It takes a lot of work to cultivate strong, engaged online learners, and every district has its own unique needs and challenges. For these reasons, developing a successful online learning program isn’t easy. Some schools need to create career pathways programs for students; others want to be able to offer more advanced placement (AP) courses. Still others need more STEM or computer science options, but don’t have access to qualified course instruction for these subjects.

A quality online learning program can help districts achieve their goals and do more with less. By providing students with a quality online option, you can maximize resources and instantly expand your course offerings. Simply put, online courses give students more choice and schools more flexibility.

Often, these courses would not be available to students due to budget, staffing, and scheduling limitations. It’s also important to note that the use of online and blended learning is standard at most colleges around the country. By taking an online course in high school, students are better prepared for college and beyond.

Here are some tips for creating a virtual learning program that meets your district’s needs and more.

An insider's advice on creating an effective virtual learning program

How to get started

Key factors to consider when selecting an online program are:

• Is the online school accredited?
• If your students are considering athletics in college, are the program’s courses NCAA-approved?
• Are the courses instructor-led or self-paced?
• What is the role of the instructor–to actively engage in discussions/lessons or to grade work and respond to inquiries only?
• What is the average teacher: student ratio?
• Does the program have the courses needed: AP? Gifted & Talented? Credit Recovery? Core? Electives? Dual-credit? Certificate programs? Career pathways?
• What types of support will students receive outside of the online classroom?

(Next page: More advice on starting or expanding your online learning program)

About the Author:

Carol Ribeiro is president and chief executive officer of The Virtual High School.


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