How E-Learning Might Be Improving Nationwide Graduation Rates

How E-Learning Might Be Improving Nationwide Graduation RatesDoes e-learning have a direct influence on graduation rates — whether it's in high school or employee training? E-learning advocates will of course say yes, but a new study of high school graduation rates offers some new insights into an old question.

The report, commissioned by the advocacy group America's Promise Alliance, which was founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, found that the national graduation rate increased to 75.5 percent in 2009, up from 72 percent in 2001 — a modest gain, but a gain nonetheless. And the number of "dropout factories" — high schools where at least 60 percent of students do not graduate on time — fell from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010, according to the Washington Post.

And that's good news. High school grads earn, on average, $130,000 more over their careers than dropouts, and save the government $200,000 compared to those without a diploma. But why the upturn — and can adult and corporate learning pros take any lessons from it?

Tech Lends a Hand

The report doesn't single out any sole cause for America's rising graduation rate, and many of the factors it calls out relate to primary school education — like increased emphasis on reading at grade level, early warning systems that alert administrators to signs of trouble, and raising the mandatory schooling age to 18.

However, one factor may be of interest to corporate training pros — the growing role of e-learning tools in high schools. Take this account, from the Associated Press, about one school in Maryland that's started progressing by leaps and bounds:

"Many of the strategies encouraged by the authors have been adopted in Washington County, Md. The district has a 92 percent graduation rate, up 15 percentage points from 2000. It's made progress in recent years even as the county's unemployment rate lingered above the national average and more students needed homelessness services.

"The district offers e-learning classes for credit recovery, evening classes, and a family center where pregnant teens and student parents can attend class."

Another district using tech to keep students from dropping out is Clark County School District in Las Vegas. There, the long-distressed district has "developed a partnership with Vegas PBS for an online program designed to help students earn missing credits needed to graduate."

What's the takeaway here? First and foremost, that e-learning tech has come of age and is being met with what appears to be widespread acceptance. And secondly, that these tools are not only in use but also effective at reaching populations of learners that are under-served by traditional means of instruction. It's an interesting take-away for corporate learning pros trying to teach some hard-to-reach learners.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user robb3d.

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.

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