RIP CLRN: 1979 – June 30, 2014

The California Learning Resource Network passed away at 11:59PM June 30th due to complications caused by the Local Control Funding Formula. CLRN is survived by two sister projects, TechSETS and TICAL, by two offspring, the eLearning Strategies Symposium and the California eLearning Census and by several dedicated employees.

CLRN began as a CUE public domain software project, located at the San Mateo County Office of Education, where its mother, Ann Lathrop, worked as a library consultant. Given the name SOFTSWAP in 1980, the project was a staple at CUE conferences and in the CUE Newsletter. In 1982, when Governor Brown established the Teacher Education and Computer Centers (TECC), SOFTWAP was renamed the California Software Clearinghouse, with Ann continuing to shepherd reviews. When the Software Clearinghouse was asked to evaluate instructional video, Harry Bakker, later the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction at the Stanislaus County Office of Education, stepped forward to create the California Instructional Video Clearinghouse. By 1987, both Clearinghouses were reviewing resources from six subject areas and were publishing their reviews in Technology in the Curriculum (TIC) guides.

In 1989, Ann Lathrop moved to CSU Long Beach and took the Software Clearinghouse with her. At this time, work began to broadcast evaluations online.  Then, in 1995, both Clearinghouses combined to form the California Instructional Technology Clearinghouse. John Vaille, former CUE Executive Director, became the Clearinghouse’s first director. Brian Bridges was hired a year later.

When the content standards movement began in the late 1990s, new legislation to formalize the California Technology Assistance Project and several Statewide Educational Technology Services created an RFP for an electronic learning resource project. In 1999, the Clearinghouse became the California Learning Resource Network, and Brian moved to work with CTAP Region 6.  Several CLRN directors followed, but he returned as CLRN’s director in 2007.

CLRN will best be remembered for its impact on course quality, its development of national standards for quality online courses, the increasingly popular eLearning Strategies Symposium, and the California eLearning Census. While initially only 25% of online courses qualified to be CLRN Certified, publishers utilized reviewer comments to supplement content and add more interactive components. By CLRN’s passing, 70% of all courses earned certification, providing more high-quality teaching and learning experiences for California’s educators and students.

CRLN’s body will lie at rest at for several years, hosting nearly 700 online course reviews, 3000+ electronic learning resource reviews, and 6000+ reviews of open educational resources. Remembrances should be sent to Governor Brown and the California legislature to remind them of the damage that the Local Control Funding Formula has created.

Common Core & eLearning

Given that blended learning skyrocketed 49% last year, we’re pleased to include a Common Core strand at this year’s eLearning Strategies Symposium. Join us in December for these and other great sessions about eLearning’s pedagogy, content, big picture, capacity building, and gear.

Blended and Online Common Core: Creating Dynamic Thinkers in All Subject Areas
Courtney Calfee

Blended and Online Common Core: Creating Dynamic Thinkers in All Subject Areas is an interactive training that will equip educators with an understanding of their role in addressing the instructional shifts required by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Applying CCSS across all subject areas helps transform students who are accustomed to thinking about text-explicit concepts into dynamic thinkers able to draw inferences and reach evidence-based conclusions no matter what course they are in. Learn ways that higher-order questioning can be infused into Live Lessons/Collaborations and be the beginning of an exciting change in learning outcomes.

Technology in the Common Core Age
Dennis Large

Common Core and the Smarter Balanced assessments are changing our classrooms.  K-12 online and blended learning environments are poised to lead the change. This session examines the specific role of technology in this transformation – including research and best practices. We will examine some of the ideas and the applications gaining traction as teachers make the connections between ed tech and the Common Core.

The Core of the Common Core
Kyle Brumbaugh

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are now a part of all classrooms, but how can you quickly and easily create and develop lessons that will allow you to meet multiple CCSS and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?  This session will provide you with strategies on how to develop tool sets, workflows and power lessons that will allow you to supercharge the teaching and learning in your classroom.  This session will also allow you to get the students to teach each other and in turn deepen their own learning.

Authoring and Adapting Online Content with CK12 – the Leading OER Platform
Stephen Politzer

CK-12 is the leading Open Educational Resource (OER) for quality, free common core aligned online courses and curriculum concepts. Find a complete course or curriculum concept and use it directly out of the box… or copy it, edit and adapt it, and make it your own by adding your words, links, and resources. In this session, you’ll get an overview of the CK-12 OER system, learn how to search for and find courses and concepts, copy and edit courses and concepts, and even author and publish your own courses and concepts. Quality AND free… CK-12!

Discussion Boards: Purpose and Power
David Dillon

Participants will explore the purpose and power of Discussion Boards.  Discussion Boards can be used for the following three purposes: 1) deepening a student’s knowledge, 2) initiating peer tutoring, and 3) demonstrating mastery of material.  Discussion boards are powerful tools for meeting many ELA Common Core Anchor Standards.  In this workshop participants will take an in-depth look at how to use Discussion Boards effectively.  Key concepts that will be looked at include developing essential questions, online deliberation, and argumentation.  Be prepared to discuss these concepts.

