Starting an Online Program: The Target Student Group


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School administrators are being bombarded with encouragement to use digital learning in their classrooms.  Neighboring districts may be employing blended learning or fully online learning;  the local leadership feels pressure from its peer districts and its community to do something, anything.

To start a digital learning program, it is essential to look  at the target audience and then decide whether the group can be assisted with a non-traditional learning learning framework.  Will the program focus on ELL students?  In a digital setting students have more time to learn the concepts as well as the language.  Consider graduation gateway courses.  Every state or district has universal requirements, such as civics, health, consumer education, U.S. history, and the like.  Schools have had long discussions on the senior year of high school and how to transition students to the next phase of their lives.  These courses and student groups could be a focus of a digital learning program.

Once the target audience has been determined, it is important to set success criteria, such as grade distribution, demographics of participating students and the like.  Who can be successful in non-traditional courses, such as online and blended models?

Margaret Roblyer has a wide research base in this topic for high school students.  She has identified several characteristics of a successful online learner.

  • Academic Achievement — Good students are good students regardless of the learning environment.  Online learning does not suddenly make a poor student a high achiever.
  • Organization — Students learning online must be organized.
  • Technology — Technology must be present where they are learning.
  • Self-regulation — Students must be able to put themselves at the place they want to learn and to drop all distractions.

Dr. Roblyer has developed a survey that predicts the probability of passing (POP) an online course.  The survey is scored on the elements outlined above and heavily weighs on the academic success component.  If a student scores highly on the organization, technology and self-regulation questions, but has a low gpa, the POP score predicts a marginal success possibility.

Some schools put struggling students, such as those who need to recover credits,  into non-traditional modes.  Roblyer’s research indicates that these students will not succeed in online environments.

Choosing target groups and success factors that can be periodically reported on are essential to the success of the program.

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