4. Offering rigorous and engaging curriculum.

Survey respondents explained that engaging curriculum helps keep students moving forward and focused, and a well-designed curriculum provides different methods of delivering content to accommodate different learning styles.

“Public schools don’t have the time and resources to research and develop the type of ‘best practices’ curriculum schools would like to offer,” explained Keith Wilson, principal of Lawrence Virtual Schools, Kan. “But the private sector can.”

5. Providing students with enough training/clear expectations around their responsibilities to take courses.

All respondents acknowledged that the “upfront investment in training students how to use the technology and clearly defining what is expected of them could mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful course completion.”

Bonus: How to measure success.

When asked how they measure the success of an online program, respondents ranked a number of attributes as important. However, the top ranked measure of quality  is for a “student to demonstrate growth in academic performance throughout the year,” says the survey.

For example, ACPS use the usual metrics to measure how well their program is doing, including interim test results, end-of-course tests, graduation rates, and learning time.

Yet, “the real success story is in the stories,” said Fluharty. “It is hard when online learning programs are held to the same standards as the brick-and-mortar schools. There are no metrics that capture the essence of success for dropout prevention or diploma recovery better than the real stories.”

According to Tres Tyvland, student services coordinator at Bend-La Pine Schools Online in Bend, Ore., the best way to measure quality is through student growth in the course.

“[Traditional standardized tests] simply confirm, year after year, that the student remains behind grade level. When you consider that most students have been in the online program for fewer than two years, these types of tests are more reflective of their previous education experience than their online educational experience.”

She continued, “A better way to measure the success of an online program would be to look at the progress a student makes over the course of a school year.”

To request a copy of the full survey, click here.