inacol Standards of Quality for Online Courses

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1 A Content inacol Standards of Quality for Online Courses The course goals and objectives are measurable and clearly state what the participants will know or be able to do at the end of the course. Course goals and objectives embedded in each course can be viewed, printed, and discussed. The course content and assignments are aligned with state s content standards or nationally accepted content standards set for Advanced Placement courses, technology, computer science, or other courses whose content is not included in state standards. Course tasks and assessments align with the required local, state, and national assessments that are associated with the course. Proof of alignment to state standards and the Common Core Standards provided. Course tasks and assessments are aligned with state and national standards and assessments. The course content and assignments are of sufficient rigor, depth, and breadth to teach the standards being addressed. Courses have been tested against state standards for rigor, depth and breadth, and are subject to continuous improvement based on state assessment outcomes as well as user feedback. Information literacy and communication skills are incorporated and taught as an integral part of the curriculum. Ability to effectively evaluate and use information is embedded in each course, as are communication skills relevant to multiple modes (written, spoken, graphical, etc.) Sufficient learning resources and materials to increase student success are available to students before the course begins. A clear, complete course overview and syllabus are included in the course. Courses include rich resources, including: textbooks/workbooks/lesson guides (online and print); supplementary online content such as encyclopedia and streaming video; and hands-on learning materials. These resources are available to students before and during each course. A course overview and syllabus (course tree) are provided with each course and are persistently available to all users. Course requirements are consistent with course goals, representative of the scope of the course, and clearly stated. Clearly stated course requirements are embedded in the Course Summary, which is persistently available to all users and integrates course goals, scope, grading approach and credit value. Information is provided to students, parents and mentors on how to communicate with the online teacher and course provider, including information on the process for these communications. Issues associated with the use of copyrighted materials are addressed. Communication instructions and processes are included in school handbook and on teacher's "I" information field, which are available at al times to all users. Copyright acknowledgements and attributions are included wherever third-party content is used throughout courses; teachers and students also receive specific training regarding copyright. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 1

2 Academic integrity and netiquette (Internet etiquette) expectations regarding lesson activities, discussions, communications and plagiarism are clearly stated. Academic integrity and netiquette covered in orientation and school handbook; teachers check academic integrity through "Curriculum Based Assessment" phone calls. Privacy policies are clearly stated. Privacy policies are articulated in school handbook and on the Learning Management System logon page. Instructor resources and notes are included. With their specifically permissioned access to the LMS and each course they are teaching, instructors see resources and notes embedded specifically for them in the course materials. Assessment and assignment answers and explanations are included. B Instructional Design Course design reflects a clear understanding of student needs, and incorporates varied ways to learn and multiple levels of mastery of the curriculum. The course is organized into units and lessons. Instructors have persistent access to assessment and assignment answers; after each assessment/assignment is graded, students and their parents can see all correct and incorrect answers, many with explanatory notes from the teacher, either through the online gradebook or via teacher mark-up of submitted work. Connections Academy course design and navigation is engineered to be intuitive and appropriate for the learner (age, ability, background, reading level, learning style), with a consistent master framework for all lessons coupled with instructional design that is adaptable to meet individual needs of students. All Connections Academy courses are organized into units and lessons. The course unit overview describes the objectives, activities and resources that frame the unit. It includes a description of the activities and assignments that are central to the unit. Each lesson includes a lesson overview, content and activities, assignments, and assessments to provide multiple learning opportunities for students to master the content. The course is designed to teach concepts and skills that students will retain over time. The course instruction includes activities that engage students in active learning. Instruction provides students with multiple learning paths to master the content, based on student needs. Each Unit Summary describes the objectives, activities, and necessary materials for that unit, and provides a preview of lesson/assignment types. Lessons have five common components -- Getting Started (which provides an overview), Instruction, Activity, Review and Assessment - designed to work together to help students master the content. In keeping with state and national standards as well as Common Core standards, Connections Academy courses develop durable skills and concepts, including those related to content as well as problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Each Connections Academy course includes active learning elements (including online and/or offline interaction) that address diverse learning styles and preferences, including textual, visual, auditory, and/or hands-on. Connections Academy integrates a multi-tiered approach that provides multiple learning paths for students in Tier I (the standard curriculum serving the majority of students) as well as focused interventions for students needing additional support and/or modifications. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 2

