Once you have thought about the goals, examine which online learning option(s) would best meet your needs. No matter which option you choose, many Wisconsin educators have already traveled this road, so make sure to ask for their expertise as you move forward. Some of the more common options are to:
- Integrate electronic tools and resources within traditional face-to-face courses
- Provide individual online courses to resident students
- Implement blended learning options for resident students
- Provide an entire education online for your resident students
- Provide courses to homeschool students
- Provide online or blended learning to students who open enroll from other districts and attend remotely (requires a virtual charter schools)
Below are some suggestions to get started for each one of the above options. The Evergreen Education Group has written an excellent Planning for Quality Guide for implementing online and blended learning. It includes a detailed listing of the decisions that you will need to make and suggested timelines for implementing online and blended programs.
As technology continues to transform education, teachers are expanding the use of electronic tools and resources within their classrooms and homework assignments. That transformation is examined in the Wisconsin Digital Learning Plan and is not generally considered to be online learning. As the student begins to have control over the time when they learn, the place where they learn, their learning path, and/or the pace at which they learn; we begin to consider it online learning. As the teachers and students are increasingly in different locations, teachers begin to require the skills to manage online learning. In this case, portions of the class including particular skills and objectives may be taught online. Individual teachers can be encouraged to identify discrete objectives in the course that students can learn online. Online units can then be identified, purchased, or created for each student to complete. The teacher must still manage and assess the learning.
This is perhaps the easiest option to implement as much help is available from the Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC). The DPI maintains Memos of Understanding with the WDLC collaborators that ensure high quality online instruction. While it is not a requirement, DPI encourages districts to use this resource.
In this case students take entire courses online. The students may take the courses either on computers in the school, at home, or another location. While the teachers must be appropriately certified, they may be teachers already hired by the district or certified teachers supplied by the course provider, which in many cases will be WDLC. In this case, the student remains enrolled in your school district and the district has the same responsibilities to the students as with face-to-face students.
To get started along this path, your guidance counselors should be knowledgeable about online learning, including student attributes that tend to predict success. It is useful to assign a local education guide or mentor to each student taking an online course. This person is not the teacher but someone to help keep the student "on track" and advocate for the student if necessary.
This is often a good starter goal as it builds a cadre of people with online experience within your school or district and leverages the experience of the course provider. As with any other project, it is useful to start small and then expand to reduce the risk of unforeseen problems.
As teachers expand their use of online learning options within the classroom, blended learning situations are increasingly prevalent. The definition of blended learning has two components. First, the student learns at least in part through online delivery of content and instruction with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace. Secondly, the student is sometimes at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home. The flexibility to offer some class sessions face-to-face and others online is available for resident students. For example, a student may receive face-to-face instruction in the mornings, and complete online coursework in the afternoon.
Under the same flexibility that districts have for blended learning, a district could provide all of a resident student's courses online. If a student elects to take all of their courses online from a location other than the school, some additional issues come into play. Requirements for services that apply to face-to-face students also apply to these students.
In addition, students taking online courses outside of the school will need a computer and internet access. The Wisconsin Constitution requires that all students be provided with a free public education, so it is the school's responsibility to ensure that virtual students have appropriate access free of charge.
The requirement that students take the state standardized tests applies equally to online students. Arrangements must be made for the tests to be administered and proctored, including testing accommodations, as required, for students with disabilities.
For students with disabilities, requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act continue to apply to students in virtual programs.
It is possible to provide up to two courses per semester to students enrolled in a home-based, private education program (homeschooling). More information about part-time attendance for homeschool students can be found on the home-based private education program (homeschooling) webpage and also in the Home-Based Private Educational Program (Homeschooling) Frequently Asked Questions – September 2015 document (specifically questions 16 and 17).
If a homeschool student wishes to attend more than the two courses per semester, the student must withdraw from homeschooling and enroll as a public school student. Homeschool students who wish to attend courses must meet the minimum requirements of the courses.
Provide online or blended learning to students who open enroll from other districts and attend remotely (requires virtual charter school)
Students who have open enrolled to your district and attend remotely must be enrolled in a virtual charter school. This is true regardless of whether the student is taking all of their courses online or is taking advantage of one blended course.
Open enrollment laws requires students to attend a program located in the nonresident district. If they are not attending in the district, they are not attending the program. The open enrolled student must physically attend school within the geographic boundaries of the non-resident school district every day school is in session. The exception is a student may open enroll into a virtual charter school outside of their school district and attend remotely.
Districts wanting to establish a virtual charter school will need to consider authorizer responsibilities and contract requirements, capacity, source of content, scope of school (local, regional, statewide), and more. Additional information is available on the Virtual Charter School webpage.