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TOOLS FOR LEARNING: What’s New in Online Teaching and Learning? Solution Providers Improving Student Achievement

By Victor Rivero - Posted Nov 1, 2011
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It’s 2011. What’s new in online teaching and learning? A lot! According to statistics pulled together by Education Database Online (, online education is a $34 billion industry, has been growing by an astronomical rate, and is showing no signs of slowing. By 2019, half of all classes taught will be delivered online; there are currently 3 million online-only students in the U.S. and even 1 million K–12 enrollments in online courses. According to the 2010 Sloan Consortium survey of online learning, about 5.6 million students were enrolled in at least one course as of fall 2009—an increase of 1 million students from the previous year and the largest year-to-year increase to date. Almost 30% of all college and university students now take at least one online course. Compared to a 2% growth rate for higher education overall, between 2009 and 2010, the online enrollment growth rate was a staggering 21%. In 1999, “elearning” was a new word. Today, it’s a new paradigm shift. Indicators through 2020 only point to increasingly steeper growth rates for online learning. Here are some of the companies we’ve identified as being on board with such a 21st-century transformation and the reasons why.


Indicators through 2020 point to increasingly steeper growth rates for online learning. Here are some of the companies we’ve identified as being on board with such a 21st-century transformation and the reasons why.

Atomic Learning, Inc. From professional development to classroom integration of technology, this company makes great use of blended learning environments and is worth connecting with. It is laser-focused on promoting practical application of technology to empower educators, and that’s exactly the kind of help teachers need in today’s texting-, iPad-, cellphone-saturated world.

PLATO Learning, Inc. This company has mastered mastery: It can take failing students, connect with them through its computer-based platforms, and bring those students up to a level where graduation is not only within reach, but where it actually happens. With credit recovery, advanced placement, and other curriculum and assessment tools for the entire range of educators, Plato Learning is a leading provider of online solutions and is in wide use for good reason.

Pearson Education, Inc. A major digital content provider, Pearson has more than 9 million users. If you can’t find what you’re looking for at it website, it may have already found you. Teacher Compass Suite; U.S. History; Pearson Custom School Suite; AP*, Honors, & Electives; online Course Content; its digital repository EQUELLA; and Professional Online Educator—its offerings are nonstop and of the highest quality.

Discovery Education. Check out its Digital Curriculum—a customized and comprehensive collection of resources coupled with professional development and curriculum alignment services to ensure classroom success. They include video, reading passages, virtual labs, and explorations and interactive atlases. Its streaming video library is one of the largest and, as you might expect, of that all-absorbing, made-for-television quality.

Science Techbook (Discovery Education). This is very cool—a new, primary instructional resource for elementary and middle schools, it supports well-known instructional models, captures Digital Natives’ attention nicely, and provides state standards, real-time feedback, and key teacher resources.

World Book, Inc. This isn’t your grandparents’ set of gilded tomes. Times have changed, and so has this trusted company. Now you can get a mobile-friendly version of its comprehensive reference database including tens of thousands of authoritative articles, images, maps, photographs, and illustrations all through a phone browser; all this as well as search and trending topics.

ProQuest,LLC. Educator Tools from this company connect your school to an expanding collection of free lesson plans and related resources and a complete lineup of subscription-based research tools for classrooms and libraries. This is an excellent tool when it comes to online learning.

OCLC. The Online Computer Library Center offers another great search in FirstSearch, although it’s not for your average high school student. It offers access to dozens of databases through WorldCat—and more than 10 million text-and-image articles; an excellent resource for the serious searcher.

Grolier Online. From Scholastic, Inc.,Grolier Online includes seven databases, three encyclopedias, and even Spanish-language help. Most of this is K–12 material, and all of it is excellent.

Blackboard, Inc. Nearly synonymous these days with online learning, this company keeps improving and now offers an even more collaborative, interactive learning experience through its Blackboard Collaborate platform. Create virtual classrooms, offices, and meeting spaces to approach peer-to-peer learning and instructor-led help while involving each student on an individual level.

Follett Software Co. An interesting tool from this renowned company is its Cognite product—helping schools and educators across the country create user-friendly online learning environments where students, teachers, administrators, librarians, and parents can discover, share, organize, and collaborate in a digital classroom. It’s a digital discovery and retrieval tool, a collaborative learning environment, and a curriculum development tool, but the best way to understand it is through a test-drive.

Cengage Learning. This innovative company offers CengageCourse—a dynamic, interactive way to teach and learn online. You can complement a textbook’s content, help students connect to their learning with assignable content, or create a fully online course experience.

Knewton, Inc. This company is defining “adaptive learning”—and it’s doing it with a cloud-based platform that uses concept-level data to create uniquely personalized learning plans, allowing educators to tailor their content to the exact needs of individual students. From high schools to colleges and universities, it’s spreading fast—and giving online learning a good name in the process. Through some really smart technology, Knewton dynamically matches lessons, videos, and practice problems to each student’s ideal learning arc.

Learn360. This K–12 multimedia resource hub from AIM Education, Inc. offers a free 30-day trial with access to more than 73,000 resources from publishers and producers to engage students, enrich learning, and help students to excel.

Lexia Learning. Web-enabled guided practice for students on foundational reading skills, this is for grades Pre-K through 12, and it provides explicit, systematic, and structured practice on essential reading skills, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. But the cool part is its Assessment Without Testing offering.

Complete Curriculum. This company publishes distinctive K–12 digital texts and provides an engaging web-based instructional interface. With supplemental activities, real-world application exercises, and 21st-century skills development activities, students go beyond the textbook into experiential learning.

Capstone Publishers. With more than 450 interactive books for Pre-K–8 students, it focuses on all levels of readers including young, reluctant, struggling, English-language learners, on-level, and gifted readers and provides content in a multitude of genres, styles (graphic novels, fiction, etc.) and across curriculum (social studies, science and math, language arts, bilingual, and more). Get a free trial.

Curriculum Advantage, Inc. Its Classworks is a comprehensive instructional software giving students dynamic, interactive lessons, and new ways to address difficult concepts in K–12 math, reading, language arts, and elementary science. It sifts through mountains of test-generated info to create individualized instruction for each student.

This in no way is a comprehensive list of technology solution providers that are helping to improve student achievement through online learning and teaching, but these companies caught our attention for one reason or another. A few of them are reviewed in more detail in this issue. Due to a convergence of factors—the progression of technology, the constraints of school budgets and the economy, and the explosion of ed tech startups, as well as innovators in education and the ingenuity of educators everywhere—the rise of online learning will no doubt bring us to improved vistas for education. But the truth is, we must take advantage of what they have to offer.

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