The Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative
A Report to the Project
The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration
January 12, 2009
This documentation and evaluation study would not have been possible without the full
cooperation and extensive assistance of the Arkansas Distance Learning Initiative
participants, school administrators, teachers, and students with whom we
communicated. We appreciate their patience and cooperation and their willingness to
share the trials, tribulations and victories of implementing the Arkansas Distance
Learning Initiative. We commend them for their efforts to better prepare a generation of
learners for the rigors of life in the 21st century.
We also want to acknowledge the support of the State Coordinator of Distance Learning,
Cathi Swan, whose extraordinary assistance in coordinating many of our excursions was
TABLE OF CONTENTS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ................................................................................................ 1
PURPOSE OF STUDY .................................................................................................... 3
DATA COLLECTION ACTIVITIES.................................................................................. 3
ANALYSIS OF THE FOUR FOCUS AREAS OF ACT 2325 OF 2005 ............................. 4
1. HELP ALLEVIATE THE INCREASING SHORTAGE OF QUALIFIED TEACHERS— ........................................ 4
2. INCREASE COURSE SCHEDULING OPPORTUNITIES— ............................................................................ 5
3. PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH AN ENRICHED CURRICULUM BEYOND THE SCHOOL ACCREDITATION
STANDARDS— ............................................................................................................................................ 7
4. PROVIDE ONLINE PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND INSTRUCTIONAL RESOURCES TO TEACHERS AND
ADMINISTRATORS— ................................................................................................................................... 8
DISTANCE LEARNING MODALITIES IN USE ............................................................... 9
PROGRAM SUMMARY ................................................................................................ 11
BACKGROUND AND IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES ........................................... 13
Personnel, Hardware, and Courseware— ...........................................................................................14
Education Service Cooperatives— .......................................................................................................15
Highly Qualified Teachers ...................................................................................................................17
Distance Learning Facilitators— ........................................................................................................17
Distance Learning Coordinators & Technology Coordinators ...........................................................18
RECOMMENDATIONS ................................................................................................. 19
APPENDIX .................................................................................................................... 21
ARKANSAS DEPT OF EDUCATION CRITICAL ACADEMIC LICENSURE SHORTAGE AREAS ...........................21
ARKANSAS K-12 DISTANCE LEARNING INITIATIVE CONTENT OFFERINGS ................................................22
2008-2009 PUBLIC ENTITIES SERVED........................................................................................................23
PREFERENCE SURVEY RESULTS— .............................................................................................................24
Sample CIV Student Comments— (with minor editing for spelling) ....................................................24
Sample Online Student Comments: (with minor editing for spelling) ..................................................25
Sample Letters of Support for Online Courses.....................................................................................27
State policy and education leaders of Arkansas should feel a sense of pride in the work
of the citizens who grasped the opportunity presented to them with Act 2325 of 2005 to
bring equitable education opportunities to all students within the state.
o Meeting Expectations. The intent of Act 2325 of 2005 is being achieved.
o Students in smaller, rural or geographically isolated schools of the state
as well as those who reside in lower socioeconomic regions now have the
opportunity to be taught by highly qualified teachers in classrooms with
o Having highly qualified teachers centralized at a state level is creating an
economic efficiency and an instructional consistency to what is offered to
o The distance learning opportunities allow schools, who either could not
find qualified teachers or who would be negatively impacted financially if
they had to hire a full time teacher for a minimum number of students, can
stay in compliance with state accreditation standards.
o ADE-approved courses—with limited availability to these students prior to
the initiative—are now provided by any number of content providers.
o Students whose class schedules did not permit them to take certain
courses now have access to them in timeframes that work.
o A wide array of professional development opportunities are in place
through distance learning, which is used routinely by distance learning
personnel, school administrators, teachers and many others. This is
bringing efficiency and savings in terms of both time and financial
o Enrichment opportunities for learning have been developed to reach all
levels of students, including the emergence of content enrichment for
elementary teachers and students where network connectivity and
o With annual exponential growth in the number of students signing up for
distance learning classes, a continuous increase in the number of
courses available, and an increased demand for more, the Arkansas
Distance Learning Initiative is one of the youngest in the nation, yet one
of the more mature programs.
