Online-learning communication policies
Besides looking the basic skills that online teachers should have, iNACOL also conducted a survey to see what communication practices and policies help shape a successful online school.
iNACOL surveyed 108 virtual schools about their communication practices and policies and received 81 responses. Responding institutions represented the full range of online-learning environments–national virtual-school organizations such as K12 and Connections Academy, state-level virtual schools, district-level schools, and individual schools (charter, independent, and public).
The survey asked about three types of communication policies: communication between teachers and students, between teachers and parents, and from student to student.
Eighty-four percent of respondents said they have at least one of these types of policies in place, and 41 percent said they have all three. While 80 percent of respondents indicated that they had policies in place regarding the kind or amount of teacher communication with students, only 53 percent reported having policies in place regarding the amount and content of teacher communication with parents, and 58 percent had policies in place regarding student-to-student communication.
Most policies regarding teacher-student communication covered both the frequency and the content of the contact, with 85 percent having policies about the frequency of contact via eMail, 77 percent having policies regarding frequency of contact by phone, and 54 percent having policies regarding frequency of contact through discussion forums.
The requirements for the frequency and methods of contact between teachers and students varied widely, the report said: Some online-learning programs expected a minimum of twice a month, others once a week, and others daily. Some required that this contact take place by phone, but for others the modes of contact included eMail, discussion forums, and synchronous platforms, and most schools require their teachers to use more than one of these methods. Although some policies do not stipulate the precise frequency of contact (simply indicating that it is expected to be “regular”), most required that teachers respond to students’ questions within a specific time frame–generally 24 hours. Most also required teachers to get in touch with their students within one or two days of enrollment.