Four keys to creating successful eLearning programs

“Good teaching is good teaching, but this is a different set of tools, and teachers need to know how to use those tools and how to use proper techniques to really engage students,” he added.

Professional development is key to this consideration, and first-time online teachers should enroll in a rigorous summer program to prepare themselves. Organizing professional development by discipline has advantages, and having experienced online teachers mentor new online teachers also is a wise idea.

Many online teachers say that even if they have several years of classroom experience, their first year of teaching online is much like their first year of classroom teaching, because they find they need new and different classroom management and communication skills.

“Regardless of the content, the quality of the teaching is going to make the course or program successful,” said Justin Schmitt, principal of Southwest Colorado eSchool. Schmitt’s school is a newly-formed online middle and high school run through a board of cooperative educational services that formed when nine districts banded together to create an online school in the region.

It’s important to know when, or during what time, students access their courses, because that’s when online teachers should be available to their students, Schmitt said. In his previous experience as an online teacher, Schmitt used as instant messaging application to communicate with students, and he said they were very comfortable approaching him in that manner.

Not all online or blended learning students have parents at home to supervise them, and the Southwest Colorado eSchool has built local support for students by opening two administrative offices where students can come for help. Someone from the school also will meet students at libraries or learning centers to offer academic advising, tutoring, and other help.


“Technology should be in service of educational goals,” Rapp said. “You want to make sure you’re working hand-in-hand with your technologists to make sure they’re supporting you in the right way.”

Interoperability is a major concern, and program leaders should make sure that whatever technologies they purchase will work well together in a seamless manner before investing money and time.

Laura Ascione

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