o Belief in the Program. There is a strong conviction among distance learning
leaders that the initiative is bringing equity to educational opportunities that did
not exist pervasively in all regions of the state before the legislative appropriation.
o Design and Implementation. The Arkansas Distance Learning Initiative is a
well-designed and coordinated program. Based on a philosophy of centralized
administration and decentralized operations, the state’s distance learning
director, coordinator, and the directors and administrators of the provider
locations work collaboratively for statewide consistency and cohesiveness.
o Management Structure. The planners of the Arkansas Distance Learning
Initiative are to be praised for their foresight in creating a position for statewide
coordination, for funding regional distance learning coordinators and technical
directors, as well as for requiring trained facilitators in distance learning
classrooms. These essential roles comprise the strength and the success of the
o Coordination, Cooperation and Collaboration. Considering the number of
years the Arkansas Distance Learning Initiative has been under development,
the massive, well-tuned system in place is testimony to what can happen when
large groups of individuals set aside their differences for a common goal. Those
involved in this program all have a clear sense of purpose and exhibit a spirit of
collaboration that, if sustained, will fuel continued success.
o Clarity of Purpose. Exhibited by all with whom we interacted was a palpable
sense of passion, a clear sense of purpose, a strong belief that great good has
come from this legislatively enabled program, and a determination to succeed.
One program director provided a succinct summary when she said, ―Sometimes
when you are on the cutting edge you bleed a little, but we are working it out
because we know we are adding essential and enrichment learning opportunities
for kids in our schools.‖
o Network Infrastructure. The state demonstrated great wisdom by creating a
consolidated, statewide network with a central point of operations for the
network. This feature allows for ease of utilization and coordination of distance
learning scheduling and management.
o Duality of Services. Distance learning in Arkansas is offered either through
compressed interactive videoconferencing (CIV) or through web-based, online
courses. While student survey results show an overwhelming preference for
CIV, the web-based, online option meets a great need for many students.
Further, some providers require students to have access to a computer for their
CIV classes and provide a blended method of instruction. Other providers have
developed similar courses that do not have this prerequisite. This dual choice of
offerings benefits a statewide implementation.
In short, technology enabled learning environments are beginning to have
transformative effects on education in Arkansas. Curricula, teaching methods, and
schedules are adapting to meet learning styles and needs of students. Access to highly
qualified teachers is not constrained by geographic or socioeconomic boundaries.
Coursework from the most remedial to the most advanced is being made available to
everyone. And, students are having more interaction with teachers and one another,
developing a broader sense of self and place within the state.
Purpose of Study
In the Fall of 2008, the Indianapolis, Indiana-based Center for Interactive Learning
and Collaboration (CILC), an independent, non-profit firm with over 14 years of K-12
distance learning experience, was contracted to evaluate progress toward achievement
of the four focus areas identified in Act 2325 of 2005, which established the Arkansas
Distance Learning Development Program at the Arkansas Department of Education
(ADE). This Program is referred to as the Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative
and was established to:
1. Help alleviate the increasing shortage of qualified teachers;
2. Increase course scheduling opportunities;
3. Provide students with an enriched curriculum beyond the school accreditation
4. Provide online professional development and instructional resources to teachers
Data collection activities
To evaluate progress achieved in each of the four focus areas, the following
techniques were utilized:
Two members of the Arkansas Department of Education
The Distance Learning State Coordinator
Seventeen Service Center Cooperative Directors, Distance
Learning Coordinators or Program Directors, and/or
Five distance learning class facilitators
o Observations of CIV distance learning teachers instructing classes and
students in CIV classes
o Tours of one rural elementary school and five high schools, four of which
are designated as rural and one as urban fringe
o Surveys posted on the Arkansas K12 Distance Learning Curriculum
Portal for students and parents of students in both CIV and web-based,
online distance learning classes.
