Friday, April 15, 2011

Michael Horn on the K-12 Online Learning ?Bubble?

Though activity in the online learning sector is increasing and schools continually adopt the technology, outcomes and quality are wildly uneven, writes Horn.

Michael Horn, who calls himself “an unabashed promoter of online learning,” nevertheless wonders if the growing enthusiasm behind it could possibly be just irrational exuberance. In EducationNext, Horn wonders whether online K-12 education is undergoing a “bubble.”

As the interest in offering more online content is increasing in school districts across the nation, the online education industry is undergoing tremendous growth and upheaval. Horn warns against treating all this activity as a proxy for true education innovation. Even though the industry has seen a $255 million increase in financing this year, overall, the quality of the products remains wildly uneven.

Many companies are hiding behind buzzwords like “online learning,” or “blended learning,” while not offering much of value. At the same time, budgetary pressure experienced by nearly every school district this year drives what Horn calls “a race to the bottom,” forcing companies to churn out the cheapest product at the cost of educational outcomes. Often local school districts make purchasing decisions based on price alone, which means buying programs with questionable or misleading track records.

Horn points out that school districts with thin wallets make for poor consumers, unable to demand what they need from providers and forced to settle for substandard systems that don’t meet the districts’ needs.

Still, Horn says that despite all obstacles, he remains optimistic about the future of online education but says that schools need to be vigilant going forward, “because all too often quality—as measured in actual student results and a lasting and real business model—is not there.”

This article was originally posted at

1 comment:

  1. That’s awesome. Almost inspires me to get off my plain and get moving too.

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