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practice overview

DIGITAL LEARNING ENCOMPASSES COUNTLESS SCHOOLS AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICES in mainstream and non-traditional classrooms and learning environments. These include:

  • a third grade student practicing math problems on a tablet in her mainstream classroom

  • a middle school student attending a fully online public school, taking classes primarily from home

  • a student taking online dual credit courses in a brick-and-mortar early college high school

These instructional practices may be a core element of a non-traditional school, alternative education campus, or independent study program (among other examples). In these cases, digital learning reaches all students enrolled in the school, or associated with the program. Alternatively, digital learning may be embedded within district efforts to improve student opportunities or outcomes. In this latter example, district leaders often use digital learning to focus on a subset of students--perhaps those in a certain grade level, or a subject area, or recovering credits--that leaders wish to support.

Across different types of use cases, digital learning practitioners range from individual teachers selecting and implementing online tools, content, and resources in their classrooms; to school and district leaders working across grade levels, subject areas, and schools; to the networks and state agencies working with schools across a state or in multiple states.

This section provides examples of digital learning in different categories. It begins with state virtual schools and online schools, because these are well-defined, although relatively small, categories. It moves on to the larger but less distinct category of digital learning across mainstream schools. Some school profiles are placed in more than one category because a school may be both hybrid and run by a regional service agency.

No taxonomy of digital learning is perfect. We recognize that in some cases we have created boundaries between categories that are blurred in real life. We believe, however, that as a starting point these categories help explain the different types of digital learning in ways that help characterize the field.

Also, in this section we don't address individual teachers implementing digital learning in their classrooms. Their views are explored in the teacher perspectives discussion, along with views of students.