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More states look to online learning for students

“We will give schools flexibility to explore alternative delivery methods, like online learning—so that even students in places with fewer resources have access to the very best instruction,” Bennett said during his State of Education speech in September.

“To make sure students are prepared for the technology they will face in college and the workforce, we will ask the general assembly to require every student to take online coursework before graduating from high school,” he said.

Students in Alabama are required to complete one “online/technology-enhanced course or experience” before graduating from high school. Students may enroll in an online course, or they may take courses in a blended format in which they receive classroom instruction and also participate in a virtual environment.

Essential to the state’s requirement are specific definitions, said Melinda Maddox, director of technology initiatives at the Alabama Department of Education.

The state defines an online experience as one in “a structured learning environment that utilizes technology consistently.” Some aspects of that environment include:

  • The use of intranet- and internet-based tools for resources as delivery methods for instruction, research, assessment, and communication;
  • Collaboration among students in content-related projects that integrate a variety of media;
  • Participants engage in collaborative online learning projects, discussions, and assessments that are goal-oriented, focused, project-based, and inquiry-oriented; and
  • An online course or learning management system is used to support global learning opportunities and facilitate the management of online experiences.

One purpose of the state’s online learning requirement is to “show the importance of students being prepared for college and career and lifelong learning, and much of that lifelong learning is going to be online,” Maddox said.

Many college courses or portions of college courses are online, and college-bound students are more prepared for such a transition if they already have experience in online learning, she said.

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