Computer networking giant Cisco Systems Ltd. has created a highly popular curriculum to teach high school-age and older students about maintaining computer networks. This program, known as the Cisco Networking Academy program, offers some valuable lessons in designing high-tech, high-touch programs in technical fields:

  1. Instructors are crucial. Even with information that is delivered online, instructors need to work with students closely. Of equal importance, the instructors need support, which Cisco provides through online technical support staff who are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

  2. Feedback and assessment should be given regularly. One of the benefits of online courses is that exams can be integrated into the program readily, and students easily can be redirected to material that they did not understand the first time.

  3. Create a community of learners. Online discussion groups and forums enhance students’ and instructors’ experiences.

  4. Design course management into the program. This helps keep track of student performance and student needs.