CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

NACOL Distance Learning Standards

Posted by Cathy Kelley on September 14, 2007

The North American Council for Online Learning is an organization that supports and studies the use of distance learning in the K-12 environment. Distance learning is a growing trend in the schools, and 38 states have now instituted state-led online learning programs. There are many reasons for this. In some cases, it is the only way to offer advanced placement, advanced science and math classes, and gifted education to students in small rural or poor school districts. Online education also serves students who are homebound due to illness or physical disability, elite athletes and performers, students who are incarcerated, and many others who might otherwise have limited access to appropriate education (NACOL, 2007).

The NACOL just released its National Standards of Quality for Online Learning, available as a free download from their website. While the standards apply to K-12 education, these standards are equally applicable to higher education and are almost identical to the Quality Assurance guidelines that we have included in our Guide to Quality Assurance in Online or Blended Classes. Where the NACOL standards differ, it is because they have raised the bar even higher. For example their standards require online classes to include multiple paths to learning outcomes and addressing a variety of student special needs.

I urge all faculty members engaged in distance or blended teaching to download a copy of the NACOL standards and consider whether their course materials meet these rigorous standards.

I also highly recommend “A National Primer on K12 Online Learning,” also published by NACOL and available for free online. This document outlines common misconceptions about online learning and describes issues important to online or blended learning in higher education. For example, appropriate teacher preparation for teaching online is discussed.

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