IDEAL Distance Education and Blended Learning Handbook

This handbook is a practical guide that supports the delivery of quality distance education programming.

Jenifer Vanek
Destiny Simpson
Jerome Johnston
Leslie I. Petty
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
IDEAL Consortium-World Education
Publication Year
Resource Type
Informational Material
Number of Pages

This 6th edition of the handbook addresses the administrative and instructional issues that are at the core of successful distance education. It is informed by current research, policy guidelines and observations of effective practice documented by IDEAL Consortium members, past and present, and affiliated state leaders. 

The Handbook evolved through four editions, each time incorporating the lessons learned in the years following each publication. The fifth edition added substantial additions based on experiences in the field since 2008, particularly the expansion of blended learning programs and program changes required by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The sixth edition includes updates deemed necessary after two years of use in IDEAL Consortium member states, primarily around the definitions and instructional models set forth in the chapter “Setting the Stage.”

The content is organized in chapters reflecting important programmatic considerations. Each chapter follows a similar format: an overview of the topic, followed by implementation recommendations, and concluding with a reflective activity designed to help teachers and administrators plan and implement a new distance education program or improve an existing program. The guidance provided and reflection required in each chapter support the development of practical plans for distance education implementation. The end goal for readers should be the crafting a distance education program planning document.

The chapters cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 1 Setting the Stage
  • Chapter 2 Recruitment: Identifying and Recruiting Students
  • Chapter 3 Screening: Determining Who is Ready for Distance and Blended Learning
  • Chapter 4 Orientation: Setting Up Learners for Success
  • Chapter 5 Instruction: Getting Started
  • Chapter 6 Assessment: Student Participation and Progress
  • Chapter 7 Administrative Issues: Getting Started

The appendices have resources to assist teachers and administrators in developing plans for recruiting and teaching adults to study online.

Benefits and Uses

The Handbook is primarily a practical guide supporting the delivery of quality distance education programming. It incorporates overall educational programming that includes some aspect of instruction outside of a traditional classroom experience, including blended learning and addresses both administrative and instructional issues that are at the core of successful distance education. The collective wisdom of past and current members is included here as the foundation for interpretation about how to best leverage recent technological innovations for the good of adult education learners.


What the experts say

This is the "go to" resource for adult basic skills educators interested in distance education and blended learning. A state or adult basic skills education program wishing to create or greatly improve distance education and/or blended learning will find this thorough, detailed, highly practical and readable handbook a most valuable program development and evaluation resource. Now in its 5th edition, it was developed by distance education researchers, some of whom are also adult basic skills education practitioners, who work with practitioners across more than a dozen states.

While all the chapters in the handbook are helpful, the chapters on Recruitment, Screening and Orientation are especially significant because they outline the best practices for identifying and recruiting potential students. Another important chapter is "Chapter 5: Instruction", which identifies the components for developing good instruction and highlights the importance of teacher-student interactions. 

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