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July 16, 2018

3 min

Dr. Jessica Spallino

How Online Learning Has Disrupted Traditional Schooling

Whether examining the auto, tech, educational or any other industry, the threat of being outperformed by innovative newcomers is continuously growing. Generally, innovative newcomers outperform others within their industry by introducing more and convenient affordable products or services that over time transform sectors.

This concept is coined as “Disruptive Innovation” by Clayton Christensen, professor of business administration at Harvard University and co-author of “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” and has been highly evident in the field of education in the form of online learning.

Christensen provides an example of a disruptive innovation in the area of steam technology:

“When the first commercially successful steamship traveled the Hudson River in 1807, it didn’t appear to be much of a competitive threat to transoceanic sailing ships. It was more expensive, less reliable and couldn’t travel very far. Sailors dismissed the idea that steam technology could ever measure up — the vast reach of the Atlantic Ocean surely demanded sails. And so steam power gained its foothold as a “disruptive innovation” in inland waterways, where the ability to move against the wind, or when there was no wind at all, was important.

In 1819, the technology vastly improved, the S.S. Savannah made the first Atlantic crossing powered by steam and sail (in truth, only 80 of the 633-hour voyage was by steam). Sailing ship companies didn’t completely ignore the advancement. They built hybrid ships, adding steam engines to their sailing vessels, but never entered the pure steamship market. Ultimately, they paid the price for this decision. By the early 1900s, with steam able to power a ship across the ocean on its own, and do so faster than the wind, customers migrated to steamships. Every single transoceanic sailing-ship company went out of business.”

Christensen points out that just like steam, online education is a disruptive innovation. In colleges, universities and K-12 schools throughout the world, online learning has introduced a more convenient and affordable product that has begun to transform the entire industry and certainly the way students learn.

Many schools may be implementing new online programs to stay current on effective teaching and learning strategies, but implementing online content alone is not enough for an online program to be effective. Fundamental changes to the overall model need to be implemented to see this innovation through to its fullest potential. Those that modify the entire model and not just implement the technology, are the innovators that will be most successful.

Online learning has enabled schools to modify the entire model, including content and instructional delivery in a variety of ways:

  • Personalize Delivery of Content and Instruction: Curriculum is stored within a Learning Management System and is planned out and standard aligned, while the Instruction can be tailored toward any portion of the already created curriculum.
  • Provide Flexibility to Learning: Students can create their own schedule and develop a learning regimen that works for them. For example, a student may chose do to Math in the mornings and writing in the afternoons, as they tend to be more focused in the mornings or have baseball practice in the afternoons.
  • Diagnose Through Readily Available Data: Online platforms provide real time performance data and can assist teachers in diagnosing the curriculum and instruction they need when they need it. Within online learning, students can consistently be delivered content and instruction that is at their instructional level, so as not to me wasting their time on concepts they already know or in frustration mode, grappling with concepts in which they aren’t quite ready.
  • Offer Students More Choices Within Their Learning: Students can be provided with choices on instructional delivery and content. For example, would they prefer a virtual one on one meeting with their teacher or would they rather attend a small group instructional session?
  • Individualize Student’s Experience: Students’ curriculum and instruction can be based on their academic needs and interests or preferences.

These modifications to the traditional notion of schooling offer a diversity in modalities of learning that have greatly disrupted how we teach students and how students learn. It is becoming more and more evident that online learning has transformed the industry of education and will only continue to do so.

Method Schools is a public charter school available to students in all Southern California counties. Method is different than traditional schools and even other online home or charter schools because our teachers are experts at helping individual students succeed using non-traditional methods. Matched with mobile-friendly curriculum and flexible pacing, Method students really can learn anytime, anywhere. Want to learn more? View our program guide by clicking below, or post a comment.


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