The standards give teachers a set of criteria to be effective online educators.

As online learning becomes more ubiquitous in schools and districts across the nation, a leading online-learning organization has updated its national standards intended to help shape high-quality online teaching practices.

In its National Standards for Quality Online Teaching, Version 2, the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has revised its existing standards that define high-quality teaching in online and blended-learning programs to address the need for more personalize learning.

iNACOL representatives said they hope the revised standards will help educators use their knowledge, skills, and abilities to meet the individual needs of each student more effectively.

“The new standards focus on providing teachers with a set of criteria for effective online learning and aim to guarantee that the teachers are better able to understand the technology, new teaching methods, and digital course content … to foster an personalized online learning environment for every student,” said Susan Patrick, president of iNACOL.

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The standards are accompanied by different components, and teachers’ progress can be measured on a rating scale, with a score of zero indicating that the component is missing, a score of 1 being unsatisfactory and needing significant improvement, a score of 2 denoting somewhat satisfactory progress with targeted improvements needed, a score of 3 indicating satisfactory progress with some necessary discretionary improvement, and a score of 4 being very satisfactory with no improvement needed.

The 10 new online teaching standards include the following criteria:

  1. The online teacher knows the primary concepts and structures of effective online instruction and is able to create learning experiences to enable student success.
  2. The online teacher understands and is able to use a range of technologies, both existing and emerging, that effectively support student learning and engagement in the online environment.
  3. The online teacher plans, designs, and incorporates strategies to encourage active learning, application, interaction, participation, and collaboration in the online environment.
  4. The online teacher promotes student success through clear expectations, prompt responses, and regular feedback.
  5. The online teacher models, guides, and encourages legal, ethical, and safe behavior related to technology use.
  6. The online teacher is cognizant of the diversity of student academic needs and incorporates accommodations into the online environment.
  7. The online teacher demonstrates competencies in creating and implementing assessments in online learning environments in ways that ensure validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures.
  8. The online teacher develops and delivers assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals and assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of the learning goals.
  9. The online teacher demonstrates competency in using data from assessments and other data sources to modify content and to guide student learning.
  10. The online teacher interacts in a professional, effective manner with colleagues, parents, and other members of the community to support students’ success.

The report also includes standards for instructional design skills for online teachers, where applicable. These standards are considered optional, though, because instructional design does not always fall under online teaching responsibilities.

The standards needed to be updated because of the changing field of online teaching, said Sara Baltunis of the Texas Virtual School Network, during an Oct. 20 webinar to review the updates.

“This field is changing and growing so rapidly, and even the terminology has become outdated in a matter of 12 months,” Baltunis said. “At first glance it could be daunting to online teachers, but it’s important for online teachers to understand where to get the information to help online students—not that they necessarily have to know how to use every single type of accessibility tool, but if they don’t know, they know who can help them learn how to use those tools.”

Online teachers, as well as others who are part of online and blended learning programs, can use the report and standards to understand the different types of online learning options, Baltunis said.

For more on online teaching and learning, see:

Demand for online learning increases

Report cites 40 diverse examples of blended learning

Five lessons from the nation’s best online teacher