Technological advancement and new ways to access learning have set motions in place to propel the growth of online learning. This has been explored in a new report by ISC Research that investigates the growth of online international schools.
Pandemic accelerates growth in online international school market
COVID-19 has been a catalyst for change in the traditional face-to-face school campuses. As educators and families had to transition to online learning, online schools gained exposure in a way that has never been experienced before. Despite this, there has been evidence and understanding, for at least a decade, that the traditional way that learning is delivered is not the best solution for every child. Now that online learning has gained greater visibility and appeal, so more families are looking to online schools as the answer to the needs or challenges their child has faced. The market growth and potential are explored within the new report.
How does ISC Research identify an online international school?
Boundaries are difficult to establish in an online environment: location, time zone, format may not matter as much. ISC Research tracks the international schools market, using defined criteria to provide context to the data we collect and analyse. The criteria we use to identify international schools rely on delivering a whole curriculum with English as one of the languages of learning, which we adapted to track international online schools:
- The online school offers a whole curriculum with English as one of the languages of learning for children of any age between 3 and 18 and is publicly accessible for students from a variety of countries to enrol.
- The online school only enrols students from within one single country and offers a whole curriculum that is not the national curriculum of that country with English as one of the languages of learning.
ISC Research selected these criteria to align as closely as possible to those used to track the international schools market for the past 25 years. These help to differentiate online schools from traditional schools in our market analysis.
Some online learning providers offer subject courses as a supplement to a classroom-based curriculum, but to be eligible for ISC Research data collection, an online international school must offer a permanent whole programme of subject learning in an online environment that meets the above criteria.
New data on online international schools
Five new online international schools opened between July 2021 and July 2022 according to the most recent market investigation conducted by ISC Research. Curriculum varies by school. The graph below highlights the most popular curricula delivered by the online international schools sector as a whole, with a US-style curriculum or a curriculum from the UK being the top choices.
What is the appeal of online international schools?
Innovative digital learning has widened the horizons of students, creating a flexible learning opportunity that allows access to education regardless of individual student needs, abilities, or geographical location. The accessibility and inclusivity of online schools are crucial to their appeal for student enrolment. They provide continuity in learning, while typically offering international education at a more affordable price point when compared with the fees of traditional international schools. These factors can appeal to a range of student demographics to meet varying needs including those unable to access mainstream education, travelling extensively, or selecting an alternative approach to learning. Some online international schools prioritise enriching extra-curricular activities, and/or a global cohort, to promote a more rounded student experience.
“My classmates are from all over the world and that was pivotal for me in my decision to enrol with Dwight Global. The more interconnected we are globally, the more we become citizens of the world, and that is key to understanding other people’s traditions and viewpoints and is important to me on a personal level,” said Emily Schmidt, a student at online international school, Dwight Global.
Safeguarding as a key focus in online international schools
The ISC Research online international schools report explores the challenges of safeguarding and wellbeing in the online school space and the developments that are emerging. While continual training for staff is imperative within all school settings, there may be greater risks associated with an online environment, such as cyber-attacks and phishing. This requires very specific skills and competencies by administrators and teaching staff, along with the implementation of strict safeguarding policies relevant for the environment.
“We recognise that the online learning environment is changing rapidly therefore we need teachers who are open to change,” said Tom Crombie, Founder and CEO at My Online Schooling Ltd.
Some schools are working hard to develop teachers appropriately within this space. However, more stringent regulations and accreditation are necessary across the entire sector. The extensive developments within education technology have included tools and methods to support student safeguarding and wellbeing in an online context and more development is likely to assist the expanding online school sector.
Other areas explored in the new report include the types of extra-curricular activities being offered by some online schools, the range of tuition fees charged by online schools, and the types of accreditation bodies that support online schools.
The pandemic shone a light on the benefits of online learning, as a result raising the profile of online schools. The new online schools report explores them further, highlighting the educational option they offer for some students, and the role they might play in what the future of education looks like.
The Online International Schools Report includes detailed data and intelligence about the online international schools market and is available to purchase from our website.