School districts should follow a step-by-step process for exploiting the potential of digital technologies as learning tools.
Determine objectives. As in traditional curriculum planning, the first step in developing a course for virtual learning is to determine the ultimate educational objectives and the skills students must master. Those skills will likely include critical thinking and learning to use technology to achieve educational goals.
Conceptualize the course. Once the overall course objectives have been determined, conceptualize the course in painstaking detail, keeping in mind the technologies available. The instructor or team developing the virtual-learning course defines specific objectives for each unit or session of the course and then matches those goals with an appropriate technology to help students achieve the objective.
Create the course. Executing the concept means working through the course or learning management system to create (or gather), assemble and schedule all the elements of the virtual-learning experience. In addition to the academic subject matter, the course has to deliver logistical and housekeeping information, such as the syllabus, grading policies, and information about how the software works and how the student can get technical support.
Test the course. Ideally, testing the course should be a two-part process. The teacher or the designer, working with the IT staff, should go through the course and all related materials to make sure the technology works and that it presents the course as it was conceptualized. If possible, they should follow the testing with a pilot, in which a limited group of students and the teacher test the course as a real-life learning experience.
Go live and get feedback. A good virtual-learning course isn’t finished even after it goes live. Gathering feedback from students and teachers will help resolve problems and identify areas for improvement as the course evolves. Virtual courses should be tweaked once a year, and a major revision should take place every three years to keep the content and delivery fresh.
For more information, read CDW•G’s Virtual Learning in K–12 Education white paper.