Study: Five Success Factors for Online Learning Programs


Amanda Cunningham
Thursday, October 24, 2013 - 1:00am

School districts of all sizes are implementing online learning programs to help them overcome some of their largest challenges.

Online learning programs are being utilized across the country for catalog expansion, or offering niche and low-demand subjects to students who want them. They’re being relied upon to provide credit recovery options for students that fall behind, are suspended, or expelled from school. They’re even being used to educate students that are medically homebound, or for families that decide to educate their student at home.

Regardless of why districts are embracing online learning, and what benefits they’re looking to gain from it, schools have to go through the process of defining and implementing their program.

Earlier this year, Fuel Education conducted a online learning benchmark survey of 165 district and school-level leaders and educators to identify best practices and lessons learned from implementing programs. According to the report, the following five success factors were cited as extremely important for nearly 80 percent of respondents across all types of online learning programs:

1. Reporting tools/progress monitoring: Because there can be less face-to-face interaction between the teacher and the student, the teacher can’t rely on a student’s verbal responses or body language to indicate their level of understanding. Progress monitoring tools are crucial for teachers to know how students are doing and if intervention is needed.

2. Availability of teachers to assist struggling students when students engage in online education. When a student struggles with a concept or falls behind, it is extremely important to have a teacher available to assist so the student does not become frustrated and disengaged.

3. Instructors well-trained in delivering online courses and online tutoring. Training is crucial to the success of any program in schools, whether technology-based or not.

4. Offering rigorous and engaging curriculum: Engaging e-learning curriculum helps keep the student moving forward and focused, and a well-designed curriculum provides different methods of delivering content to accommodate different learning styles.

5. Providing students with enough training/clear expectations around their responsibilities to use online tutoring and take courses online. Students must have clear expectations of what they need to do to be successful using online courses.

Whether embracing an online learning program for credit recovery, selected for-credit courses or full-time online education, it’s essential that schools and districts consider the factors above in the program’s design and implementation.

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