Revised Guidelines for Online Teaching K-12

By Lillian Williams

A new set of standards for K-12 online teaching places more emphasis on an instructor’s ability to understand and utilize existing and emerging technologies.

The national guidelines were released recently by a committee of educators appointed by the International Association for K-13 Online Learning (iNACOL). 

In explaining the standards, “Susan Patrick, president of iNACOL, said the criteria seek to ensure that “teachers are better able to understand the technology, new teaching methods and digital course content in an effort to foster a personalized online learning environment for every student.”

Patrick offers a rationale for online learning:



iNACOL’s eleven guidelines recommend:

  • The online teacher knows the primary concepts and structures of effective online instruction and is able to create learning experiences to enable student success.
  • The online teacher understands and is able to use a range of technologies, both existing and emerging, that effectively support student learning and engagement in the online environment.
  • The online teacher plans, designs, and incorporates strategies to encourage active learning, application, interaction, participation, and collaboration in the online environment.
  • The online teacher promotes student success through clear expectations, prompt responses, and regular feedback.
  • The online teacher models, guides, and encourages legal, ethical, and safe behavior related to technology use.
  • The online teacher is cognizant of the diversity of student academic needs and incorporates accommodations into the online environment.
  • The online teacher demonstrates competencies in creating and implementing assessments in online learning environments in ways that ensure validity and reliability of the instruments and procedures.
  • The online teacher develops and delivers assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals and assesses learning progress by measuring student achievement of the learning goals.
  • The online teacher demonstrates competency in using data from assessments and other data sources to modify content and to guide student learning.
  • The online teacher interacts in a professional, effective manner with colleagues, parents, and other members of the community to support students’ success.
  • The online teacher arranges media and content to help students and teachers transfer knowledge most effectively in the online environment.

A non-profit, international association based in Vienna, Va., iNACOL has about 3,800 members, including school districts, charter schools, state agencies, and colleges.

Spearheading the project to create the new guidelines were Barbara Treacy of the Education Development Center (EDC) in Newton, Mass., and Sara Baltunis and Connie Swiderski of the Texas Virtual School Network (TxVSN)

According to iNACOL, online learning in elementary and high schools in the United States is growing at the rate of 30% annually. Thirty-four states have virtual school programs, while 70% of school districts offer at least one online course, according to iNACOL.

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