An Overview

Tom Clark and Michael K. Barbour

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This overview chapter summarizes the evolution and growth of online, blended, and distance learning approaches in elementary and secondary education around the world. It asks what North American and international educators can learn from each other about online, blended, and distance learning, and what key policy and practice issues in the field need to be addressed. In response to these questions, contributed chapters solicited from leading experts and practitioners are presented in this book, in sections on Research and Policy and Case Studies on Practice. A brief synopsis is presented in the overview for each contributed chapter.

Discussion Questions

1. In his 2012 MOOC chapter, Clark states that supervised correspondence study in the 1920s was the forerunner of K-12 online learning today. What are some key differences in the student experience in these two types of distance education?

2. Is it possible to have a "virtual school" or K-12 online learning program without instruction? Why or why not?

3. Based on a review of Barbour's 2014 history chapter and Clark's 2008 virtual schooling chapter (see Additional Resources), what are some factors that help explain why North America has taken the lead in development of K-12 online learning?

4. Based on a review of findings in the 2011 international survey for iNACOL and Barbour's 2014 history chapter, how do online and blended learning practices in other nations differ from practices in the U. S.?

5. The authors assert that the emergence of K–12 blended learning has brought online learning into the mainstream. Argue for or against this contention.

Additional Resources

Surveys of K-12 Online Learning Activity

United States
- Keeping Pace with K-12 Digital Learning

- State of the Nation: K-12 Online Learning in Canada

- Transnational Appraisal of Virtual School and College Provision (VISCED)
- International Association for K-12 Online Learning
----2006 & 2011 International Survey Reports

Bacsich, P., Pepler, G., Phillips, B., Öström, M., & Reynolds, S. (2012). VISCED handbook – Volume 1 – Virtual schools and colleges – Providing alternatives for successful learning. Roosbeek, Belgium: ATiT bvba.
Retrieved from http://www.virtualschoolsandcolleges.info/sites/default/files/VISCED_Handbook-Volume-1.pdf

Bacsich, P. Bristow, S. F., Camilleri, A., de Beeck, I. O., Pepler, G., & Phillips, B. (2012). VISCED handbook – Volume 2 – Virtual schools and colleges – Providing alternatives for successful learning. Roosbeek, Belgium:
ATiT bvba. Retrieved from

Barbour, M. K. (2014). A history of international K-12 online and blended instruction . In R. Ferdig & K. Kennedy (Eds)., Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning (pp. 25-50). Pittsburgh, PA: Entertainment Technology Center Press, Carnegie Mellon University. Retrieved from http://press.etc.cmu.edu/files/Handbook-Blended-Learning_Ferdig-Kennedy-etal_web.pdf

Barbour, M. K., Hasler Waters, L., & Hunt, J. (2011). Online and blended learning: Case studies from K-12 schools around the world. Vienna, VA: International Association for K-12 On-line Learning.

Barbour, M. K., & Kennedy, K. (2014). K–12 online learning: A worldwide perspective . In A. Hirumi (Ed.), Grounded designs for online and hybrid learning: Trends and technologies (pp. 53-74). Washington, DC: International Society for Technology in Education.

Barbour, M. K., & Wenmoth, D. (2013). Virtual learning as an impetus for educational change: Charting a way forward for learning in New Zealand. Christchurch, New Zealand: CORE Education. Retrieved from http://www.core-ed.org/sites/core-ed.org/files/VLN_Barbour_Wenmoth-v3a.pdf

Clark, T. (2008). Virtual schooling and basic education. In W. J. Bramble & S. Panda (Eds.), Economics of distance and online learning: Theory, research and practice (pp. 52-71). New York: Routledge.


Barbour, M. (2012a). State of the nation: Online learning in Canada (5th ed). Victoria, BC: Open School BC / Vienna, VA: International Association for K–12 Online Learning. Retrieved from http://www.openschool.bc.ca/pdfs/iNACOL_CanadaStudy_2012.pdf

Barbour, M. (2012b). The landscape of K–12 online learning. In M. G. Moore (Ed.), Handbook of distance education (pp. 574–593). New York: Routledge.

Barbour, M., Brown, R., Waters. L. H., Hoey, R., Hunt, J. L., Kennedy, K., Ounsworth, C., Powell, A., & Trimm, T. (2011). Online and blended learning: A survey of policy and practice around the world. Vienna, VA: International Association for K–12 Online Learning.

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Clark, T. (2001). Virtual schools: Issues and trends. Phoenix, AZ: WestEd. Retrieved from http://www.wested.org/online_pubs/virtualschools.pdf

Clark, T. (2012, September). History of K–12 online learning. In M. K. Barbour (Ed.), Virtual school MOOC: Introduction to K–12 online learning research (10 September–07 October 2012). Retrieved from

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Queen, B., & Lewis, L. (2011). Distance education courses for public elementary and secondary school students: 2009–10 (NCES 2012-009). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012008.pdf

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Staker, H., & Horn, M. B. (2012). Classifying K–12 blended learning. San Mateo, CA: Innosight Institute. Retrieved from http://www.christenseninstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Classifying-K-12-blended-learning.pdf

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Watson, J., & Kalmon, S. (2005). Keeping pace with K–12 online learning: A review of state-level policy and practice. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from www.kpk12.com/reports

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2011). Keeping pace with K–12 online learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from http://kpk12.com/reports

Watson, J., Murin, A., Vashaw, L., Gemin, B., & Rapp, C. (2012). Keeping pace with K–12 online & blended learning: An annual review of policy and practice. Evergreen, CO: Evergreen Education Group. Retrieved from http://kpk12.com/reports