o Archival Data and APSCN field data
Analysis of the Four Focus Areas of Act 2325 of 2005
1. Help alleviate the increasing shortage of qualified teachers—
All school administrators and course providers were specifically asked if the Distance
Learning Initiative was helping address the increasing shortage of available qualified
teachers in certain subjects and geographic areas of the state. The answer was a
resounding ―Yes!‖ Sample replies were:
o ―Being a small school, we simply don’t have staff for concurrent classes or
classes we need for certification. And, we wouldn’t have teachers for
specialty classes, either.‖
o ―We have advertised and advertised for a foreign language teacher, but we
just can’t get anyone in our area.‖
o ―If you look at the bottom (of our class schedules) where it says distance
learning…. We need those courses, but we can’t find certified teachers for all
those positions. So it makes a difference—a big time difference.‖
o ―Distance learning has helped us be more efficient and cost effective. We
didn’t have a foreign language teacher on the campus. In our English
department, we had three teachers to teach all classes and all electives that
are related to English. We would have needed 3 and 1/3 teachers, which is
really four teachers, but it did not make sense to hire another teacher.‖
One superintendent perhaps answered the teacher shortage question most
succinctly: ―The distance learning program means everything. When I look at all the
things I have to offer at the high school, it’s just not possible to stay in compliance. We
don’t have enough students to justify more staff. If there’s no distance learning, we’re
In response to this same teacher shortage question, one provider gave a lengthy, but
well-stated answer: ―It is a cornerstone principle of all providers that, all things being
equal, it is always better to have an instructor in the room with the students than having
them brought in by some form of distance education. We are not in the business of
displacing local teachers. If we are told that a district has been able to find a teacher for
a certain subject, we congratulate them and tell them that that is what they should do.
Unfortunately, things are rarely equal. So we have to deal with the reality that a teacher
may not be available or that a highly qualified distance education instructor, in some
cases, may actually be a better option than a moderately qualified or weak instructor in
the flesh. Schools in Arkansas are required to offer AP courses in the four main
discipline areas. However, qualified AP teachers are often in short supply and schools
simply cannot hire them. In many cases, the CIV program is keeping schools out of
violation of the standards. Simply put, if it were not for the distance learning classes
they are able to schedule from any number of available CIV providers, several of the
schools would be cited as out of compliance.‖
The Arkansas Department of Education has designated several areas as critical
academic teacher licensure shortage areas for the 2008-2009 school year. (See
Appendix, page 21.)
Critical Area Teacher Shortage Data for 2008-2009 Classes
Offered to Public Entities
Foreign Languages (Spanish,
Shortage Area Class offered Students Served DL Instructors
Secondary Mathematics 124 632 10
Secondary Science 102 338 7
Speech/Drama 77 564 5
Foreign Languages (Spanish, French) 273 3246 33
The above chart indicates that the Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative
has addressed four of the five critical areas indicated in the Appendix on page
21. The remaining critical licensure area not currently addressed is Special
The state began with a focus on implementing courses in foreign languages.
Today the data indicate the program has grown to address the equitable delivery
of math and science, which are critical academic equalizers for Arkansas
2. Increase course scheduling opportunities—
Clearly, all who are involved in the distance learning initiative have a deep
appreciation for the wide range of curricular opportunities now afforded students in
Arkansas schools. School administrators in small, rural districts especially value the
opportunity to offer courses they otherwise would not be able to offer, like foreign
languages, advanced placement, concurrent credit, global studies, ACT Preparation,
career and technical education, and credit recovery.
Enrichment Opportunity Classes Offered Students Served
Advanced Placement 115 596
Concurrent Credit 83 510
Career & Technical 92 766
Strat. Foreign Lang. 6 36
Arts 104 487
ACT Prep. 16 149
(Please refer to Appendix, page 22 to see a complete listing of content offered through
the Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative for 2008-2009)
The increase in the number of students taking advantage of enrichment courses
indicates that in addition to meeting core academic needs, a greater number of students
are better prepared for life following their high school years.
The cooperative effort of content providers throughout the state means that many
(but not all) students’ scheduling needs are met. Distance Learning Coordinators work
closely with districts to determine needs and to educate both the districts and content
providers of student needs. A well-planned scheduling process begins early each Fall.
Every effort is made to accommodate student requests.
