Last updated: 18.10.12

Bay Area funding to bring schools benefits of online education

A non-profit organisation in California has been awarded a $25 million (£15.4 million) fund, with the view to turning schools in the Bay Area into a hub for blended learning.

The sizeable gift from John Fisher of Gap Inc to the Silicon Schools Fund expects to combine digital education with classroom instruction through grants of up to $700,000 (£433,000) for each institution, EdSource reports.

In five years, the initiative hopes make local schools more self-sustaining and innovative by underwriting the experiments of 25 sites in blended learning.

This is according to Brian Greenberg, chief executive officer of the new Silicon Schools Fund, former charter school principle and technology advocate.

He stated the long-promised personalisation of education through low-cost hardware and software has developed to the point where it is recognised and respected by educators.

"It won't be without its challenges", he was quoted as saying, "but this is time for research. Then we can focus on replication and scale".

Mr Greenberg was the former chief academic officer at Envision Schools - which operates four public institutions in the area - and invented the Blend My Learning project.

The majority of schools in the US have computer labs and some districts are already offering online courses, using help from computer software to supplement teaching.

However, real blended learning - which individually tailors online instruction and transforms how educators teach - is still in the early stages of its development.

In the Bay Area, the learning technique is gathering more interest and teaching development organisation Rocketship Education has opened seven charter schools for low-income students.

One representative of the Silicon Schools Fund Salman Khan has pioneered online education through three-minute videos on a wide range of subjects, which have been viewed by millions.

So far, the fund has generated half of the $25 million target and Mr Greenberg said he is optimistic about raising the remaining money.

The first two or three grants will be announced in January 2013 and aim to open schools teaching students from diverse backgrounds.