local district policies affecting such
areas as course accreditation, state aid
reimbursement, and students’ right to
and Inform Families
Given the self-discipline needed to be
which offers more than 50 separate
online courses ranging from accounting
to world religions) has bragging rights
take online classes from sources other
successful online, students who are
to a completion rate of 91 percent.
than local districts. Teacher contracts
enrolled in online courses for credit
Why? Online learning consultant Karen
may require special remuneration for
recovery may need closer monitoring
Johnson explains it as the result of “local
teaching online classes. Online courses
than they would in a regular class.
districts that have made a decision to
may or may not count toward the
Even independent, motivated students
work together in a collaborative, con-
maximum number of credits a student
need support when enrolled in online
scientious and careful counselors who
can take during a semester. Generally,
classes. Strategies like confirming that a do good advising, an online program
states favor the rights of students rather student spends at least six hours on the point person for enrollment and student
than school districts when they develop course during the first week increase
support, a small program, and dedicated
policies related to online learning.
the chance of course completion
Designate an Online
Schools need to help families make
good choices of online courses for their
Given the complexity of laws and pol-
children, especially if those courses are
Commercial online course offerings
icies surrounding online learning, a dis- not offered by the district itself. One
are bleeding already-stretched budgets
trict should designate one person to be
of our students was denied an athletic
in some districts. Many students find
a single point of contact and expertise.
scholarship because some online math
online learning attractive because of
This person can serve as a liaison
classes she took, although they met
scheduling, family values, learning-style
between state and regional online con-
district and state requirements, had not preferences, or esoteric course content.
sultants and district personnel. He or
received National Collegiate Athletic
But if a large number of students seem
she can also update administrators and
counselors regularly about online regu-
Our Socrates Online Program (a
to be using online classes to avoid
classes in your district or to take sub-
lations and assist in evaluating how well reinvention of a regional instructional
jects not offered by your district, some
commercial course offerings are aligned television network of 28 school districts, curriculum review—or examination of
with state and local standards.
teaching practices—may be in order.
Focus on Teaching,
Putting instructional materials online is
not particularly difficult. But given the
sophistication of learning management
systems like Moodle, Blackboard, and
Desire2Learn, your online curriculum
can’t just be the electronic equivalent
of the old snail-mail correspondence
course. Whether your district is developing its own in-house courses or trying
to evaluate external courses, it’s not just
a question of loading a file or video to
a server. Good online courses require a
high degree of interactivity to stimulate
interest, conversation, and higher-level
Making It Happen
What School and District
Leaders Can Do
n Be knowledgeable about state
laws and local policies related to
n Know what good online learning
design looks like.
n Find ways to support students
taking online courses independently.
n Serve on online planning groups.
n Examine your own course
offerings if a high percentage of
students are taking online classes
instead of traditional classes.
Don’t just let online learning happen in
your district. Create a plan for using
online courses and resources to improve
the learning opportunities for all
1Project Tomorrow & Blackboard Inc.
(2011). Learning in the 21st century: A 5 year
retrospective on the growth in online learning.
Irvine, CA and Washington, DC: Authors.
Retrieved from www.blackboard.com/
2International Association for K– 12
Online Learning. (2012). Fast facts about
online learning. Vienna, VA: Author.
Retrieved from www.inacol.org/press/docs/