In 2011, I had the privilege to co-author an iNACOL Report, Online and Blended Learning: A Survey of Policy and Practice from K-12 Schools around the World. At that time, while Higher Education in general had made great strides in mainstreaming online and blended education, many countries around the world had not yet embraced the concept of online education as an approved or authentic model of high school or elementary education for all students. At that time, the data trends from the countries surveyed indicated that Blended and Online Learning choices were primarily available to students living in urban areas from developed countries, that specialized training for online teachers was not required but was available in some measure, that Blended Learning opportunities were growing at a more rapid rate than Online Education which was only marginally accessed internationally in 2011, and that there was still much to be decided when it came to who had responsibility and accountability at the local or national levels for many governments internationally in regards to Online Learning policies and practices.
Today, the picture is very different. International K-12 Online Learning is growing at a rapid rate, and the reasons appear to be more about accessing world class opportunities and pathways to higher education, than about the K-12 online education itself. It is not uncommon for students at the high school level in many countries to not only be bilingual, but to be multilingual, to be enrolled in not only one education system, but to be taking coursework that leads to a credential in another country, and to be preparing for college applications in multiple countries across the globe. Many students take online dual degree programs, accelerated college courses during high school, and international dual diploma programs. Indeed, we have international students who take US Pathways or UK Pathways programs as an example, while sitting for highly competitive national exams in their home countries. There are also those who are sitting for Industry credentials, certifications and other career focused exams that previously were for working adults or college graduates only.
In truth, the students in International Online Education today could be described as Super Students, a highly focused, accomplished, group of teenagers. They are the new generation of global students who will be the best prepared yet to lead the workforce of tomorrow. They will have the skillset to be able to interact in online environments and meetings; to create work and share knowledge, product, and ideas across continents; to meet deadlines and take meetings by scheduling themselves into webinars across internationals time zones; and to communicate effectively both online and in person using multiple languages. They will also be the role models for leading a generation of new corporate environments, since they themselves as online learners will already have demonstrated finely tuned soft skills, developed a mindset of flexibility, global awareness, self-motivation, and drive to succeed in a cooperative manner with strangers they may never actually meet in person. They have resumes most of us would never have imagined at their age, volunteer hours that would embarrass us every time we hear ourselves say we don’t have time for an activity, and many even have internships or other work experiences. Yes, they look like ordinary kids, but they are actually highly motivated, hardworking young people setting the groundwork for a phenomenal future.
I look forward to sharing more on this topic with you in the coming weeks.