Sunday’s New York Times story broke the news that Stanford University, one of the world’s most prestigious research institutions, is putting its brand squarely behind a full-time, degree-granting online high school program. It’s just one more reason to set aside the silly debate about whether online educationcan possibly be effective for high school students.

Stanford’s move is significant. But, unless it goes further, Stanford University Online High School is still just a small, selective program for gifted students. Here are two ways to have real impact:

1. Scale the program, allowing tens of thousands of students to participate. At this point, though, the university seems reluctant to grow the school much beyond the size of a typical elite independent school.
2. Generate research and knowledge, helping to define what quality high school online education looks like, what works for whom, what implementation practices matter, and why.

Perhaps Stanford’s move will push other institutions to consider the real game-changer – offering elite quality education, at an affordable cost, on a more massive scale. When will the University of Michigan, UVA, UNC, Berkeley, or any of our other great public universities do this for an entire state?

Last updated November 22, 2011