Forecast 2021: Will COVID Kill Digital Learning Long-Term? | John Watson | 5 Min Read

January 21, 2021 – John Watson

As we leave 2020 behind and transition to the new semester and new year, what’s the latest prognosis for developments in digital learning?

Here’s the summary as we see it: the evidence continues to emerge that the post-pandemic landscape will be marked by two seemingly contradictory elements:

  • An increase in permanent online and hybrid learning options for students, and
  • Little long-term change in most physical schools, for most students.

Let’s look at each of these a bit more deeply.
An increase in permanent online and hybrid learning options for students

My Google news alert has at least one article about a district starting or expanding an online school just about every day, and often more than one such article. As one example (from Dec. 20), Botetourt schools setting virtual learning academy foundation, reports that:

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on Botetourt County schools’ way of doing things, but the distance learning that it enforced also opened a new niche in the division: a virtual learning academy…School officials are in the early stages of developing a perennial online school that would begin in fall 2021.

This quote captures much of what we…

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John Watson

As Evergreen’s founder and primary researcher, John Watson is responsible for conducting, writing, and presenting research as well as providing testimony on digital learning matters to state boards of education, legislatures, and charter school commissions. He has extensive knowledge and experience based on his two decades working in online learning and education technology. This background has afforded him a wide-reaching network across the spectrum of education professionals, policymakers, and subject matter experts as well as the ability to provide insightful, dimensional analysis and recommendations. After earning his MBA and a MS in natural resource policy at the University of Michigan, John went to work for one of the first Learning Management System companies, eCollege, in early 1998. He launched eCollege’s K-12 division, called eClassroom, and managed eClassroom’s research and business development. This experience was the springboard for John’s independent consulting in environmental policy and education which evolved into what Evergreen Education Group is today. John is deeply moved by stories of students and teachers who have been positively impacted by technology in classrooms, online courses, and innovative schools. He strives to tell these stories accurately and to clearly explain the challenges inherent with digital learning in order to bring an honest, balanced perspective to Evergreen’s insight and recommendations. His ability to approach research and relationships with consideration for bias and hierarchy makes him a natural connector between information and people. John has presented and led panel discussions at numerous conferences and convenings. In addition to his research for Evergreen, John writes regularly about various issues related to digital learning and is a contributing author of the Handbook of Research on K-12 Online and Blended Learning. His and Evergreen’s work has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Education Week, and eSchool News, and he has also appeared on NBC Nightly News.