Data Instruction and Analysis is very important to online teachers and it starts from the beginning.
My online school uses an student information system called TheSIS to track when students enroll. I can monitor their attendance, and communication logs. In the following example I am able to see the student names (blocked due to FERPA), the student type (if they have an IEP or 504 Plan), whether or not they have completed an orientation module (there is an orientation date after their registration date), if they have dropped, and whether or not each student plans to take a state standardized test with the course (EOC). Specific student names, parent contact info, and other data are available and can even be downloaded into an excel sheet.
The following is an example of the communication in TheSiS which keeps track of what information has already been shared with students and parents. This is a new course so only the welcome email has been shared thus far.
Students have sources of data to choose from as well. For example, they can view feedback on quizzes and tests as well as monitor their own progress. Here is a video that shows students how to do that http://youtu.be/IJ8QbTBpris
A teacher might adjust the course in the future based on the previous activities of students in several ways.
First, by using the analytics tools such as the heatmap the teacher can see which topics or concepts students seems to struggle with the most. The teacher can then proactively prepare a special presentation to counteract the common misconceptions or mistakes.
Second, a teacher can determine if certain assessments need to be revised because they do not directly correlate to the standards or other tests.
Using data for online instruction makes the online learning environment more targeted. Teachers can tell if students are working steadily in the course or waiting till the last minute and speak to that student.
Teachers can provide targeted remediation when they notice that the majority of student are not passing an assessment.
Teachers who utilize data have a great advantage over those who do not. In the virtual classroom while you may not “see” the student in class and tell when they are dozing off, teachers who use data can. They can suggest ways students can improve or assist parents in understanding why their student is struggling with a particular aspect of the curriculum.