Online teacher standards

The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has just released a revised version its standards that define high-quality teaching in online and blended-learning programs. The aim of the revision is to address the need for more personalize learning.

With the rapid increase in the number of online courses and virtual schools in the US and internationally, the demand on teachers to adopt practices that are appropriate to these environments it is useful to have such a framework to help both teachers and administrators maintain a quality focus on what is happening in this area. 

It would be beneficial for some similar thought to be given to designing such a framework for the NZ context. The key areas listed below would be a good starting point, although the heavy emphasis on assessment strategies that appear throughout the iNACOL standards would obviously need to be altered in the NZ context.

I also found it interesting the whole area of instructional design was given only one section at the end of the standards – again, something that would need to be considered in the NZ context where teachers take more responsibility for the planning and desing of online learning, rather than simply 'delivering' pre-prepared courses. 

The key areas included in the iNACOL framework are:

  1. Knowledge of the primary concepts and structures of effective online instruction and ability to create learning experiences to enable student succeed.
  2. Understanding and ability to use a range of technologies, both existing and emerging, that effectively support student learning and engagement in the online environment.
  3. Ability to  plan, design, and incorporate strategies to encourage active learning, application, interaction, participation, and collaboration in the online environment.
  4. Promotion of student success through clear expectations, prompt responses, and regular feedback.
  5. Modelling, guiding, and encouraging legal, ethical, and safe behavior related to technology use.
  6. Addressing the diversity of student academic needs and incorporates accommodations into the online environment.
  7. Demonstrating competencies in creating and implementing assessments in online learning environments in ways that ensure validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures.
  8. Develop and deliver assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals and assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of the learning goal.
  9. Demonstrate competency in using data from assessments and other data sources to modify content and to guide student learning.
  10. Interact in a professional, effective manner with colleagues, parents, and other members of the community to support students’ success.
  11. Arrange media and content to help students and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively in the online environment.



5 thoughts on “Online teacher standards

  1. Derek, one thing to keep in mind here is that these standards are not research-based, and they have yet to be shown to be a reliable or valid measure of online teaching – good, bad, or ugly!

  2. Thanks Michael – understand re research basis, this is evident in the indicators which reflect more of a politicisation of the process rather than something grounded in the research and practice of online educaiton. However, my interest is in the idea of creating a framework to guide the development and performance of teachers in this online world, and this document at least provides an impetus for considering what could/should be included in such a process. 

  3. Well, typically the process would involve:
    1. A set of standards are developed based upon the existing research and literature.
    2. Those standards are shared with industry experts for feedback.
    3. Based upon that feedback the standards are revised and then turned into an instrument (e.g., a rubric).
    4. That rubric is applied on sample observation points to determine if it measures what it proports to measure (i.e., validity).
    5. That rubric is used by several researchers using the same observation point (e.g., online course content or online teaching experience) and coded independently.
    6. The rubric is measured for the inter-rater reliability to determine if the instrument can actually be applied in a consistent way (i.e., reliability).
    To date there has been no documentation of iNACOL actually doing #1 (although that special issue of JTATE that Niki edited did have an article that attempt to do this, with limited success, after the fact with the online teaching standards).  As best I can tell #2 and #3 are where the development of this instrument really occurred.  There is no evidence that #4 was completed.  My understanding is the revision came from the application of the rubric in Texas (i.e., #5 and #6), but there has been no documentation of that process that was made public.
    I've always said that two ready made dissertations would be to attempt to validate the iNACOL online course and online teaching standards and rubrics, but no one has taken me up on the offer yet.

  4. I think Derek has brought up an interesting dialogue for the New Zealand context. We currently have many educators working extremely hard towards growing teachers' capacity to provide more on-line learning opportunities for our students, with minimal guidance – if any at all! In our current climate of National standards, I understand what Derek is suggesting here is less about coming up with actual 'standards' for teachers to adhere to, and more about opening up a forum that encourages teachers to develop ideas with more consistency, that lead us to grow our understandings about what constitutes "quality on-line teaching".

    1. Thanks for the comment Myra – this is exactly what I’m suggesting in the first instance. Some sort of description of standards may follow as an outcome of these discussions, but the primary focus for the moment needs to be on growing our understandings of what constitutes quality online teaching as you suggest.

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