Listed below are components needed to provide online courses. The Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC) is designed to assist schools in providing these components to Wisconsin schools.
- Computers and Internet for students and teachers
- Learning Management System
- Communications equipment and/or software (phones, videoconferencing, etc.)
- Subject area content (courses)
These can be from your own district or can be supplied by another organization, usually the organization that you purchase the course content from. Regardless, teachers must be Wisconsin licensed in the appropriate subject area and age level. General charter school licenses do not substitute for this. Teaching online requires a somewhat different skill set than face-to-face teaching.
Students and teachers will need computers with software and appropriate audio/video plug-ins. Often these will need to be portable so they can be used at home and school. Similarly, Internet access is required. The speed of Internet access required will vary depending on the learning management system, course content, and communications software. The Wisconsin Constitution requires that all students be provided with a free public education, so it is the school's responsibility to ensure that online students have appropriate access free of charge.
This software registers students into classes, stores the course content, keeps track of student progress, and allows active communication among students and the teacher. This is also where the student will store their work, take quizzes. Different LMSs may have slightly different features. BrainHoney, Moodle, Blackboard, and Desire to Learn are example of learning management systems. As with face-to-face students, student information system software is also required to schedule students, print report cards, manage transcripts, etc. The student information system and the learning management system must be integrated into a system that provides a coherent work and information flow.
There may be times when teacher, parents and students want to communicate in “real time.” This may be done over the phone or may use some kind of conferencing software. This software usually allows videoconferencing, sharing computer desktops. Necessary accommodations must be provided, as appropriate, to ensure access to such communication by students and parents with disabilities.
The content of the course which resides in the learning management system will consist of content resources (these normally replace the textbook), assignments, discussions, and assessments. In K-12 schools, this content is normally purchased and not recreated by each teacher. The courses, however, can usually be modified by each teacher as needed. Another option is to create the subject area content within your district.
The local contact person is not the teacher. There are a variety of terms used to describe the student's face-to-face local contact person. PK-12 students often need reminding, assistance or someone to advocate for them. The local contact person is someone who the students sees face-to-face. Local contact people are often parents if the student is working from home. They also may be a teacher in a similar subject area, guidance counselor, or other adult with a knowledge of the material. The local contact person will regularly check in with the student to make sure the student is progressing on schedule.