8 States Going All In On Online Learning

Today, there are more than 2 million students enrolled in distance education courses at the K-12 level and more than 6 million taking courses at the college level. That’s a significant portion of America’s students, and some education experts estimate that by the next decade nearly every student will take an online course at some point in their education. Those statistics are both the result of and the driving force behind many states’ push to expand and grow online education, both for their K-12 students and in their public universities and colleges. While online education is growing in popularity in virtually every part of the United States, some state governments and education departments are pushing it harder than others. Here, we highlight just a few of the states that are working to make online education accessible, varied, and in some cases, a fundamental part of a well-rounded education.

  1. California:

    California’s university system, one of the largest in the U.S., is embracing online education wholeheartedly. In early 2012, the state announced plans to create a centralized learning hub for all universities in the state system, creating a top-tier virtual campus for students to use. The program will be called Cal State Online, and will offer access to courses from 23 schools around the state. System officials hope that the online courses will help to meet student demand for higher education, while still working within the state’s tight budget constraints. Of course, online learning isn’t just a big issue at the university level. California is also working to incorporate online learning experiences into its K-12 schools. Statewide, there are tens of thousands of young learners enrolled in online courses, a number that will only grow as the state looks for ways to cut costs without reducing educational quality.

  2. Florida:

    In Florida, students have a chance to learn online at nearly all grade levels, from kindergarten to graduate school. According to research from a 2011 study by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, Florida is among the top states in the nation for online education, as it offers an enormous variety of online programs and courses to students at all levels. Additionally, nearly all of Florida’s large colleges and universities offer online courses and some are even free, like those soon to be launched via Coursera through a partnership with the University of Florida. Part of the driving force behind the expansive online offerings in the state is undoubtedly the requirement that high school students take at least one online course before graduating.

  3. Minnesota:

    Minnesota is another state that ranked among the best of the best, according to data from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning, and there’s definitely a reason. Minnesota offers an amazing number of college courses online through its MinnesotaOnline portal, which connects 31 member institutions from around the state. The Minnesota Department of Education is also working to ensure that K-12 students have access to online ed, supplying funding to online courses the same as if students were taking them in a physical classroom. According to the Minnesota K-12 Online Learning Alliance, there are 20 school districts in Minnesota that offer online learning programs and more than 30% of schools statewide offer some courses online.

  4. Idaho:

    Lauded for its full-time and supplemental online course offerings, Idaho is a state that is getting very serious about engaging students through online education. In fact, in order to graduate from high school, students in the state’s education system must take at least two credits’ worth of courses online, making Idaho the first state to mandate taking more than a single online course for graduation. State school superintendent Tom Luna, an online grad himself, is a huge proponent of online education and it has been his dedication to online learning, though controversial, that has not only helped to expand online offerings for Idaho’s students but has also ensured that each has access to a laptop.

  5. Ohio:

    More than 30,000 students in Ohio attend school entirely online or in blended programs, making it a national leader in terms of sheer numbers of students enrolled in online ed. Ohio now has 12 times the number of online students it did a decade ago when the first virtual schools opened, and experts expect that number to rise even further as the state expands its online offerings. Most online students in the state attend one of the seven state-sponsored charter schools, which are given the same amount of funding as traditional schools from the state. The popularity of the schools could grow in coming years as a new bill that encourages blended education, combining online and offline schoolwork, just passed through the Ohio legislature.

  6. Michigan:

    Michigan has long had a commitment to online ed. In 2006, it was the first state to require students to take a minimum of one credit of online coursework to graduate. Part of the drive to pursue online education in Michigan was undoubtedly its troubled education system. With some of the worst-performing schools in the nation, online education has been a key tool for turning things around. This fall, students at 15 Detroit schools are being allowed to take courses through Michigan Virtual University. Classes blend online and in-class learning and the program, if successful, will expand to other struggling schools in the future. Michigan’s universities are also experimenting with online education. The University of Michigan will soon be joining scores of other top-tier schools in providing free course content and learning resources through the online site Coursera.

  7. Wisconsin:

    Wisconsin is another state that has been held up as a model for online ed, as it offers a wide range of courses and online resources for students throughout their school career. In recent years, the state launched the Department of Public Instruction, which cooperates with public and virtual schools to provide digital learning opportunities to students across the state. Through DPI, students can take more than 200 middle and high school courses and administrators plan to expand blended course offerings in the near future. Online learning options are also rich at the higher ed level through the University of Wisconsin System’s eCampus portal. Students can easily find courses and even entire degree programs that are offered online and in blended settings.

  8. Arizona:

    Arizona has more K-12 students enrolled in full-time online schools than any other state in the U.S., according to an annual report by the Evergreen Education Group. Students at those schools can enjoy many of the same benefits as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, and online schools are funded at nearly the same level as traditional schools. While Arizona is a leader in online education, not every legislator is on the same page. In May of 2012, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would make major changes to the state’s online education system, helping to expand it and to provide greater oversight through student assessments. Even with setbacks, the online education system in Arizona will undoubtedly expand, especially in the higher education sector, as state schools like ASU begin offering more and more courses and degree programs online.