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E-Learning Update: Addressing K-12 Challenges

There's a new policy brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education about how online learning can address three looming challenges in K-12 education: low high school graduation rates, an imminent lack of funding for schools, and a shortage of high-quality teachers to teach students, especially in the STEM subjects.

"In almost all aspects of American life, technology has been a catalyst in transforming the way we live and work," says the report. "Integrating a system of efficient technology applications into an effective school model can similarly transform education and enable communities to deal with looming global challenges."

Tapping into online learning, the brief says, can help address all three challenges in K-12 education.

Of course, there is widespread debate about whether online learning is actually more cost-effective than traditional face-to-face instruction, and many online education advocates say that it should not be pursued for cost savings alone. The brief recognizes this tension but contends that as online learning scales to meet the needs of all students, the "cost-effective gains soon become evident." After initial start-up and course-development costs have been spent, the results of those dollars can then be duplicated and spread for little to no cost, says the report, and the cost of one teacher can be spread over multiple learning sites, yielding even more savings for schools.

What do you think? Could online learning be the key to addressing some of U.S. education's biggest challenges? Or is Bob Wise, the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and author of the brief, expecting too much from online education?

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