Friday, November 12, 2004


Choosing Online Education

Pape, L. (2004, April). Choosing Online Education. School Administrator. Retrieved November 1, 2004, from
In her article, “Choosing online education: good policies will lead to better decisions about virtual learning options” Liz Pape (2004) discusses how online education has been receiving a great deal of attention among elementary, middle and secondary schools. Some administrators and professionals in education see it as an alternative to remedy for under funded schools while others view it as another means for broadening the scope and reach educating students and training teachers.
According to Pape, “Good planning … will ensure successful use of online education for students.” In making decisions to provide education online from K through 12, administrators must make changes to improve education policy accordingly. Such decisions would have to include determining whether their districts would create their own online education programs or purchasing those that previously exist, as well as re-evaluating the instructional design, functions, and, training of faculty in this infrastructure.
Policy Formulation:
Policies to address potential areas of conflict need to be developed and set the framework within which all online courses will operate. School administrators would have to establish the following:
expectations for student attendance and performance in online courses;
expectations for teacher knowledge and performance in online courses;
how and when to grant credit for online courses;
how and when students are allowed to take an online course;
where responsibility lies for student discipline in online courses;
the extent of responsibility of the school for monitoring the online teacher and expectations for teacher presence in online courses;
School Resources:
Key questions in the following areas will help administrators better understand what makes an effective online course: (1) Does the school have the resources to acquire the necessary equipment and provide the necessary training? (2) Will the acquisition of online equipment benefit the students in the short or long term purpose?
-Course design. Determine whether the courses were designed for students to self-pace through the curriculum or if the course is designed and delivered within a specified period of time.
-Course interaction levels. Determine the number of students that are expected to be part of an online course at any given time. Is the course designed to encourage student-student and student-teacher interaction?
-Course completion and success rates. Course design and delivery standards can affect student engagement and completion in online courses. What percentage of students successfully complete an online course? How does the vendor measure successful completion and instruction?
-Course delivery. Determine how online courses are delivered. Assess whether students are expected to take the course at a certain time of the day (synchronous delivery) or can students connect to the online course at any time during the day or evening (asynchronous delivery).
-Course support. Determine quality of technical support.
-Communications, feedback, and assessment: Formulate a process for students, parents and school administrators to communicate questions or concerns about the online instruction system.
Additional Considerations:
To develop and provide online instruction within the district, administrators will need to address the following issues:
-Development resources: Adequate time must be set aside for course development and review of the curriculum and design standards prior to course delivery, as well as assessing the costs for such endeavors.
-Technical support and resources: Determine the quality of technical support and how the system will be physically the laid out and carried out.
-Security measures: These must be put in place to ensure that students are not able to visit inappropriate websites, and the system is protected from outsiders of the administration entering into the online courses.
-Delivery resources: Administrators must determine what technical skills teachers would require in order to teach online and for further development.

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