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5 Research-Based Components of a Successful Virtual or Hybrid Learning Program

5 Research-Based Components of a Successful Virtual or Hybrid Learning Program

How can virtual and hybrid learning models produce successful academic outcomes for high-achieving, collegebound students? To answer this question, we looked at high-performing middle and high school students from across the country in 12 virtual and hybrid learning programs in 10 states (Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Tennessee). For more than four years, Total Package Hockey Center of Excellence (TPH) has provided the athletic training and competition required by student-athletes to succeed in their chosen sport, while EdOptions Academy has provided the virtual education to ensure that these students excel academically and that they are prepared for postsecondary success.

To understand the conditions that produce the academic outcomes achieved by TPH and EdOptions Academy students, we have identified five components critical to success based on a recent study conducted by Edmentum’s Research and Learning Engineering team.

1. High-Quality Instructional Practice

Perhaps the most important criterion for success in virtual learning is a teacher and an instructional model that engages students and builds positive student and teacher relationships in a virtual setting. In addition to being highly qualified, state-certified instructors, EdOptions Academy teachers are trained and certified in virtual instructional practice, with proven expertise in engaging and motivating students in a virtual environment. In a longitudinal survey of 7,652 EdOptions Academy students from 2019–21, 94 percent of EdOptions Academy students felt their teacher provided the support needed for them to be successful, and 96 percent said their teacher cared about their success.

2. Online Curriculum and Assessment

Great virtual teachers need great online courses, curriculum, and assessment optimized to engage students in a virtual or hybrid setting. High-quality online courses must show a rigorous alignment to state standards, prepare high-achieving students for college-level work, support competency-based self-paced learning, and create capacity for teachers to work individually with students as needed. Courseware, Edmentum’s standards-aligned digital curricula, is research-based and has been approved on multiple state lists across the country, with 8,711 courses approved at a 98.9 percent approval rate.

3. Virtual Teaching and Learning Platform

One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear to educators is the need for a high-quality virtual learning platform provides flexibility and seamlessly adapts between in-class and remote-learning environments. It’s not enough to just provide virtual access—the platform must include tools that integrate high-quality instruction, assessment, and data and reporting and that facilitate ubiquitous teaching and learning that produce positive student outcomes.  

4. Whole-Child Student Services

All student populations, even high-performing students, have diverse needs that may include Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), learning accommodations, and social-emotional learning (SEL) or other whole-child support. EdOptions Academy provides a variety of virtual student services, including special education, English language learning, and SEL, and Success Coaches as needed. These wraparound services ensure that all students have their diverse needs met and that schools are compliant with district, state, and federal policy. 

5. Equity and Continuous Improvement

It is critical that virtual school student outcomes align to the same accountability and school improvement indicators as public-school systems. One crucial component to closing achievement gaps is evaluation that measures results. Another factor of continuously improving educational results to all students is professional development that aligns program models and practice to desired outcomes. EdOptions Academy provides both.

In our next blog post, we will look at the successful academic outcomes of Total Package Hockey high-achieving, collegebound students in a virtual learning environment. In the meantime, learn more about achieving high academic outcomes in a virtual or hybrid learning environment by accessing the EdOptions Academy full study or study brief.

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Dave Adams

Dave Adams is Chief Academic Officer at Edmentum.  Dave started with Edmentum in 1994 as part of PLATO Learning’s acquisition of Lightspan.  Throughout his tenure Dave has led content development including development of Edmentum’s online courses solution; development of the assessment products; and the ongoing innovation of online curriculum.  Establishing an evaluation and efficacy program to measure the effectiveness of educational solutions, Edmentum can now measure the impact on student learning. Dave has also led Professional Services, Training and Implementation solutions and most recently runs Edmentum’s virtual school, EdOptions Academy.