We meticulously plan our vacations, why not our online programs?

One of my favorite pastimes is planning a vacation - deciding where to go next, asking friends for recommendations, reading up on the sites (and restaurants!), and then reading up on the history and culture of an area. I'll spend months, and sometimes even years, planning a great vacation. As we continue to dig into Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning 2012 (available for download here), it is becoming apparent that some of our themes could also be classified as lessons learned through our research and our work with districts and state agencies, and as we watch programs around the country experience growing pains or close their doors. Our colleague, Chris Rapp, provided an overview of the Planning for Quality section in one of our first blog posts about this year’s report, but it is worth mentioning again . . . and again, and again.

Developing an online or blended program requires a high level of investment to be successful, or a willingness to work with an experienced partner. Expecting positive student results without the necessary investment is unrealistic. In the “Planning for quality” section (pp. 44-63) we highlight key issues and suggest timelines for implementation under different program development scenarios.

There has been much talk of quality in online learning, and the reality is that a high-quality program cannot simply be decreed from above, but must be designed from the ground up. A well-designed program will solve targeted educational goals and be designed to meet the needs of your particular community of students.

While perhaps not as much fun to plan as a vacation (although Chris might disagree!), engaging in a comprehensive strategic planning process to design a high-quality online program that meets the needs of your students will deliver far greater rewards.