As one school administrator said, ―Currently we have nine CIV classes we could not
otherwise offer. Being able to schedule these classes gives us more flexibility. The
electives (through distance learning) offer students choices like personal finance,
tourism, and fashion merchandising and because we’re a small school, these are
classes that kids could not otherwise be a part of.‖
One provider’s comment was especially insightful: ―The distance learning initiative
allows great flexibility to schools and increases their course offerings in a way that
means they do not have to give up quality in instruction, and in most cases it means
there’s an increase in quality. You want the highest quality teacher in front of as many
students as possible. The state is taking a great approach to achieve that.‖
In addition to the availability of highly qualified teachers is the attribute of
consistency. One superintendent expressed his frustration for his students—prior to the
implementation of the state’s CIV program—because of his inability to hold on to quality
teachers from year to year. As he explained, good teachers with a year’s experience
under their belt would often leave for locations with higher pay rates. Now, his students
often have the same high quality instructor from year one to year two in foreign
languages, which has been a true benefit to his students.
3. Provide students with an enriched curriculum beyond the school
In nearly every year following Act 2325 of 2005, the number of K-12 students
enrolled in some method of distance learning (interactive video or web-based) has
doubled or more than doubled. In 2005 there were 3,000 students enrolled in distance
learning classes. The Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) data
indicate in 2008 there are 14,025 students enrolled, for a 367.5 percentage increase.
Annual Enrollment in Distance Learning Classes
0 5000 10000 15000
*Source: APSCN and ADE DL Provider Databases
Classes available to students certainly include the required Smart Core and the
specified 38 units; however, the range goes far beyond these to include the national
career clusters adopted by the Arkansas Department of Workforce Education, advanced
curricular opportunities within an early college setting, Advanced Placement courses,
credit recovery, and ACT test preparation, among others.
In some adverse way, it speaks to the success of the distance learning initiative to
say that in the year 2007-2008 alone, there were over 1,500 students on waiting lists,
unable to be served because available classes were either at capacity (30 students/150
students per day) or because the course a student desired or required was not available
at the needed time.
One content provider, in particular, has a focus on virtual field trips, enrichment-type
programs for students K-12. Interactive video-based programs from hundreds of cultural
organizations, science centers and museums from around the world are closely
monitored and ―marketed‖ to schools across the state. According to the education
service cooperative director, elementary science teachers are beginning to incorporate
distance learning science programs as part of their curricula requirements and in turn
are strengthening their science lab requirements among their classrooms. Across the
state, there is a growing awareness of these enrichment opportunities. The ADE, State
Coordinator, content providers and distance learning coordinators are promoting and
educating teachers about the benefits of such enrichment programs for P-12 students in
4. Provide online professional development and instructional resources to
teachers and administrators—
Offering and receiving professional development through the distance learning
network has become a routine activity for those in the distance learning program as well
as the general education population. A service center cooperative director perhaps
summed up what we heard echoed in every provider location we visited when he said,
―Every day is a professional development day here. (Our distance learning teachers)
participate in state provided PD programs, they attend sessions on classroom
management and go through distance learning certification programs. We see that our
teachers have access to content-specific professional development and we look for
outside experts to enhance their learning. On any given day, there are tremendous
resources available to see that our teachers are the best they can be.‖
Another program director gave a perceptive summation statement when he
commented, ―Things may be technology based, but they are people powered. We see
to it that our teachers are effective and focused.‖
In short, the availability of distance learning is creating a cost effective, time-saving
channel of just-in-time delivery of professional development for educators through the
state. The collaborative efforts of the Arkansas Department of Education and the
Arkansas Education Service Cooperatives mean that a rich offering of professional
development resources are widely available to all throughout the state. The Arkansas
Service Cooperatives collectively offered over 6,000 hours of professional development
over compressed interactive video in 2008, as indicated in the chart below. Based on
our interviews all indicators point to a continued growth in professional development
offerings for both educators and the community at large.
700 Arch Ford 437
AR River 588
Gr Rivers 365
N Central 390
N East 404
N West 397
S Central 278
S East 331
S West 311
(AT&T Monthly Usage Reports)
Distance Learning Modalities in Use
Because the Arkansas distance learning initiative grew out of a legal mandate to
bring equitable education opportunities to disadvantaged students, the decision to use
Compressed Interactive Video (CIV) as one of the distance learning delivery systems in
addition to a web-based Online delivery option is, unquestionably, the right one.
