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Friday, August 31, 2012

2 School Systems, 2 Approaches to Distance Learning

Distance learning has its benefits. Two of the ones named in this week's “E-Learning in the Age of Choice” webinar aired by Education Week were:
  • Providing a consistent education for students no matter which school building they attend
  • Providing flexibility for such things as credit recovery and summer courses

Representatives from the Davis School District in Utah and the Memphis School District discussed the benefits and challenges of online learning in their systems. In Utah, distance learning options for students were mandated by state law. In Memphis, administrators saw distance learning as a valuable tool to address inequalities among the district's schools.

Under Utah's law, students are able to choose any two credits from any provider or program in the state. The state's education dollars follow students to those online providers. The Davis district, which was already providing online courses to its students, now works in a consortium to provide a wide array of courses for students. This allows them to use curricula the state already knows matches state standards and to keep state dollars in public schools.

In Memphis, administrators were concerned with providing the same quality of courses and course delivery throughout the school district. For instance, some high schools had too few students signing up for AP calculus to make it feasible to teach. Distance learning allowed them to provide all students access to the course, with the same level of teaching delivered to all.

In addition, the Memphis school system now requires all students to successfully complete one online course before they graduate The reasoning? Whether a student is going to career or college after school, they are likely to face online work training or online college courses as they pursue their futures.

Another surprising benefit -- both said that  the student-teacher connection often is stronger in online courses because emails, chat rooms and Skyping often provide for or even demand more one-to-one interactions between the two.

To view the entire webinare, link here: http://www.edweek.org/go/webinar/ELearningChoice

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