As integration of online learning grows, administrators and teachers often look at what is needed to create successful online courses. It could be an overwhelming task for school district leaders to identify which attributes are the most important to create a successful online learning program, but thankfully, lots of research is at hand to simplify that task.
One recent benchmark report by MDR’s EdNet Insight Service shows that the three most important attributes for success with online courses are “teachers being available to intervene with struggling students” (97 percent); “instructors well-trained in delivering online courses” (95 percent); and “tracking student progress/adequate reporting tools” (95 percent).
While the importance of strong, well-trained teachers is obvious, the importance of reporting tools to track student progress may not be so obvious. As more teachers, administrators, and school districts adopt more ways to create online courses, they will quickly find that the tools for monitoring student progress vary greatly in functionality and effectiveness—giving teachers a number of advantages over traditional classroom monitoring methods.
Many times in a traditional classroom setting it is difficult to determine how a student is engaging with the materials. While the student may open their book, or listen to the teacher’s instructions there’s no real ability to assess whether or not they comprehend the lesson then and there. Most often, instructors can’t assess this level of understanding until test results come in at the end of a course section, by which time it’s too late to remediate because the class needs to move on to the next set of lessons.
Yet in an online environment, technology gives instructors multiple opportunities to assess comprehension and internalization of materials in near real-time. For example, teachers can track how long a student engages with an assignment, how quickly they move through a lesson, and receive immediate results on computer graded materials.
According to Mike DePalma, Director of Product Strategy and Management at Fuel Education, real-time reporting pinpoints how students are performing and where they might be struggling. DePalma stresses that this reporting should be centralized to provide teachers access to student information for all online programs in one place. He emphasizes that a dashboard presentation is the most effective for reporting, and that these dashboards and reports should be able to be accessed from inside the classroom, in the principal’s office, or at an off-site meeting via mobile device, and at any time.
There are several reporting platforms that enable this kind of anytime, anywhere reporting. DePalma has worked on developing Fuel Education’s PEAK platform that gives administrators a unified reporting portal to track student progress. It allows instructors to identify students who need help—such as those moving at a slower pace, or who are demonstrating signs of disengaging from the curriculum—and respond with corrective action to get the student back on track.