The eLearning Strategies Symposium returns December 12th and 13th, 2014 and focuses on K12 educators, administrators, policymakers, industry, and advocates. The San Mateo Mariott will host the two-day event. Pre-registration for the eLearning Strategies Symposium is now open until October 3rd.   Individual pre-registration is currently $179 and groups of two or more may register for $165 each.

The San Mateo Marriott, a short, free shuttle ride from San Francisco International Airport, is centrally located by Highways 92 and 101 on the San Francisco Peninsula. Single and double rooms, which are $139 per night, include free wi-fi and self-parking. Room reservations must be made by Friday, November 25, 2014 to ensure the ESS group rate.  Secure your room through the eSS hotel reservation page,


ESS Call for Speakers Deadline Extended


Call for Presenters

Deadline Extended


By popular demand, we’ve extended our Call for Presenters for the 2014 eLearning Strategies Symposium until Friday, May 23rd. However, please accept my apology if you’ve already submitted a proposal. Having exceeded our expectations last year, we’re looking for a variety of sessions about all facets of online and blended learning: pedagogy, teaching and learning, professional development, technology infrastructure, tools, planning, and curriculum.

The symposium will be held at the San Mateo Marriott on December 12th and 13th, 2014. Three-hour workshops will be offered on Thursday, December 11th and Saturday, December 13th. We invite you to share your eLearning expertise with K12 educators, administrators, policy makers, and industry representatives.

Two session proposal windows are offered. During this Early Bird window, which closes Friday, May 23th, we’ll be filling two-thirds of the concurrent sessions. A shorter, Just in Time, proposal window opens mid-August for the final third. Speaker acceptances for the first round will be mailed out the week of June 2nd. All speakers will receive a complementary registration to the symposium. Industry-sponsored sessions must include a Corporate Partnership Application.

Symposium presentations should focus on one of eSS’ five strands:

  • Big Picture, which includes administration, management, evaluation, research, policy or advocacy;
  • Content (curriculum and online course development, best practices, accessibility, or instructional design);
  • Capacity Building (professional development);
  • Gear (tools, technologies, learning management systems, or application development); or
  • Pedagogy (engaging students, teaching and learning pedagogies, blended learning models, learning communities, or assessment).

Symposium presentations are one-hour in duration with one session each hour being live-streamed and recorded for future distribution. Speakers may opt-out of live-streaming.

eLearning Strategies Symposium Call for Speakers


eSS Web Site

Twitter: @elearns


Governor Brown’s Disingenuous Support for Online and Blended Learning

Today, Governor Brown, in his Budget “May Revise” again expressed his strong endorsement for online and blended learning. In addition to his support statements last January, he’s supplemented the May Revise budget with several additional changes he’d like to support online and blended learning.

From last January, “The Governor’s Budget proposed to streamline and expand the instructional opportunities available through independent study by authorizing local educational agencies to offer course‑based independent study options for students in grades 9‑12 and site‑based blended learning programs for grades K‑12.”

The May Revision “proposes a series of changes to the Administration’s January proposal, including:

• Eliminating the requirement that certificated teachers and students meet weekly to assess if a student is making satisfactory academic progress in a school site‑based blended learning independent study program. Teachers and students in these programs already interact frequently enough to monitor student progress.

• Providing schools with the ability to offer site‑based blended learning, utilizing a universal learning agreement for all students enrolled in the same course or courses.

• Promoting equitable funding by funding students enrolled in course‑based independent study programs on the basis of average daily attendance, and not enrollment, and applying the statewide excused absence rate to average daily attendance (ADA) claimed by local educational agencies”

This is all very good news for those districts that are implementing virtual or blended learning, particularly at a time that CLRN’s eLearning census has shown that 53% of districts are implementing eLearning and that blended learning is spreading to a greater number of schools.

Governor Brown’s budget statement is shortsighted, though. To express support for blended learning while eliminating the only agency that guarantees that online courses teach all the content standards, involve students in active learning, and require student work that goes beyond knowledge and comprehension is disingenuous.  When CLRN began reviewing online courses three years ago, only 25% of them earned our certification, meaning that they taught at least 80% of the content standards and met at least 80% of INACOL’s Standards for Quality Online Courses. Though our partnership with the University of California, publishers worked to improve their courses and re-submit them to CLRN for re-review. As a result, 73% of the courses now published on our site have earned CLRN Certification. With blended learning skyrocketing throughout California with Governor Brown’s blessing, who will be minding the store? How will districts know if courses teach the Common Core, the Next Generation Science Standards, or other content standards and if courses are high quality?

No one and they won’t.

The Local Control Funding Formula ended most categorical programs, including CLRN.

ESS13: Online Teacher of the year, Renee Citlau

Online Teacher of the Year, Renee Citlau, presents her session at the 2013 eLearning Strategies Symposium, College and Career Readiness in the 21st Century.

With the focus on college and college and career readiness and the large number of students that are English learners, online courses must develop literacy skills. In this session, participants will learn and discuss strategies and tools to increase student literacy, 21st century skills, and Habits of Mind such as perseverance, time management, and metacognition.

