Virginia-based K12 recently opened an office in Dubai to expand overseas. Packard says he expects strong offshore demand for American primary and secondary education tailored for foreign nationals who want to enter U.S. universities.
Apex Learning, based in Bellevue, Washington, is seeing a similar surge in demand. It started in 1997 by offering online advanced-placement courses to parents and individual schools but now sells an array of online classes for entire school districts and state departments of education.
"Over the last two years in particular we have seen very, very significant growth in the interest and demand for our type of digital curriculum," Apex chief executive Cheryl Vedoe said in a telephone interview.
Apex enrollments rose 50 percent to 300,000 in 2006-2007, and likely grew at the same pace last year, she said.
"Where we see the greatest growth today is actually in brick and mortar high schools for programs for students who are not succeeding in the existing programs," she added.
Online tutoring is also expanding rapidly. Bangalore-based TutorVista, which launched online U.S. services in 2005, estimates its average global growth in active students at 22 percent a month--all taught by "e-tutors" mostly in India.
Horn expects demand for teachers to fall and virtual schools to boost achievement in a U.S. education system where only two-thirds of teenagers graduate from high school--a proportion that slides to 50 percent for black Americans and Hispanics, according to government statistics.
"You deliver education at lower cost, but you will actually improve the amount of time that a teacher can spend with each student because they are no longer delivering one-size-fits-all lesson plans," he said. "They can actually roam around."