Four keys to creating successful eLearning programs

By Laura Devaney, Managing Editor
March 13th, 2012

A number of important considerations go into creating high-quality online and blended learning programs.

It’s no secret that online and blended learning are picking up momentum nationwide—and during a recent International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) webinar, experts offered advice for school leaders who hope to begin their own online or blended learning programs.

While many use the terms interchangeably, online learning and blended learning differ slightly, said webinar moderator Butch Gemin of the Evergreen Education Group, which publishes iNACOL’s annual “Keeping Pace with Online Learning” report.

Online learning is teacher-led instruction delivered primarily via the internet, and it includes software to provide a structured learning environment. Teachers and students are separated by geography.

Blended learning occurs any time a student learns in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar place, away from home, and at least in part through online delivery, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.

Many school districts begin with a pilot online or blended learning program but run into challenges when they try to scale up the program, said Evergreen Education’s Chris Rapp, who works with schools around the country as they start or expand online learning programs.

“You have to know where you want to go if you’re going to get there,” he said. Rapp outlined four key program components for education leaders to consider.


Creators of online or blended learning programs should know their educational goals, program, structure, and course content before they begin, Rapp said.

Knowing what grade levels will be served and whether courses will be full-time or supplemental, spread over a traditional calendar year or follow a nontraditional calendar, and let students learn at their own pace or follow a cohort-based pace are all important considerations.

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2 Responses to “Four keys to creating successful eLearning programs”
March 15, 2012

I believe that a major component of “successful” on-line instruction is the user’s comfort level with technology. Having students test into the program to demonstrate their computer skills is a critical entry level requirement. A major part of on-line instruction includes the mastery of technology and if you don’t have it when you start the program, it sets you back a bit. I am in agreement that this is a key consideration.

March 20, 2012

I agree that preparation of online materials prior to launch must be done with meticulous attention to the demands of the online environment. What works in the classroom may not translate.

Students must also have reliable access to technology (and a reliable backup plan) as a prerequisite for enrollment.

Instructors must have adequate training. They need to be aware of the amount of time required to communicate in writing what can easily be dealt with orally on-site. Having on-site experience prepares the instructor to cover the content and prepares the instructor for the questions or problems that may be asked. Instructors teaching online for the first time should think through all the little fires put out in the average onsite class and be ready to deal with the same fires and more online. Instructors should be given plenty of time to develop a collection of standard responses. Almost every individual’s question should be considered as speaking for the rest, so responses should be collected and distributed to all, perhaps through announcements or a discussion board.

Online teaching can be very enjoyable, but it can also be a communication nightmare. Be sure support systems are prepared and available for both students and instructors.