Bernhard Schroeder Contributor
Online learning, once reserved for higher education, is now a growing trend among K-12 students nationwide. Over 2.7 million students across the United States are taking part in digital learning, and many students in grades K-12 are getting a high-quality education online through a full-time online public school. What students are going to public school online and why? The students are varied but definitely want to learn at their own pace, some may have special needs and others may not be interested in traditional learning but in more practical career-based learning. Others might be in school districts that are struggling for a variety of reasons. In addition, quite a few educators, parents and investors simply believe that the current education model is outdated and sometimes broken.
Online learning at K-12 level has grown from an experiment to a movement. To improve the educational outcomes, many school districts and states in the USA are turning to online learning. Over 30 states now offer some form of online learning for K-12 students. Following the developments in the United States, the availability and popularity of online education in Europe and Asia are also on the rise. In Asia, online learning is already reaching millions of students. Several countries are putting their entire K-12 curriculum online.
K-12 online public schools are attempting to offer a personalized, high-quality education with instruction from state-certified teachers to help students reach their potential. These online schools adhere to the same state testing, school accountability, and attendance policies as traditional brick-and-mortar schools. Students may benefit from a personalized curriculum, and graduates receive a high school diploma. Each school is offering multiple opportunities to connect through online clubs, local school activities, and more.
Types of online education programs being implemented in the USA are state virtual schools, charter schools, multi-district programs, single district programs, programs run by universities, blended programs, private schools, and consortium based program. Here are the descriptions of what these of K-12 online schools offer:
Virtual Academies: These are statewide, online public schools available in dozens of states offering K-12 courses via instruction from state-certified teachers.
Insight Schools: Insight Schools specialize in helping students overcome obstacles to success in school. Support programs, resources, and experienced teachers and counselors engage and empower students.
Blended Schools: Blended schools, offered in select states, are a little different from attending public school at home. A blended school has an onsite location that students attend a few days a week. The number of in-person learning days vary by blended school. The schools use the K-12 program and curriculum. These full-time public schools combine online education with a traditional setting.
Destination Career Academies: Destination Career Academies and Destination Career Programs give students an education that prepares them to be career-ready and college-ready. Rich interactive courses and extracurricular experiences provide relevant opportunities for students to demonstrate their understanding of real-world applications. Students also prepare for industry-recognized certification exams in high-demand fields such as Information Technology, Health Sciences, and more.
District-Run Programs: These are online charter schools within an education district that offer full-time public school at home options. Students study at home, but may be eligible to participate in local district-sponsored sports and extracurricular activities.
According to recent reports, the U.S. education market is valued at around $1.3 trillion in 2017 and it is expected to reach approximately $2 trillion by 2026. That has drawn the interest of venture capitalists. Now there’s a large and growing edtech investment industry. Owl Ventures recently raised its third fund to the tune of $315 million. Reach Capital, New Markets Venture Partners, Rethink Education, and many more are in the mix.
Entrepreneurs are putting more productive tools in teachers’ hands, delivering more engaging instruction to students and supporting system redesign around new education models. These same startups are also fueling the growth of the online K-12 education marketplace. As these new online schools grow, they will need next generation technologies like course platforms, interactive video content, security, data analytics, AR and VR, communication tools, mobile applications, virtual whiteboards and so on. This provides tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurs interested in this rapidly growing marketplace.