10 Tips for Educators and Parents on Choosing an Effective Distance Learning Program

By Susan McLester

As health challenges mount, it has become apparent that distance learning is here to stay, even after “brick and mortar” classrooms reopen. Taking into consideration increased challenges for teachers, rising parent burnout and the likelihood of student academic skill loss, it is key that any distance learning choice be an effective one.

Below are 10 considerations for choosing the best distance learning program for your student(s) or child:

1) Meets your needs. Meets the needs of students with specific struggles, ELL students, grade-level learners or advanced students. Addresses the right grade- or age-level and targeted learners are stipulated by the program itself.

2) Based on scientific education research. Programs based on past evidence and student outcomes ensure effectiveness.

3) Customizes the learning pathway. Gone are the days of the “one size fits all” solution. Technology means student learning needs can be diagnosed and a personalized instructional pathway set. Don’t choose a program that forces students to go through the entire curriculum if they’ve already mastered skills.

4) Stores and analyzes data. Another advantage of technology is its ability to automate processes that would be tedious and time-consuming for adults otherwise. All the best decisions for students are based on what the data says.

5) Allows learners to work independently. Time and resource limitations don’t allow for an adult to always sit beside a learner as they move step-by-step through a program. In addition, older students prefer a program they can do on their own. Nevertheless, the program should also integrate well with classroom or home follow-up support options.

6) Offers progress reports to teachers and to parents. Even if students are engaged in a program that is not necessarily an indication they are learning. Detailed progress reports can pinpoint a learner’s progress very specifically.

7) Is a reasonable cost. No program, class or regimen can be sustainable if it’s not affordable. Programs that offer free trials and discounts can help adults determine a solution’s worth before they invest.

8) Is recommended. Nothing can take the place of a trusted professional or personal colleague testifying to a program’s effectiveness, so check with your networks. Also, visit the company’s website to see what other educators and parents have to say.

9) Offers opportunities to extend additional knowledge to the supervising adult. Educates teachers and parents along the way as it educates students, through accompanying support materials, additional online options, and/or the program’s process itself.

10) Engages the Learner. Holds the attention of and motivates the learner by allowing them to see the progress they are making. Built-in celebrations, rewards, or printable certificates acknowledging achievement can inspire and encourage students.



Susan McLester is a consultant for the MindPlay online literacy solution, an education journalist and former educator.