While many studies exist concerning how individuals remember visual information,
one researcher in a Wainhouse Research report has identified what he calls the ―7%-
38%-55% Rule.‖ This psychologist has determined that there are three elements in any
face-to-face communication: words, tone of voice, and body language. He has pointed
out the importance of non-verbal cues in conveying information, and found that words
account for 7%, tone of voice 38%, and body language 55% of an individual liking and
In a survey posted on the Arkansas Distance Learning Curriculum Portal, CIV and
Online students were asked if they had participated in both forms of distance learning.
There were 131 students whose feedback clearly indicated they had. Of those
responses, 106 (81%) indicated they preferred their CIV classes; 19 (15%) students
indicated a preference for Online; and six (.05%) said they disliked both modalities. The
most frequent reason given for preferring CIV classes had to do with the ability to
interact with the teacher and other students. For Online students, the ability to work
independently or at their own pace were reasons mentioned most frequently. (See
appendix, pages 24-26)
That said, we collected a number of heart-warming stories of success written by
online instructors, students taking online classes who could not have succeeded without
access to them, and parents who know their child has achieved a curricular goal he or
she would not have been able to attain if the Arkansas Virtual High School were not an
available option for them. (See appendix, page 27)
Still, it is generally true to say that the greater the socioeconomic disadvantage, the
greater the need is for human connection and intervention during the teaching and
learning process. These student populations need the eye contact; they need the
audible voice of encouragement and direction. And, the Arkansas CIV network provides
for this most basic human need for visual and aural interaction that is typically not a part
of the traditional online, web-based, distance learning course instruction.
In addition, there are large numbers of students who want and enjoy the social,
collegial nature of the interactive video environment. We heard several instructors and
students in all areas of the state specifically express an appreciation for the cross-
cultural makeup of their CIV classes. Students and teachers alike were quick to
recognize the value of learning with students from different regions of the state who
provide differing perspectives and views on topics of discussion.
Compared to other states with similar initiatives, the Arkansas Distance Learning
Development Program (Initiative) has a maturity and substance that belies its relative
youth. Distance learning is clearly establishing itself as an effective mechanism for
addressing equitable access to quality instruction as well as to a broad curriculum
scheduled for greater flexibility for students in Arkansas.
Arkansas is a model of collaboration between diverse groups with differing missions,
agendas, and funding structures. It is a model for other states to emulate when
inequalities in educational opportunities exist for certain student populations; when
scheduling conflicts mean students cannot take courses they want or need; or for school
districts that cannot meet accreditation standards when faced with an inability to find
qualified teachers in essential course areas.
This is not to say that the distance learning program has not faced developmental
challenges in bringing equity of resource access to the state’s students. The impact of
these challenges, however, has been greatly diminished by a ―can-do‖ spirit of
collaboration and cooperation we observed between and among the leaders and support
staff of this initiative. With clarity of purpose, all participants with whom we interacted
share a common belief that a highly educated and trained workforce is a critical element
in making Arkansas a better place to live, work and play.
Central to this program’s success is the wisdom and foresight that policy makers and
education leaders used to create and fund a State Coordinator of K-12 Distance
Learning position. In this position, the State Coordinator has been the visionary for
distance learning programs, providing leadership through what, at times, had to be
politically and culturally sensitive concerns and complex circumstances. The State
Coordinator’s high degree of people skills has undoubtedly been influential in the overall
spirit of collegiality, collaboration, and cooperation that is felt and observed throughout
the state. Therefore, having the position and then the right person in the position is
paramount to continued growth and success to the Arkansas Distance Learning
Also important to the overall success of the program are the Distance Learning
Coordinators (DLCs) and the Technology Coordinators associated with each
Educational Service Cooperative. These individuals are a cohesive group even though
geography, local issues, and regional resources give each service area its own unique
identity. The DLCs and Technology Coordinators meet on a monthly basis and serve as
liaisons, not only providing essential information to schools in their service area, but also
in being the support system that is making this program an integral part of the education
environment within Arkansas.
