How Utah’s universities are exploring digital learning potential

We have blogged regularly here about the many ways that digital learning is improving public education across the country by creating educational opportunities customized to the needs of individual children, and by focusing teachers’ time on one-on-one teaching rather than lecturing a classroom of 25 students at once.

However, something closer to home which we have yet to mention is how Utah’s public and private universities have been using digital learning to improve education for college students, while simultaneously lowering costs, for more than a decade. A recently published news article details some of these innovative approaches.

It is worth noting that digital learning has become a standard part of college education in Utah. At both Utah Valley University (UVU) and Weber State University, for instance, 38 percent of students participate in digital learning – a figure that is expected only to increase. About 12,000 students at the University of Utah are expected to enroll this fall in online courses, and thousands more at Utah State University and Brigham Young University are currently enrolled or expected to participate in digital learning this year.

Some of Utah’s universities have taken special advantage of digital learning to provide a high-quality education and decrease costs using a “hybrid” model of digital learning, which includes both face-to-face interaction in a classroom and a strong online component.

For example, at UVU there are 92 hybrid courses in which more than 50 percent of the course is provided online. This has allowed the university to assign more of these courses to the same physical classroom than would be possible in the traditional model of 100 percent face-to-face instruction.

Consider what such a hybrid form of digital learning could mean for K-12 public schools in a state like Utah, where (thankfully) we still like to have families with multiple children and where (also thankfully) we have policymakers who understand that higher taxes aren’t the solution for public education’s problems. Digital learning, especially in its hybrid form, has the potential to alleviate the pressures that both of these realities create for public schools, while saving taxpayers millions of dollars at the same time.

Most importantly, digital learning benefits children by allowing us to address the financial needs of public schools while improving public education by customizing it to the needs of individual students. In other words, it ensures the public education will remain focused where it should be: on children, not money.