All students taking supplemental online courses will need assistance from their bricks and mortar school at one time or another. It is an expectation that the TXVSN statewide catalog student’s district or campus will assign a mentor to the students taking online courses. This mentor is a resource to both the student and online instructor for technical, test proctoring, communication, or other such issues. While the mentor may not have the expertise to solve the issue personally, the mentor needs to have the knowledge and skills to find the person(s) who can assist when needed. Most important, the mentor should periodically check-in with the student to see if progress is being made in the online course. See Mentoring the Online Student to learn more about this critical role.
Having realistic expectations about online courses does not mean students should lower their expectations about the rigor or amount of time needed to successfully complete their course. Online courses are as rigorous as face-to-face courses. Online courses take as long, if not longer, to complete than a course taken in the bricks and mortar classroom. In fact, it is highly likely that the student will need time to work on the online course at home and school. As a result, campus personnel, the mentor, and the parent need to know that the student is taking an online course. Orientation is typically provided for each specific online course, however students that have never taken an online course need to know what to expect from the online course environment in general. The TXVSN provides CLUE-IN, an orientation to online learning, to assist students in setting expectations for the online course environment.
Online programs must follow federal and state laws regarding support options for students with disabilities. Texas Education Code Chapter 30A requires that the determination of whether or not an online course will meet the needs of a student with a disability be made by an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee. In addition, the student’s ARD committee will determine what online and face-to-face supports are needed for the student to successfully complete an online course.
Online learning has the potential to excel in the area of academic-related social interaction. Quality online teaching involves extensive teacher-student communication and quality online courses incorporate significant student-student communication. Students learn to utilize a wide variety of communication mechanisms that mirror the real world in which employees from different offices work together on a project. As a result, it is important that students and the adults supporting them stay in close communication.