For more than a half a century online courses have been available to students. Today more than ever though, we are seeing significant growth in both courses offered and courses being taken.

For more than a half a century online courses have been available to students. Today more than ever though, we are seeing significant growth in both courses offered and courses being taken. More than one third of all college students report taking an online course, while K-12 educators are scrambling to meet the needs of students who wish to do the same.

Students gravitate to online courses for a different “classroom” experience, to access courses not available to them in their local school, to accommodate a work schedule or to simply engage in a new kind of learning. Yet, some schools and school systems struggle to find ways to integrate digital learning into the class selections offered, incorporate them meaningfully into transcripts, and see the opportunities to embrace new technologies in their own classrooms. Digital learning can reinforce personal choice and personal responsibility with students. It can empower them to examine new ideas, and it can give them options.

As the first generation of Digital Natives (those who have not known a world without the Internet) enters our classrooms and begins teaching in the digital space, they will bring new perspectives to the use of technology and all its resources for students. We must embrace allowing students to learn their way by offering different learning experiences that will expand the breadth and depth of our educational offerings. Today and tomorrow’s students are both the participant and creator of their own learning experiences. Digital technologies unlock the ability of every student to personalize and customize the learning experience.

Digital learning is a key attribute of the future systems of education, and many education leaders have begun to embrace the opportunity it offers to expand learning for all types of students. With the theme of Digital Learning, in this issue of AdvancED Source, we asked digital learning experts and technology leaders to share their perspectives on digital learning, today and in the future. We begin with Michael Horn, Executive Director, Education; and Meg Evans, Education Program Associate; for the Innosight Institute. Their article, Creating a Personalized Learning Experience, examine ways that classrooms can be transformed and technology can be used to create a more personal learning experience — and increase success — for students. AdvancED’s General Counsel, Kenneth Bergman, implores education leaders to take bold steps to create a new system that leverages digital and blended learning techniques to provide unprecedented access and expanded learning experiences in The Unique Policy Opportunities Afforded by Today’s Funding Challenges.

Barbara Dreyer, President and CEO of Connections Education, shares her study of the factors that impact student success in online courses in her article, Challenges in Measuring Online School Performance. The team of John Bailey, Executive Director, Digital Learning Now!; Samuel Casey Carter, Chief Executive Officer, Faith in the Future Foundation; Carri Schneider, Director of Policy and Research,; and Tom Vander Ark, Founder,, provide a summary of their report entitled Portable Records and Learning Profiles describing thought provoking ideas for the future. In their article, the authors insist that the current way student records and transcripts are managed is insufficient and must evolve to meet the needs of students engaged in digital learning.

Darby Carr, President of the Laurel Springs School, shares how her institution personalizes learning through both data and technology in her article, Student Focused Learning. As a technology leader for his school system, Stephen Anderson, MA Ed., Director of Instructional Technology for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, shares key questions that he believes provide guidance to schools and school systems developing a technology integration plan in his article, Questions to Guide Technology Integration.

We appreciate our authors contributing their expertise to expand our thinking on the opportunities presented by Digital Learning. In the future our understanding and application of digital learning strategies will go far beyond simply online courses. Our students are ready for such a future, are we?