The Ultimate Guides to Online Learning

Created by researchers at the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®, our family of free guides will introduce you to the world of online learning. Inside each guide, you’ll find key definitions, research findings and practical strategies that paint a picture of what kind of preparations and support systems are necessary to ensure students succeed in their online courses.

Student Guide

Virtual learning is a great option for students and can be an effective way to learn. Because taking virtual courses is quite different from taking courses in face-to-face classrooms, however, it’s important for students to understand what habits they should have or ought to develop and what support systems they will need to succeed. Research shows that students who are well-prepared and well-supported for this new experience perform better in their courses.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What is it like to take an online course?
  • What do students enjoy most about taking online courses?
  • What challenges might you face in your online course?
  • How do you know if online learning is right for you?
  • What are the characteristics of successful online learners?
  • What should I do to prepare myself for online learning?
Student Guide

Parent Guide

Parents often struggle to help their children transition into online courses. They want to know: Is this the best option for my child? What can I do to help him or her succeed? Designed for parents and guardians who are new to the world of virtual learning, this guide will help you map out the factors you ought to consider before enrolling your child in an online course.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What is online learning?
  • What do students like about taking online courses?
  • What challenges do students face in their online courses?
  • How do you know if online learning is right for your child?
  • What are the characteristics of successful online learners?
  • How can you help your child prepare for online learning?
  • What kinds of questions should you ask of your school or online learning provider?
Parent Guide

Mentor Guide

Mentors are critical partners in helping students navigate their virtual learning journey. The mentor, student, parent and online instructor form a team to help students become proficient online learners and successfully complete their courses. This guide is intended to introduce new mentors to the art of creating a supportive and productive environment for their online learners.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What is a mentor?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of a mentor?
  • Where does this mentoring take place?
  • How should you prepare for mentoring online learners?
  • How do you develop communication channels with your online learners?
  • How do you monitor student progress?
  • What can you do to help your students succeed?
Mentor Guide

Teacher Guide

Today’s teachers have many reasons for entering the online learning environment. New online instructors quickly learn, however, that there are additional skills and knowledge required for the position of teaching online students. This guide is intended to provide new online teachers — or those exploring the possibility of teaching online — support in making this transition.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What are the differences/similarities between teaching online and teaching face-to-face?
  • What are the benefits/challenges of teaching online?
  • How do you build relationships with and between online students?
  • How do you motivate learners in online settings?
  • How do you grade assignments and provide feedback online?
  • How do you meet the needs of different student populations online?
  • How do you combat plagiarism in the online classroom?
Teacher Guide

School Board Guide

Local school boards play a critical role in the success of online learners in their district. This practical guide — created in partnership with the Michigan Association of School Boards — introduces school board members to key policy considerations and best practices for supporting online learning.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What is online learning?
  • What are the differences/similarities between online and face-to-face learning?
  • Why do students choose online learning?
  • What are the characteristics of successful online learners?
  • What support systems do online learners require to succeed?
  • What are the rules and regulations regarding online learning in Michigan?
  • What questions should you ask your district administrators about online learning options in your area?
School Board Guide

Administrator Guide

Coming soon!

Administrators are often recognized as the first line of leadership in any school, online or brick-and-mortar. This free guide is intended to inform building administrators about best practices for online learning and, ultimately, to maximize student learning outcomes in the online environment.

In this guide, we explore answers to the following questions:

  • What is online learning?
  • What are the differences/similarities between online and face-to-face learning?
  • Why are students choosing online learning?
  • What is the administrator’s role in online learning?
  • What are some common misconceptions about online learning?
  • How does one establish and maintain a successful online learning program?
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