This year’s math classes for many students in the Los Altos School District in California look radically different from those in the past. Powered in part by the Khan Academy — a non-profit that offers free educational resources such as online lessons and online assessments — the school district is expanding the “blended-learning” pilot it ran last year. The district’s fifth, sixth and seventh graders will now learn online for a significant portion of their in-class math periods at the path and pace that fit their individual needs. Meanwhile, teachers will coach the students to keep up with their math goals and help them apply the math concepts in small-group and class-wide projects.
Online learning isn’t just grabbing the imagination of educators in Silicon Valley. In the nation’s capital, D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson has expressed interest in bringing one of the more successful blended-learning school models,Rocketship Education, to the district. And in Florida, entering ninth graders will now have to complete at least one online course during high school in order to graduate.
For the first time in roughly a century — since the transition from the one-room schoolhouse to the classroom- and age-based school — a dramatic change in the basic way we structure our educational system is afoot.
Online learning is on the rise in the nation’s public schools. In the year 2000, roughly 45,000 K-12 students took an online course. In 2010, roughly 4 million did, according to Ambient Insight. And according to our projections in the book, Disrupting Class, (co-authored by Clayton M. Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson and myself) 50 percent of all high school courses will be taken online by 2019—the vast majority of them in blended-learning school environments with teachers, which will fundamentally move learning beyond the four walls and traditional arrangement of today’s all-too-familiar classroom.