3 The teacher engages students in learning activities that address a variety of learning styles and preferences. The course provides opportunities for students to engage in higher-order thinking, critical-reasoning activities and thinking in increasingly complex ways. As part of the personalized learning process, teachers assess each student's learning styles and preferences; teachers can then use the multi-modal Connections Academy curriculum and instructional resources - online and offline, synchronous and asynchronous - to address those learning styles and preferences. The curriculum is designed to build and extend higher order and critical thinking skills while also providing solid foundational knowledge. The course reflects multicultural education and is accurate, current and free of bias. All Connections Academy courses are designed to address a multicultural audience (including students in diverse geographic and demographic settings); content is continuously reviewed and fine-tuned to ensure freedom from bias. The teacher can adapt learning activities to accommodate students needs. Readability levels, written language assignments and mathematical requirements are appropriate for the course content and the students. Teachers can adapt course learning activities for each student by altering the pace and progression of lessons; adding synchronous web conferencing elements; adding or modifying activities; and integrating remediation or enrichment resources. As a provider serving grades K-12, Connections Academy takes special care to ensure ageappropriateness of all content and its presentation. The course design provides opportunities for appropriate instructor-student interaction, including timely and frequent feedback about student progress. The course provides opportunities for appropriate instructor-student and studentstudent interaction to foster mastery and application of the material and a plan for monitoring that interaction. The course provides opportunities for appropriate student interaction with the content to foster mastery and application of the material. All courses include embedded teacher-student interaction via webmail, portfolio/drop-box, voice, and LiveLesson web conference, with timeliness of teacher response monitored by program administration. Each student's online gradebook and homepage performance metrics are updated in real time for both student and Learning Coach to see. To maximize engagement and content mastery, each course integrates interaction between students and teachers as well as student-to-student using webmail, message boards, voice, and LiveLesson web conferencing. Teachers and program administrators monitor student interaction for appropriateness. Each Connections Academy course promotes student interaction with the content through embedded checks for understanding, engaging media, and online/offline activities that solidify and extend mastery of content. Students have access to resources that enrich the course content. C Student Assessment Student evaluation strategies are consistent with course goals and objectives, representative of the scope of the course and clearly stated. Students have access through their LMS homepages and through their courses to enriching resources such as United Streaming, Grolier Online, BrainPop, virtual labs and instruments, Teachlet tutorials, business software, online calculator, WebQuests, and carefully selected websites. Connections Academy s educational approach, known as Personalized Performance Learning is specifically designed to maximize student achievement through careful, diverse assessment approaches that then drive tailoring of curriculum and instruction. The course structure includes adequate and appropriate methods and procedures to assess students mastery of content. The Connections Academy curriculum includes more than 9,500 assessments with over 90,000 assessment items of diverse and age-appropriate design, which are deployed to measure students knowledge at different levels for each curriculum standard. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 3

4 Ongoing and frequent assessments are conducted to verify each student s readiness for the next lesson. Assessment strategies and tools make the student continuously aware of his/her progress in class and mastery of the content beyond letter grades. Assessment materials provide the teacher with the flexibility to assess students in a variety of ways. During each phase of their curriculum mastery, students engage in assessments that tap into all levels of student thinking. Such assessment activities include: scored daily assignments, daily checks for understanding requiring students to apply and integrate new skills in a thoughtful manner, and regular online quizzes to measure understanding of newly presented material. Other more While subjective many Connections assessment Academy activities course include assessment written journal items responses are computer-graded, and group discussions. teacher In evaluation is required for additional items, allowing for deeper understanding of the student s true mastery of the material. Offline assessments may include written compositions, science lab reports, short answers and essays, book responses, and a variety of work samples, which will make Teachers up a have student s the flexibility portfolio. to These add assessments activities, require provide direct teacher synchronous evaluation. assessments Online via web conference or telephone, and assign students to retake or skip some assessments. Grading rubrics and models of partially to fully completed assignments are provided to the teacher. Teachers (and where appropriate, Learning Coaches) have access to a rich array of rubrics, samples, and other assessment supports; in some cases, teachers provide rubrics/samples to students to guide them in developing best-effort work products. Grading policy and practices are easy to understand. The Connections Academy grading policy and related practices are clearly articulated in the school handbook, which is required reading for participating families. D Technology The course architecture permits the online teacher to add content, activities and assessments to extend learning opportunities. The Connections Academy Course Modification tool allows the teacher to add content, specify additional activities, and assign custom assessments; teachers can also use the LiveLesson synchronous web conferencing tool to enhance/extend courses. The course accommodates multiple school calendars; e.g., block, 44 and traditional schedules The Connections Academy Learning Management System allows for multiple custom school calendars. The course is easy to navigate. The course makes maximum use of the capabilities of the online medium and makes resources available by alternative means; e.g., video, CDs and pod casts. Hardware, Web browser and software requirements are specified. Connections Academy courses are designed for consistency and ease of navigation; every course includes a units and lessons with common icons designation assessments, portfolio items, allonline content, etc., while the always-accessible course tree and planner allow for multiple access points for lessons. Connections Academy courses are developed for maximum effective use of online and offline capabilities, providing significant print materials as well as rich interactive media. Teachlets are provided on CD for ease of use in low-bandwidth situations. Hardware, Web browser, and other technology requirements are specified on the Connections Academy website as well as in school handbooks. Prerequisite skills in the use of technology are identified. Pre-requisite computer skills for Connections Academy courses are specified and developed in the online student and Learning Coach orientation program. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 4

