A new report from Connected Tennessee, a local broadband consortium in partnership with the East Tennessee Educational Technology Association, shows that online education is important at all levels of schooling even K-12. According to the report, students that become comfortable with technology early on, learn better and are better prepared for jobs of the future.
Online learning is also helping minorities in Tennessee get ahead. Data in the report shows that half of the minority population in Tennessee goes online for e-learning, that number is significantly higher than caucasians in the state. Hard to reach populations like rural residents are also getting online, 39% of rural residents in the state go online for coursework or work related activities.
Tennessee has made online learning a priority. For college aged users, more than one-half (53%) of Tennessee Internet users ages 18 to 24 go online for education. Now state officials are working to extend that reach into K-12 education. Tennessee recently changed its education laws to allow full-time online schooling. The state has one full-time K-8 school, the Tennessee Virtual Academy and Metro Nashville Public Schools also offers a virtual school option.
“Education is finally embracing and recognizing that technology through mobilization – smartphones, iPads, and tablets – can be used as an effective teaching tool,” Dr. Robbie K. Melton, Associate Vice Chancellor for Mobilization and Emerging Technologies for the Tennessee Board of Regents says in the report.
60% of Tennessee children with broadband access in their home reported accessing the internet to do to school work. And the state along with federal funding help is also providing computers to schoolchildren through their “Computers 4 Kids” program. The program is designed to support broadband adoption, technology training and provide computers to disadvantaged youth populations in the state.
As CivSource has previously reported, rural and academic demand for broadband in the states continues to climb as citizens and public officials rush to find the tools to compete in the technology driven economy. The skills gap in the American workforce has made recovery difficult as few have the appropriate training for job openings today, and those factors have also pushed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs to the forefront as parents and educators try to help future generations before they enter the workforce.
State officials and Connected Tennessee note that more can be done to increase the use of online learning and help the state’s population achieve the education and training needed to be productive members of the high-tech workforce. To that end, Connected Tennessee recently held a broadband summit with stakeholders from across the state to look at successes and current needs. Initiatives discussed during the summit included increasing support for women-owned businesses in Tennessee and providing subsidized broadband access to low-income populations. “By providing more opportunities for online education, including increasing access to home broadband service for all Tennessee families, Tennessee policymakers can help the state’s children secure a brighter and more prosperous future,” report authors write.