Global State of Digital Learning

Key findings and trends in K-12 education.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dylan Rodgers

CREDIT Schoology Global State of Digital Learning 2017.png

With each passing year, technology continues to push the boundaries of what’s possible in teaching and learning. So much so, that it’s getting harder to find schools that haven’t adopted at least some form of digital learning—blended learning, flipped learning, personalized learning, and/or other strategies that rely on digital tools to enhance the learning experience—into their classrooms.

Our research found that teachers and administrators are in overwhelming agreement: digital learning positively impacts both student achievement (95%) and teaching effectiveness (92%).

But digital learning goes far beyond providing students access to iPads in hopes of enhancing their learning experience and producing better outcomes. Like a well-oiled machine, there are countless tangible and intangible variables that must work together: from software and classroom practices, to professional development and collaboration among the many stakeholders.

With this in mind, Schoology recently conducted an inaugural study—The Global State of Digital Learning—which encompassed 2,846 education professionals across 89 countries worldwide. The goal? To reveal deeper insights into some of these variables in the form of data, trends, and strategies, and to shed light on the current state of digital learning in K-12 education.

Here’s what we found:

Key Insights of 2016-2017

Among the many benefits of digital learning—enhanced learning experiences by enabling teachers to better tailor learning to their students’ needs, aiding in the tracking of student progress, saving teachers time, etc.—our research found that teachers and administrators are in overwhelming agreement: digital learning positively impacts both student achievement (95%) and teaching effectiveness (92%).

Other key findings we uncovered include:

  1. Time is the Top Obstacle to Effective Digital Learning: Despite the enthusiasm and confidence in digital learning results, more than 43% of respondents noted that lack of time was the biggest obstacle to integrating technology and more than 40% noted a lack of devices. Other top challenges included inadequate hardware (29%), lack of access at home (26%), and difficulty creating lesson plans (25%). It must be noted that respondents could choose all answers that apply for this and certain other questions in the survey.
  2. Professional Development Isn’t Modeling Best Practices of Digital Learning: According to our findings, the large majority of professional development being offered is via single-session and periodic events. Very few respondents cited having asynchronous learning, blended courses, or on-demand PD options. Couple this finding with the fact that 46% of respondents with an LMS say they don’t use it for professional development, and it suggests that the most effective teaching strategies are not being carried over from the classroom to professional development (let alone being modeled using the pinnacle tool teachers are leveraging in the classroom).
  3. Static Instructional Resources are Still the Norm: Schoology’s survey also revealed that the most used instructional resources are, by far, static, or provide a non-interactive, one-way flow of information (i.e. PDFs, Word Docs, Videos, etc.). This may suggest that institutions are digitizing traditional learning rather than enhancing it. While there is a place for these “static” resources in learning, the decision to replace a textbook with an eBook without serious thought behind how it will make the material more interactive, totally defeats the purpose of digital learning.
  4. Collaboration May Be Key to Solving Professional Development Challenges: Eighty-one percent of respondents consider collaborating via professional learning communities (PLCs) and personal learning networks (PLNs) to be effective for professional development. Interestingly, professional development is the number one challenge for administrators, and faculty collaboration is their number one priority.

Digital Learning Trends That Emerged

When considering the state of digital learning, the technologies and tools an institution chooses to implement can have ripple effects throughout the organization. So according to our survey, what trends are impacting schools and districts most?

  1. LMS and Positive Effects: Of the nearly 3,000 education professionals who took the survey, 46% said they have an LMS. Of respondents who noted that students at their institution are “very engaged,” 89% said an LMS is in use most days, if not every day, of the week. This may indicate that careful and consistent LMS use can lead to the highest rates of student engagement. And as we know, better student engagement means increased student achievement.
  2. Mobile Device Use is Becoming More Prevalent: While the debate around mobile devices in the classroom rages on, a winner seems to be emerging: nearly 80% of schools and districts use them at least monthly, with nearly 50% reporting using mobile devices daily.
  3. Most Common Instructional Strategies and Practices: Digital learning takes many forms—gamification, flipped learning, etc.—but which instructional strategies are practiced most? Differentiated learning leads the pack (75%), with blending learning (54%) and individualized learning also vying for top spots (45%). And as for which instructional strategy was considered the most effective? Our respondents answered blended learning, followed by differentiated learning, and then personalized learning.

Education is a far cry from what it used to be, thanks to the dedication of many creative education professionals and rapid technological development. Although this new study highlights many digital learning successes, it also brings to light some larger issues around the strategies and priorities of educational institutions around the world.

All in all, these findings serve as an opportunity for the education community to come together and continue to transform how students learn, how teachers teach, and how institutions as a whole prepare the next generation for success.

Dylan Rodgers is Editor-in-Chief of The Schoology Exchange, at SchoologySee all the findings from Schoology’s Global State of Digital Learning survey in their free ebook.

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