5 The course utilizes appropriate content-specific tools and software. Connections Academy courses integrate content-specific tools such as Microsoft Office software, online calculators, virtual science laboratory tools, and sound files for language courses. Interoperability technical standards allow sharing content among different learning management systems. Interoperability technical standards ensure sharing of questions, assessments and results with others. To ensure effective integration of the technology and curriculum, Connections Academy s online program is delivered via a proprietary Learning Management System platform developed specifically for virtual K-12 learning. However, Connections Academy s architecture allows integration of content from other systems and supports pass-through integration with SCORMcompliant The Connections and non-proprietary Academy Learning systems, Management as well as export/import System integrates of essential questions student and assessments data. from other systems and permits effective sharing on student data, including assessment results, with external student information systems. The course meets universal design principles, Section 508 standards and W3C guidelines to ensure access for all students. Online textbooks used in a course meet nationally endorsed standards (NIMAS) for publishers to ensure distribution of accessible, alternative versions of textbooks and other instructional materials. Connections Academy courses have been evaluated and accepted by state departments of education and other third parties committed to universal design principles and standards. In addition, Connections Academy courses are used extensively and effectively by students with special learning needs in 15 states. Connections Academy uses textbooks from major curriculum publishers who are committed to NIMAS and have ensured compliance with its requirements. The course provider offers the course teacher, school coordinator assistance with technical support and course management. The course provider offers orientation training. Connections Academy provides extensive ongoing training and support to teachers, including preservice and in-service training plus on-demand technical and curricular support. Connections Academy will collaborate on training for district teachers, who will also have complete access to Connections Academy technical support. Online orientation is provided for students, Learning Coaches, and facilitators, with ubiquitous online help and extended-hours live support as needed. E Course Evaluation and Management The results of peer review and student evaluations of courses are available. The StarTrack lesson rating tool - which facilitates on-the-fly evaluation by all users -- is embedded into every Connections Academy lesson. Course provider uses multiple ways of assessing course effectiveness. The course is evaluated regularly for effectiveness, and the findings are used as a basis for improvement. The course is updated periodically to ensure timeliness. In evaluating course effectiveness, Connections Academy uses the StarTrack lesson rating system, a persistent feedback form, and the annual Parent Satisfaction Survey. In addition, student performance on internal and external assessments is factored into course evaluation. Connections Academy uses a continuous improvement model by which courses are fine-tuned frequently during the school year based on effectiveness data, and each course is completely refreshed every several years. Connections Academy uses a continuous improvement model by which courses are fine-tuned frequently during the school year based on effectiveness data, and each course is completely refreshed every several years. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 5

6 The course provider is authorized to operate in the state in which the course is offered Connections Academy is authorized to operate in states in which the courses are offered. The teacher meets the professional teaching standard established by a state licensing agency or the teacher has academic credentials in the field in which he or she is teaching and has been trained to teach online and to use the course. Student information remains confidential, as required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Connections Academy teachers are highly qualified and certified to teach in their states. Connections Academy meets FERPA requirements in safeguarding student information. F 21st Century Skills The course intentionally emphasizes 21st century skills in the course, including using 21st century skills in the core subjects, 21st century content, learning and thinking skills, ICT literacy, self-directed learning, global awareness, and includes 21st century assessments, as identified by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. The Connections Academy curriculum is designed to address key skills that students need for success in the 21st century, as detailed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ( These skills include critical thinking and problem solving, global awareness, self-directed learning, collaboration skills, and technology literacy. These skills are reinforced by the multi-modal design of the Connections Academy courses, which integrate a wide array of digital and visual media. Jackson Hole Connections Academy Course Quality 6

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