What was once reserved for higher education is now a growing trend among K-12 students nationwide – digital learning. More than 2.7 million students across the United States are taking part in digital learning, and many students in grades K-12 are getting a high-quality education completely online through a full-time online public school.

Full-time virtual schools tend to get most of the headlines. But far more students experience virtual learning via supplemental online courses, taken while they are still enrolled in traditional brick-and-mortar schools.
Sometimes, the courses involve real-time interaction among students and a teacher. Others allow individual students to move through material alone, at their own pace. Often, but not always, a certified teacher is responsible for managing online classes. The courses could come from a state-run virtual school, a private vendor, a nonprofit, a university, or a regional service agency. The variations can sometimes make it confusing to say what exactly constitutes an “online course.”

In general, though, there are three big reasons why schools offer these types of classes: so students can complete core academic credits, so they can take elective courses that otherwise wouldn’t be available, and so schools can give students a second crack at earning credit for a course they previously failed. The challenges include difficulty finding teachers who are qualified to teach online and the questionable quality of some online courses.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

IXL Learning

IXL Learning products are used in classrooms and homes in more than 190 countries around the world. We touch the lives of millions of educators and learners daily—from teachers providing personalized guidance to each student, to parents looking for high-quality educational games for their kids, to a university student tackling a foreign language, and more. IXL alone is used by over 400,000 teachers and over 7 million students (who have answered a whopping 50 billion questions to date!).


K12 offers a personalized approach to education that removes barriers to learning and meets students where they are. We manage public and private online schools and develop innovative curricula and technology to help students reach their full potential.

While many students thrive in traditional brick-and-mortar schools, others feel constrained by a model that simply does not fit their needs. Since our founding in 1999, we have continually improved our approach to better reflect how students learn, grow and evolve.

As pioneers in online learning, we have helped develop a new model of learning that allows kindergarten through high school students to move beyond the physical walls of the classroom. Our various education offerings include career readiness programs, support services, blended learning, dual credit courses, and many others. They are designed to help every student—regardless of geographic, socioeconomic, or academic circumstance—achieve better outcomes through a personalized approach.

We recognize that teachers are at the center of every student’s experience and we are focused on recruiting and training inspired educators who have dedicated themselves to developing young and able minds. We believe that when teachers succeed, students succeed and are dedicated to expanding our national network of educator supports and professional development opportunities.

Whether it’s providing students with unique opportunities for growth or equipping talented teachers with the tools they need to succeed, we are committed to a future in which students and parents are empowered, with traditional, blended and online learning options, to design an educational path that works best for them.

We reach students across the country in the following ways:

  • full-time online public schools
  • individual course and product sales directly to families
  • public schools which are engaged in bringing individualized learning approaches into the traditional classroom

Connections Academy

Connections Academy is a leading provider of virtual schooling for students in grades K–12. This is a unique program that combines:

Expertise and accountability of public education

  • Strong parental involvement
  • Highly qualified teachers
  • The flexibility of online classes

The mission of Connections Academy is to help each student maximize his or her potential and meet the highest performance standards through a uniquely individualized learning program. We tailor our approach for students of all abilities—preparing students to succeed in school, and in life.

The bottom line

Researchers have also found that students tend to get higher grades the more often they log in to the online learning system, the more lessons they access, the more they click, and the more they post in online-discussion boards.

In addition to better understanding enrollment and quality, much more research is needed on such issues as how online courses accommodate students with disabilities and whether online courses exacerbate the digital divide between students in poverty and their more affluent counterparts.