The Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC) is a unique statewide partnership that gives every student in any school district access to online courses to supplement campus schedules. It also provides digital learning resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. Access to online courses, technology and resources are available to districts through the WDLC regardless of size or geography. A new report, Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative: A Review of Programs and Partners, examines the impact of the WDLC on online learning in the state, profiles many of the partner districts and provides descriptions of the digital learning pathways available to Wisconsin schools through this statewide option. What follows is a brief summary of WDLC and what you will find in the report.
The WDLC consists of three collaborating organizations. The Wisconsin Virtual School (WVS) provides supplemental online courses to a large majority of the school districts across Wisconsin. The Wisconsin eSchool Network (WEN) is a consortium of 28 district partners that provides access to online courses, technology, operational support, digital learning professional development and other services to it’s members. Together WEN and WVS form the foundation of the Collaborative. The third organization, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), provides quality assurance and helps raise awareness of WDLC. It also provides some fiscal support through the segregated universal service fund administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration.
In addition to the WDLC representing the digital learning interests of all districts it also leverages shared knowledge and best practices to reduce costs. It offers a wide variety of resources, services and benefits that districts need in order to offer online and blended learning options to students.
WDLC Pathways to Digital Learning
Through the WDLC partnership, WEN and WVS have created three pathways to cover the broad range of digital learning needs regardless of the size of the school district or its stage of digital learning deployment.
- The Supplemental Pathway appeals to districts that want to offer online courses to its students, but may not have the infrastructure or experience to accomplish that goal alone. The Supplemental Pathway offers nearly unlimited access to online courses and support through WVS without the need for formal membership in WEN and without the need to build online learning capacity locally. It is a pay as you go option to add online courses to existing middle and/or high school curriculum with no annual fees, contracts or memberships. WVS is the primary provider of supplemental online courses for the WDLC, making state-supported online learning opportunities available to the 396 Wisconsin school districts that are not WEN partner districts. It is a straightforward way to add quality online courses to a district’s existing grade 6–12 curriculum.
- The Affiliate Pathway is appropriate for districts ready to take on more control and ownership of their online learning program as they become members in the WEN consortium. Affiliate Partner districts have access to WEN’s online course catalog, licensed teachers, technology tools, student orientation courses and professional learning while benefitting from lower cost, scalable enrollment fees. The Affiliate membership allows districts to retain a high degree of local control, using a combination of local instructors with online teachers from Network partners as needed. Most of WEN’s current 14 Affiliate district members are small to medium-sized school districts, ranging from less than 1,000 students to nearly 7,000 students, and most are in the process of developing cohesive and comprehensive online learning plans.
- The Invested Pathway is designed for members with a comprehensive plan for online and blended learning that includes an emphasis on local autonomy and use of local teachers and staff. Invested Partners make a significant one-time investment that provides the lowest operating expenses of any pathway and a voting seat on the WEN board of directors. Invested Partners are building scalable digital learning programs to support growing online enrollments, increased use of student devices on campus and greater integration of digital content and instruction in the classroom. Currently, there are 14 Invested Partners that have made significant initial investments in human capital and in financial resources to purchase online courses, license and develop technology infrastructure and build processes that are the foundation of the consortium and the WDLC.
The report provides more detail on the specifics of the WDLC partner pathways, and profiles of each of the 14 Invested Partners. It was provides data on course enrollments, the number of students taking online courses, course enrollments by grade level and subject area and satisfaction data from most WDLC partners.
The WDLC model of providing online and blended learning courses through a collaboration of partner organizations guided by school districts is unusual compared to most other digital learning models, particularly statewide. This model has proven to be sustainable and flexible, allowing districts to invest in digital learning at different levels. The full report is available at http://www.wisconsineschool.org/media/76096/wdlc_partnerprofiles.pdf.