The Direct Network

Are We Ready for All-Online K-12 Courses by 2025?

Posted by Carrie Watkins on Sep 11, 2015 7:00:00 AM
Topics: digital content, K-12

The growth of computers in education and device-based learning has steadily increased over the past few decades. Now, learning with tablets, laptops and smartphones is more ingrained than ever before. Will your school be ready for the K-12 classroom of the future?

Are We Ready for All-Online K-12 Courses by 2025?

Whether you drew shapes with the LOGO turtle or avoided dysentery on the Oregon Trail, these tools were typically separate from the traditional classroom learning. You played Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego in computer class or on the PC in the back of the classroom when you finished your worksheet.

With the growth of mobile devices in the hands of students, learning with tablets, laptops and smartphones is more ingrained in the classroom than ever before. Partially because these devices are already a part of students’ everyday lives, and partially because they will encounter a professional world where the line between work and technology is nonexistent.

A recent survey released by McGraw-Hill Education found that parents agree mobile devices and personalized content need to be the norm across K-12 schools, and not just relegated to computer class. In the survey, 88 percent of respondents expect all K-12 classrooms to be plugged in by 2025. In ten years, the expectation is a fully online, or at least technologically supported classroom experience for all students. Also, 78 percent of parents of college students and 73 percent of K-12 parents believe today’s classrooms should focus on adaptive learning rather than “old school” textbooks.

While many schools have embraced mobile learning and device strategies in the classroom, is it realistic to expect all classrooms have some device-supported element for student learning in the next 10 years?

First, let’s take a look at where we’ve been.

Here's where we were in 2005:

  • Facebook was launched in 2004, but became in 2005. Unless you were a college student, you didn’t have access for another year. But MySpace was hopping.
  • YouTube was launched. So begins the age of cat videos.
  • Big screen adaptations of reading list favorites were box office winners, including Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and new versions of The War of the Worlds and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  • Google purchased Android, Inc. to begin to develop a mobile operating system, but did not launch its first product until 2007. The first product running Android, the HTC Dream, wasn’t released until 2008.
  • The iPhone and the first Kindle were still two years away.
  • The Apple App Store was three years away.
  • Free Wifi at Starbucks was three years away.
  • The iPad was five years away.
  • The first Chromebooks available for sale were six years away.

Ten years ago, we had phones that we used for calling people (and occasionally playing Snake), laptops with CD drives and we carried around 8MB thumb drives. Information was still a one-way street with consumers far outnumbering creators. But a mix of mobile technology, ubiquitous internet access and a plethora of tools have created a perfect storm for looking at education a different way.

Here's where we are now:

According to the IDC, a market research firm, Apple shipped about 4.2 million devices for schools, including desktops, laptops and tablets in 2014. Chromebooks are not far behind with 3.9 million for 2014. Microsoft led the group with 4.9 million devices specifically for schools.

Judging by the fact it’s taken the US less than a decade to go from computers as ancillary to education to entrenched in the classroom, it seems realistic that device-supported classrooms will be the status quo by 2025. But adding devices to the classroom is not an automatic recipe for learning. Students and teachers alike have years of experience using mobile technology for entertainment and organization. Using these devices for learning often requires a slightly different skill set.

The changing shape of learning methods

Many content providers understand the importance of incorporating these new methods, and are creating material that takes advantage of the devices already in students’ hands. The shift from static learning material to dynamic multimedia that fits the students’ needs and the classroom objectives can be seen in classrooms across the country.

Here are a few examples of learning materials that are tied more closely to student learning or the objectives of the course:

  • The VitalSource® ebook platform not only has accessibility features that allow students to interact with the material the way they need, but it was also designed for academic content. Students can export notes so they can be used outside of the book, to create flashcards, for example, or copy a section to use in a paper. Students and faculty can share notes within the book, collaborating over thoughts and ideas asynchronously and effectively. In terms of accessibility, students can use the text-to-speech feature to listen to the words as they read them as well as change the display to better fit their needs.
  • Sometimes one or two textbooks are not enough to adequately cover the content of a course. Depending on the teacher and the students, the material in a textbook created by a third party may not touch on all the course’s learning objectives. For more personalized content, services such as eText Builder allow faculty to select copyright cleared material from recognized academic journals and publishers as well as open repositories, and compile learning material that fits exactly what will be covered in that class.
  • Publishers recognized years ago that learning materials needed to be more adaptable. With content changing so quickly (think of all the geography materials now with the wrong name of the tallest mountain in the United States), online classrooms and portals provided a way for content to stay current, and for teachers to pick and choose the pieces that best fit their classroom needs. Some platforms, including McGraw Hill’s Connect, provides highlights and quiz questions that change based on how the student progresses with the material.

With all the advancements in the past ten years, the trend toward connected classrooms won’t be slowing any time soon. Not only are the devices an integral part of students’ and teachers’ lives, but also the tools available to help students learn at their own pace continues to advance as well. To learn more about the types of content available to our partner schools and how to incorporate them into your classroom, please contact your account manager.

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About Carrie Watkins

Carrie is a former digital consultant for MBS Direct, who specialized in traveling around the country to learn about new products and services MBS Direct can provide to partner schools and bringing those ideas back into the office to work on with the digital solutions team.

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