AB 2178: Blended Learning Pilot Program

 Making its way through the California legislature is a new bill that would create a Blended Learning Pilot program starting the fall of 2015. I fully support this bill now that an important amendment has been added.

But first you might ask, where has California been all this time that eLearning has been exploding in popularity. After all, our eLearning census this year indicated a 49% increase in the blended learning population and an 80% rise in the blended learning median. With 53% of all districts and charters participating in online and blended learning, the state is a little late to the party. Still, this bill addresses an important problem.

Two of the trends the census has identified are that blended learning in direct-funded charters is growing faster than in traditional districts and that the vast majority of virtually schooled students reside in charter schools. We believe that the cause resides in the different regulations afforded charter schools, which cause school districts to place many blended and virtual students in their Independent Study programs.

AB 2178 creates a three-year pilot, administered by the State Board of Education, to explore various blended learning models and document best and promising practices. During the application process, districts and charters may ask for a waiver for specific statutes by stating the educational benefit gained through the waiver.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office is concerned that this bill only rewards successful programs while spurning innovation. “Because this pilot program requires an applicant to have a proven track record of success in delivering blended learning programs, the only conclusion that can be reached is that “successful programs are successful.”

The LAO also notes that the bill exempts charter schools participating in the pilot from the requirement that classroom-based instruction must occur under the immediate supervision and control of a certificated teacher who is an employee of the school, which is probably why the California Teachers Association opposes this bill. However, direct and immediate teacher supervision is counter to many blended learning models, so I believe traditional districts should also have this option. If this bill is about best practices and which Ed Code statutes impede innovation, there should be a level playing field for both charters and districts.

The LAO is also correct in their concern about AB2178 being a funding windfall for direct-funded charter schools. “Exempting charter schools from this provision would result in at least a 43% increase in their funding for non-classroom-based instruction, with no requirement for a corresponding increase in services provided to pupils.

Still, given that this bill is limited to 20 districts or charters, that it’s a three-year pilot, AND that the bill now includes an independent evaluation, the Blended Learning Pilot program could provide needed data about how best to support blended learning in California. Having passed the Assembly Education Committee, AB 2178’s next stop is the Assembly Appropriations’ Committee on May 14th.

Learning Management Systems in California

Learning Management Systems

Starting last year, we began asking districts about the learning management systems they are using to host online or blended courses.  Most course publishers provide their own LMS. Some of these are homebuilt, but many are commercial including Brian Honey. We found a significant number of districts continue to list Edmodo as their LMS, although technically it’s not a learning management system. This year, Blackboard rose to second place while CaliQity dropped from 5th to 9th place. Selected by one or no districts are Sakai, Edu 2.0, Desire2Learn, Angel, Course Builder, and Course Sites. Download the entire eLearning Census report here.


It’s Time for a California Statewide Virtual School, Part Two

 Keeping Pace defines state virtual schools as programs created by legislation or by a state level agency, and/or administered by a state education agency, and/or funded by a state appropriation or grant for the purpose of providing online learning opportunities across the state.

A statewide virtual school is not a new concept, and California would be one of the last major states to the table. According to the 2013 Keeping Pace report, 26 states already operate state virtual schools, serving 740,000 students.  Since California has chosen not to take a leadership position during the eLearning revolution, direct-funded charters have filled up the void, placing virtual schools strategically across the state to take advantage of the “contiguous county” rule. However, a statewide virtual school provides several advantages to the current situation.

While our eLearning census found full-time virtual students at 47 direct-funded charters, we believe there are only about 25 full-time virtual schools in California, all direct-funded charters. The majority of these are owned and operated by commercial course publishers. While several have demonstrated exceptional educational progress, the vast majority are academically challenged. These schools regularly score far below the 800 API threshold and have spent several years in the Program Improvement program.

A statewide virtual school, authorized by legislation and run by the California Department of Education, would be more accountable to the State Board of Education, ensuring that its processes were transparent, its curriculum and teaching high quality, and its opportunities available to all students in California. With access to all students in California, a California Virtual School could provide a larger catalog of “orphan” courses including world languages and AP courses. According to the report, Delaware Virtual School: Right Opportunity. Right Time,  “Many schools – especially small and rural schools – do not have access to quality teachers in many subjects, particularly in mathematics and science. Providing students with a way to retake courses and graduate on time, take advanced courses not offered in their schools, and access to quality teachers are key benefits to Virtual Schools.”

Another possible benefit would be increased graduation rates. New to this year’s California eLearning Census was a question asking districts about the impact online and/or blended learning has had on student outcomes. While 58% of districts indicated online courses increased student engagement, 50% shared that online courses increased course completion rates while 40% felt these courses improved graduation rates.

While I believe California should embrace a statewide virtual school, I don’t believe it will ever happen. Despite the illusion that California is progressive and technology-focused, educators know better. We’ve earned the “F” given to us by Digital Learning Now, and despite being 43rd in the nation when it comes to high-quality digital learning, California’s leaders have no intention of changing that. Other states will continue to provide primary leadership in the eLearning revolution and California, perhaps, will follow after its too late to determine the course.