Continuous monitoring and program adjustment ensure long-term success

Tips & Resources

Tracking proxy contact hours or "seat time" enables distance teachers to monitor student progress. Continuous monitoring of student progress helps teachers with planning, developing individualized instruction, assessment, and meeting student needs. One important progress measure relates to instructional hours. In classrooms, students receive credit for attending class. The equivalent in distance education is known as proxy contact hours. In 2005, Project IDEAL developed three models for approximating instructional time for a variety of distance curricula. To learn more about this method of tracking student progress, download, Measuring Contact Hours and Educational Progress in Distance Education. The most important thing to remember is that a program cannot double count learner work. If attendance is taken when a learner participates in online learning, proxy hours cannot be counted.

Ongoing program evaluation sets the stage for improvement and growth of distance education programs.  Use several sources of information, including data on student performance and persistence, teacher and student surveys, on-site program observations and qualitative data (e.g., focus group findings) to help guide the development of distance learning programs. Remember that it takes time for new programs and new instructional approaches to develop to their full potential. Allow programs time to mature.