Online and Blended Learning FAQs

iNACOL is a membership organization which provides advocacy, research, professional development and networking opportunities for members (states, districts, administrators, teachers, policy makers, etc.) of the field of K-12 online learning. We are proud to be the go to organization for everything related to K-12 online and blended learning and hope the answers to our Frequently Asked Questions below will give you a better understanding of our organization in addition to online and blended learning.

Parents/Students
What is online learning?

How is online learning different from homeschooling?
Does iNACOL offer online courses?
How do I find an online school in my state/country?
Does iNACOL accredit online schools?
How much do online programs cost?
Are online students isolated from their peers and shortchanged on important socialization skills?

Teachers
How do I find a job teaching online?

What types of training do online/blended teachers need to teach in these environments?
Where can I go to get training to teach in online/blended classrooms?

Administrators
How do I start an online or blended program?

How do I find quality online courses to implement in my school?
What policies allow/block online learning opportunities in my state?
Is online learning a lot cheaper than face-to-face instruction?

Parents/Students

What is online learning?

Online learning, also known as virtual or cyber schooling, is a form of distance education that uses the Internet and computer technologies to connect teachers and students and deliver curriculum. Students may also communicate online with their classmates, students in other schools around the world and experts to whom they might otherwise not have access. Online learning may take the form of a single course for a student who accesses that course while sitting in a physical school, or it may replace the physical school for most or all of a student’s courses.

Typical online courses may include simulations and virtual lab activities, collaboration with other students on a group project, multimedia demonstrations of real-world examples, and live sessions in which the teacher uses screen-sharing technology to facilitate interaction among students. Courses often include some print or otherwise offline materials; the proportion of instruction that takes place online is lower for younger students and higher for older students. Communication between the teacher and a parent or guardian is also an important component of instruction, particularly for younger students. back to top

How is online learning different from homeschooling?

Taking an online course or attending a full-time online school is not homeschooling. Online learning options are provided by school districts, charter schools, private schools, state education agencies, and other entities that are part of the public education system. Because these are public school online learning opportunities, curricula must meet state academic standards; teachers must be licensed according to state requirements and specially trained in online learning; and students must take all assessments required by federal and state laws. back to top

Does iNACOL offer online courses?

iNACOL is a non-profit, membership organization. We provide services and resources for the field of K-12 online and blended learning, but do not offer online courses to K-12 students or professional development courses for prospective K-12 online and blended teachers. back to top

How do I find an online school in my state/country?

To find an online or blended program in your state or country, please send a request to apowell@inacol.org stating the grade level(s) of the student(s) and the state/country you live in. back to top

Does iNACOL accredit online schools?

iNACOL is NOT an accrediting organization. There is no single set of nationwide accreditation standards, and this guide does not attempt to give a simple formula for determining whether a school’s accreditation is valid. There are over 200 private organizations accrediting schools in the United States, many of them reputable. However, a substantial number of these organizations have low standards, making the value of their accreditation questionable. The most widely accepted are the regional agencies shown in the chart below. Parents in search of the right online school for their child will have to investigate how their own state handles accreditation using the charts below and apply that information to the schools they are considering.

Regional accrediting agencies
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Northwest Association of Accredited Schools

Commission on Secondary Schools of the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges

North Central Association

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

New England Association of Schools and Colleges

Advancing Excellence in Education (AdvancED)*

*Advancing Excellence in Education is an accrediting agency that covers multiple regions across the United States back to top

How much do online programs cost?

Most full-time online students are in state- and district-led programs and online charter schools that are public school programs supported by tax dollars. In most cases, these programs are provided at no additional cost to in-state students, and they may provide textbooks, computers, printers and Internet access. If a student is enrolled in a traditional public school and is taking one or more courses online as a supplement to the courses available at their school, depending on the state, there may be per-course fees to take these courses Private online schools typically rely on tuition payments for their operating funds, although some are funded by benefactors or grants and may offer scholarships or other financial aid. Private online schools often require families to provide their own hardware, software and all supplies. back to top

Are online students isolated from their peers and shortchanged on important socialization skills?

Many online programs are primarily supplemental, meaning that the students take only one or two courses online while receiving the rest of their classes in their physical school. Full-time programs often bring students together for field trips, clubs, proms, and other activities. back to top

Teachers

How do I find a job teaching online?

As a member of iNACOL, you can visit our membership forums. Within the forums is an area for schools and organizations to post job openings. These range from teaching, administrator, instructional design, etc. type openings. iNACOL can provide a list of online schools we are aware of in each state where prospective teachers are licensed to teach in to assist in the job finding process. Send an email to apowell@inacol.org with the state(s) you are licensed in to receive this list. back to top

What types of training do online/blended teachers need to teach in these environments?

Teachers need both pedagogical professional development in addition to online technology skills to be successful in online learning environments. iNACOL has developed National Standards for Quality Online Teaching to share the knowledge and skills of successful online teachers. Individual schools will have specific professional development based on the philosophy and mission of the school and will usually provide training for all newly hired teachers. back to top

Where can I go to get training to teach in online/blended classrooms?

Most online programs have professional development requirements for their online teachers. In addition, a small number of university teacher preparation programs, non-profit and for-profit groups are beginning to develop certificate programs in online teaching and other continuing education options. For a list of professional development programs iNACOL is aware, please email apowell@inacol.org. back to top

Administrators

How do I start an online or blended program?

iNACOL has created a website, How to Start an Online Learning Program (http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org), of the first and second level questions administrators should plan for when developing an online or blended program. Topics include: Getting Started, Funding, Policies, Budget/Staffing, Admin Systems, Curriculum, Teachers, Students and Quality. back to top

How do I find quality online courses to implement in my school?

A large group of content providers have emerged in the field of K-12 online learning over the past ten years. A list of K-12 content providers iNACOL is aware of can be emailed to you at your request to apowell@inacol.org. back to top

What policies allow/block online learning opportunities in my state?

The best state-by-state policy guide is published each year by the Evergreen Education Group. iNACOL is one of many sponsors of the annual Keeping Pace with Policy and Practice in K-12 Online Learning report is released each fall at the annual iNACOL Annual Conference. The report can be downloaded at http://www.kpk12.com. back to top

Is online learning a lot cheaper than face-to-face instruction?

Some people expect that because online programs do not require school buildings they will be much less expensive than traditional schools. However, for an online program its technological infrastructure is the equivalent of the school’s physical facility, and the hardware and software can be expensive. In addition, many online programs maintain student-teacher ratios similar to the ratios of traditional schools. For these programs, as with physical schools, a major cost is in teachers and other personnel, and these costs increase in a linear fashion with the increase in the number of students. back to top