Laura Garmire, Instructional Design and Curriculum Manager for Indiana Online, recently shared that when a friend inquired about our online program she not only shared information about our program, but encouraged her friend to look at other programs as well. Then, Laura provided her with a few items to look for when comparing. This seemed like great information to share in a blog as well!
Written by licensed educators from your state
One measure of a quality online education program is that the content is written by licensed educators from your state. Educators receive specialized training to write curriculum for student understanding, engagement, and retention. Another measure of quality is adherence to national standards such as the National Standards for Quality and Quality Matters.
Written for Indiana state standards
While school districts across much of the country use Common Core standards, Indiana does not. Our state standards are different and content should reflect that. Many programs purchase content that is created to meet Common Core standards which is then modified to fall in line with Indiana standards. Content that is written specifically for Indiana standards will best meet the unique learning objectives for our students.
Level of engagement
Students are more successful when they are interested in and actively engaged in the content they are learning. However, students have different learning styles and engaging with content might look different from one student to another. It’s important that a quality online program provides a variety of learning experiences that meet the varying needs of students.
Many students assume online courses will be easy. However, a quality curriculum should challenge your student. Assessments require higher-level depth of knowledge than recalling and memorizing. Instead, project-based assessments are used to help students critically think, assess, and evaluate material.
Online programs come in many shapes and sizes. Some provide frequent interaction with teachers, while others do not provide access to teachers at all. If you want your student to have access to a teacher, it’s also important to know if that teacher is in the same state, familiar with the Indiana state standards, and licensed to teach in Indiana. Further, is the teacher trained to teach online? Do the teachers engage in professional development specific to online learning and are they evaluated according to national standards such as the National Standards for Quality Online Teaching?
Teachers play an important role in a student’s education, but there are many other professionals in education who are equally important. If your student requires accommodations through an IEP, 504, or ILP, is there someone within the online program who works with the student’s school of record to ensure the student receives this level of support? While not all students require such support, most benefit from a school counselor or other support professional. For instance, does the program have a dedicated staff member assigned to your student–in addition to the teacher–to monitor progress, and check in with the students and parents if there is a cause for concern?
Meet students’ individual needs
No quality online program applies a one-size-fits-all model. Each student is different and requires different approaches.When evaluating a program, look for both synchronous with a live teacher and asynchronous which offers teacher support. Providing students and families with options allows them to make the choice that is best for them.
Any online program is only as good as a student’s ability to navigate a course, access the content, and find help when it’s needed. A quality online program will offer platforms that make it easy for students to do these important tasks. Additionally, students should be able to easily access their grades, quickly identify if they are on pace, contact the teacher, locate office hours, and view course announcements.
When comparing online educational programs, think: Quality. As Laura shared with her friend, “Most people think creating an online course is easy. Just throw up links and worksheets. You’re done. That is not a quality online course. There is so much more to creating courses: direct instruction, check for understanding, higher DOK assessments, copyright, and accessibility. Creating a quality course takes time!” A quality course is only one part of a quality online program. To learn more about the quality online programs at Indiana Online, visit our programs page.