Can we please stop talking about online learning as if it's something new?
At this point (April 2012), online learning is not innovative, as a concept. There might be inventive ways of handling teaching and learning via the digital medium, but we've long since passed the stage where we could label it "innovative." The first online class for higher education was offered over twenty years ago (University of Phoenix), and public schools began using online coursework around fifteen years ago.
Online learning is decidedly mainstream. It is a viable option, there are quality providers (and those that lack quality), and there are different methods involved with the classes.
Independent schools are still trying to determine whether to award credit for online courses, whether to allow online courses when the same face-to-face courses exist already, whether the quality is as good as what an independent school would expect normally within its walls, and so forth.
But it's not innovative any longer. Rather, it's a question of to what degree a school will assimilate online coursework into its repertoire of course offerings.
Therefore, when we look at the "growth curve" for online learning, we need to understand that this curve shows the degree to which online options are offered and taken; it is not showing any degree of innovation. This is an adoption curve, not an innovation curve.
From this point on, any "growth" in the online learning market place is akin to "growth" in a mature industry. Consider Coca-Cola, IBM, 3M, and so forth: they are still trying to grow, but their growth is incremental because many of their products are already mature. To be sure, they put much time and money into their R&D departments in order to innovate, and these products do produce growth, but the "growth" of their core products tends to occur as a result of adoption in new markets.
Online learning--a core product of the world of teaching and learning--has a place in independent schools. That should be self-evident by this point, and we should stop saying "Wow! Look at the shine on that!" everytime we hear someone talk about it. We will spend (waste?) the next three to five years figuring this out, then realize that we've been smitten so much by online learning that we've forgotten to pay attention to other innovations. Schools won't have money to invest in creating/seeking innovative products that enhance teaching and learning because we will have been so busy implementing "innovative" online learning...that is now entering its third decade of existence.
Third decade?! That sounds as if we're behind the curve. Not in front of it; not riding the crest of the wave. Behind.