The Landscape of K–12 Online Learning

Authored by: Michael K. Barbour

Handbook of Distance Education

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415897648
eBook ISBN: 9780203803738
Adobe ISBN: 9781136635571

10.4324/9780203803738.ch36

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Abstract

Distance education at the K–12 or primary and secondary level has a history that is almost as long as distance education within higher education (see Chapter 35 in this volume for a fuller history). K–12 online learning is a more recent phenomenon. In the United States the first K–12 online learning program was developed by the private school Laurel Springs School's online program around 1991, followed in 1994 by the Utah Electronic High School and the first cyber charter school, Choice 2000 in California (Clark, 2003; Darrow, 2010). The first entirely online schools were the Virtual High School Global Consortium (VHS) and the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), both created in 1997 (Friend & Johnston, 2005; Pape, Adams, & Ribeiro, 2005). Three years later Clark (2000) reported statewide virtual schools in Florida, New Mexico, and Utah, and three more in the planning stages (i.e., Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan). The following year Clark (2001) indicated there were at least 14 states with existing or planned virtual schools. The growth in students participating in K–12 online learning increased in a similar fashion. Clark (2001) estimated that there were approximately 40,000 and 50,000 students—representing less than 0.001% of the K–12 student population—enrolled in one or more K–12 online learning courses during the 2000–2001 school year. Ten years later Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, and Rapp (2011) reported K–12 online learning activity in almost all 50 states, while Ambient Insights (2011) indicated that there were approximately 4 million students—representing approximately 6% of the K–12 student population—enrolled in K–12 online learning courses during the 2010–11 school year.

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