNACOL's Resources: a Complete List of Studies

  • Virtual Schools and 21st Century Skills
    North American Council for Online Learning and Partnership for 21st Century Skills, November 2006

    Online learning through virtual schools is one of the most important advancements in attempting to rethink the effectiveness of education in the United States. The virtual school provides access to online, collaborative and self-paced learning environments – settings that can facilitate 21st Century skills. Today's students must be able to combine these skills with the effective use of technology to succeed in current and future jobs.

    Download the PDF.

  • 20/20 Costs and Funding of Virtual Schools:
    An examination of the costs to start, operate, and grow virtual schools and a discussion of funding options for states interested in supporting virtual school programs.
    Augenblick, Palaich, & Associates on behalf of the BellSouth Foundation, October 2006

    Download the PDF.

  • Leaders and Laggards: A State-by-State Report Card on Educational Effectiveness
    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 2007

    This report gave high marks for states that "have moved aggressively to promote comprehensive charter school legislation and enable virtual schooling, thus helping establish the infrastructure for 21st century educational reinvention," and praised virtual schools for providing students, parents and schools with choice and flexibility.

    Download the PDF.

  • What Are Public Virtual Schools: A Fact Sheet for Policymakers on Public Virtual Schools using K¹²
    K12 Inc.

    This document gives policymakers, school district officials, and others information about public virtual schools that use the K¹² curriculum and school services, including a breakdown of the many products and services K¹² provides to these innovative schools.

    See fact sheet here.

  • A Primer on Virtual Charter Schools: Mapping the Electronic Frontier
    National Association of Charter School Authorizers, August 2006

    No doubt the Internet has had a profound effect on our lives and work, our politics and commerce—and increasingly on our schools. Virtual schools have arrived—and, with them, a host of challenges to our notions about schooling. Will the new educational landscape be one without class periods, grade levels, six-hour school days and 180-day school years? Will it discard school buildings, classrooms and district boundaries—or upgrade them somehow to 'version 2.0'?

    Download the PDF.

  • Authorizing Virtual Charter Schools: Rules of the Road on the Digital Highway
    National Association of Charter School Authorizers, September 2006

    The rise in the number of virtual charter schools has resulted in more and more authorizers being confronted with the possibility of taking their work to cyberspace. Across the country these authorizers are grappling with the same question: how do you approve, evaluate, and oversee virtual charter schools effectively?

    Download the PDF.

  • WHITE PAPER: How Can Virtual Schools Be a Vibrant Part of Meeting The Choice Provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act?
    Bryan C. Hassel, Michelle Godard Terrell, Public Impact

    Virtual schools are an acceptable, legal option for districts and states seeking to increase their capacity to meet the choice requirements of NCLB. Research demonstrates that they can offer high-quality instruction to K-12 learners regardless of location, family income, background, or learning differences.

    Download the PDF.

  • The Virtual Revolution: Understanding Online Schools
    Education Next, Spring 2006

    Virtual schools appeal to a wide array of students, attracting children from both ends of the achievement spectrum. Self-paced study allows struggling students to catch up without a classroom full of distractions, and enables advanced students to accelerate their work according to their own abilities.

    Download the PDF.

  • Evaluating Online Learning: Challenges and Strategies for Success
    U. S. Department of Education, July 2008

    This publication features seven evaluations of online learning programs or resources. The evaluations represent variety both in method of evaluation and in the program or resource that was examined.

  • How Cognitive Science Helps Teachers: Educators say research findings are not widely understood.
    July 2007

    Are our children overscheduled? Should preschool children be taught to read? When does academic challenge become academic pressure? Cognitive science is beginning to answer such questions, but the findings don't always make it into the classroom. (Reprinted with permission from CQ Press, How Cognitive Science Helps Teachers: Educators say research findings are not widely understood, CQ Researcher)

    Download the PDF.

  • Students Under Stress: Do Schools Assign Too Much Homework?
    July 2007

    The average homework load for first- through third-graders has doubled over the past two decades, even though research shows homework doesn't benefit such young children. Indeed, some schools require preschoolers to tackle academic subjects like reading and writing. In response, a parents' movement has arisen—mainly in middle- and upper-income suburbs— protesting excessive homework and other forms of academic pressure, including so-called high-stakes testing. (Reprinted with permission from CQ Press, Students Under Stress: Do Schools Assign Too Much Homework?, CQ Researcher)

    Download the PDF.

  • Beyond the Basics: Achieving a Liberal Education for All Children
    Chapter from Virtual Education and the Liberal Arts by K¹² leaders John Holdren, senior vice president of content and curriculum, and Bror Saxberg, chief learning officer, July 2007

    Recent months have brought yet another challenge to liberal learning, as well-meaning business leaders and policy makers, rightly concerned about American competitiveness, are pushing "STEM" (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) training. Yet America's true competitive edge over the long haul is not its technical prowess, but its creativity, its imagination, its inventiveness. And those attributes are best inculcated not by skill-drill but through liberal arts and sciences, liberally defined.

    This volume argues that case. It emerges from a Thomas B. Fordham Foundation-sponsored conference in December 2006 (underwritten by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Louis Calder Foundation). It develops the rationale for liberal education in the primary and secondary grades, explores what policymakers and educators at all levels can to do sustain liberal learning, and sketches an unlovely future if we fail.

  • Virtual Schools Across America: Trends in K-12 online Education
    The Peak Group, 2002

    Responding to the need for alternative education, virtual schools are multiplying rapidly across the nation.

  • Any Time, Any Place, Any Path, Any Pace: Taking the Lead on e-Learning Policy
    National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)

    The NASBE Study Group on e-Learning concludes that e-learning will improve American education in valuable ways and should be universally implemented as soon as possible.

    Download the PDF.

  • NEA's Guide to Teaching Online Courses
    National Education Association, 2006

    The ubiquity of computers in schools... has opened the door to a new set of educational possibilities: online courses now make it possible for students in even the most remote locations to have access to classes their home schools were previously unable to provide. Online education can fundamentally change relationship that students, teachers, parents, and the community have with their educational institutions and with one another. For policymakers, those transformations pose some difficult choices. If they ignore online education, they turn their back on their responsibility to extend learning opportunities.