University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Digital Learning- Is it working for students?

In The View from the OEP on November 1, 2017 at 12:31 pm


Many Arkansas students are participating in digital learning and here at OEP we are interested if they are benefiting- aren’t you?

Digital Learning is learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over the time, place, path and/or pace of their learning. Digital learning is more than providing students with a laptop or tablet, as it requires a combination of technology, digital content, and instruction. Digital learning can be a blended instructional model that combines learning in a brick-and-mortar classroom with content delivered online, or full online learning, where all instruction and content are delivered over the internet.

Arkansas has supported digital learning through resource allocation and legislation since 2005. Arkansas is currently one of only a handful of states where every student is connected to the internet at speeds more than sufficient for digital learning. In addition, this year’s seniors must complete a digital learning course in order to graduate, and all public and charter high schools must offer computer science courses to students. This year, Advanced Placement Computer Science students students who pass the AP exam are eligible for up to $1,000 in cash. While not every school may have an AP Computer Science teacher on staff, students can enroll in a digital version of the course. Arkansas currently has 53 Approved Digital Learning Providers that offer nearly 1,000 digital courses to students in the state.

But are the current digital learning options meeting the needs of students? 

A new survey released yesterday by the Task Force on Quality Digital Learning Providers gives educators, parents, and students the opportunity to share their thoughts about how digital learning is (or isn’t) working in their school.


It is important that stakeholders participate in the short and anonymous survey because the primary purpose of the Task Force is to make recommendations to improve the quality and educational benefit of blended and online digital learning for Arkansas students.  Data from the survey will be used to guide the ongoing work under Act 939, which requires a report the Arkansas State Board of Education.

Here at OEP we are pleased to be partnering with the Task Force to conduct the evaluation of Digital Learning Providers. We will be examining several aspects of Arkansas’ digital learning environment:

  • Availability: What online and blended programs are currently operating in Arkansas? How many students are participating in these programs? And what do the students ‘look like’ in terms of demographic characteristics, academic performances, and geographic location?
  • Educational Benefit: Are Arkansas’ online and blended learning program effective in terms of fostering students’ academic achievement and growth?
  • Quality: Are there differences in the quality of Arkansas’ online and blended learning program providers as measured by students’ academic achievement and growth?
  • Cost: What costs are associated with Arkansas’ online and blended learning programs and are there differences between the providers in cost to the state?

We are very interested to hear from educators, parents, and students about their experiences with digital learning in Arkansas! Please help spread the word about the survey.  We need to check and see if current options are supporting student learning, or if there is more that needs to be done to ensure students benefit from quality digital learning experiences.




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