Online schools carry out teaching and learning remotely. Teachers and technology (including computers, CDs, MP3 recordings, DVDs and network-enabled delivery of content) are located generally at one central location while students study at home or other places outside the central site. Instruction is received using computer-based learning, audio and video tapes, and satellite television, study packets, textbooks and other study materials. Some delivery systems enable students to communicate with the teachers via telephone or the internet.
Design and delivery systems include asynchronous instruction where teachers make assignments and give tests that are due at a specified date. Students are allowed to work at their own pace and take open book tests online or use the more traditional route of paper and pencil.
Synchronous instruction is more akin to the traditional classroom. Teachers and students must go online together at designated times. Students log in and watch a presentation by the teacher. Some systems permit students to communicate with the teacher by typing their questions and sending them to the teacher via the internet.
Online schools may be made up of any combination of grades Kindergarten through 12. Applications from the chief administrator must satisfy the requirements of one or more of the following categories of accreditation. The application will identify the category chosen.
- Elementary School
- Junior High/Middle School
- High School
- Non-Traditional Educational Center
The chief administrator of the school will work with the consultant and will provide the consultant and the Commission with a written operational plan that demonstrates the school functions in accordance with each standard of the category of accreditation selected. The written operational plan also must demonstrate:
- The school meets the standards for the category and accreditation status selected.
- The school is physically located in the State of Georgia.
- The location where teachers teach is in the State of Georgia.
- Each teacher possesses a valid Georgia Teaching Certificate issued by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
- The students are Georgia residents. GAC accreditation does not extend to students outside the State of Georgia.
- A minimum of 120 clock hours of class activity is required to earn a Carnegie unit.
The plan also addresses each of the questions below.
- What is the instruction design and delivery system? Please identify and provide the rationale for selecting the plan to be used.
- Has the curriculum for each course been selected?
- Is there a minimum amount of time required of a student to study before credit can be granted? For example, would a student be allowed to take the end-of-course test after one-month of study? Two months? Three months? What is the maximum time allowed for earning of a diploma? Two years? Three years? Seven years?
- What happens if a student needs help while studying course content?
- Are teachers available to help students? When are they available? How are they available?
- What grade levels will be accepted for initial admission? 5th, 7th, 9th, or only 10th and above? For example, if an 18 year-old student who had completed only the seventh grade wanted to enroll, would this student be accepted?
- What method(s) of accounting are used for the time the student spends studying before an end-of-course test could be taken? How is attendance accounted for?
- Does the school have a governing board? If so, what role(s) does the board play?
- Does each course have an end-of-course test that covers the entire course?
- What makes the end-of-course tests valid?
- Where will end-of-course tests be administered? For example, is there a testing room located at some central place?
- Who will administer end-of-course tests? What are the qualifications of this person? Will there be oversight of the administration of the tests by an educator other than the one administering the tests?
- Where are end-of-course tests stored?
- What happens if a student fails the end-of-course test?
- How will the school deal with students who have successfully completed all of their high school Carnegie unit credit requirements, but did not pass one or more of the Georgia High School Graduation Tests?
The plan must be forwarded to the consultant and to the Executive Director of GAC prior to the consultant’s visit. School leaders are encouraged to make the plans as concise as practical with additional documentation made available to the consultant during the on-site accreditation review.