Another facet of the program that lends to its success is the ADE’s requirement that
an adult facilitator be present with students in distance learning classes. Repeatedly, we
were told by distance learning instructors that they depend on these well-trained
facilitators to be their extra set of eyes and ears; to be always at the ready to hand out
papers or tests and any other myriad tasks that are a part of a distance learning teaching
environment. Especially commendable is the required two-day professional
development facilitator training held each summer, which is yielding huge dividends for
inviting, well-run classrooms that allow instructors to focus on the content rather than the
dealing with the distractions typical in a traditional classroom.
In its totality, the Arkansas Distance Learning Development Initiative is a model for
what can happen when policy makers and state education leaders define the problem,
fund the solution, and then empower the forces to implement the plan. Going beyond the
original intent, this program is driving the development of new partnerships and
collaborations as new roles and relationships are forged. The state can only be stronger
for its fine efforts.
Background and Implementation Strategies
Within the past decade or so, a blend of dissimilar, yet related, activities and
events have converged to create a positive, perfect storm for learners in Arkansas who
are, in 2008, clear beneficiaries of 21st century learning through distance learning
opportunities. The merged elements of the Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative
o Evolution—of network infrastructure
o Innovation—to meet education need
o Legal mandate—to create equity in educational opportunities
o The result of savvy grant writing that leveraged legislative investments in
Five years ago, a legislative act provided for the reform and reorganization of
Arkansas public schools as necessary to provide an adequate and efficient system of
public education while maintaining community identity preservation (84th General
Assembly, 2003; Senate Bill No. 857).
Pursuant to this legislative code and Act 2325 of 2005, the Arkansas Department
of Education (ADE) established rules governing distance learning. Additionally, in order
to improve course offerings available to students throughout the state and to
demonstrate the efficiency of using distance learning to enhance elementary and
secondary education, the Arkansas Distance Learning Development Initiative was
Other legislative acts established the groundwork for the creation of a
Department of Information Services (DIS) to provide technology and telecommunications
solutions to maximize the compatibility of information technology. Responding to the
Department of Education’s decision to use distance learning through interactive video as
a means to assure an adequate and equitable access to education, DIS took on a
central coordinating role to create a reliable, consolidated network with the necessary
bandwidth to transmit interactive classes. The state upgraded to an H.323 Internet
Protocol (IP) network, which educators call CIV—Compressed Interactive Video. Most
important, this network connects schools in geographically isolated locations without the
resources to offer access to highly qualified teachers, required course offerings, and/or
classes to enhance learning. Today, K-12 students are the largest users of the state’s
video network with over 407 CIV endpoints on the state network. By the fall of 2009, 239
of the 242 public school districts will be connected in the state. (See map on page 14.)
(For a complete listing of public entities served, see Appendix, page 23.)
Personnel, Hardware, and Courseware—
A one-time $10M legislative appropriations from the fiscal relief fund in 2005 made it
possible for each public school district to have the opportunity to make distance learning
available to every student in the state. With this funding, the Department of Education
developed grants through which Education Service Cooperatives could build technical
and operational capacity to deliver distance learning programs. Submitted plans had to
show evidence of addressing one or more of the established distance learning focus
areas, among other requirements.
To assist schools in receiving courses, a portion of the $10M appropriation to the
ADE also made it possible for the education cooperatives or a distance learning
consortium to acquire equipment and software necessary to implement distance learning
or to upgrade existing equipment and software for more efficient operation of distance
learning. According to one cooperative’s distance learning director, only a handful of
schools have not taken advantage of these equipment grants.
Each district is eligible for one T1 telecommunications line for CIV purposes paid for
by the Arkansas Department of Education out of e-rate funding. Additional lines for
distance learning are the responsibility of the district. E-rate is filed for line charges and
other associated costs by the Arkansas Department of Information Systems.
All courses provided by the Distance Learning Initiative must be approved by the
Department of Education and most are tuition-free for districts and students, the
exception being those offered by the Arkansas School of Mathematics, Science and the
Arts, and even these are state or grant subsidized for Arkansas students.
However, per the ADE rules governing distance learning, all distance learning
courses must have an adult facilitator to supervise any instructional activity where
students meet as a group, and schools must hire the facilitator out of their own budgets.
Ongoing operational costs have since been made a part of the ADE budget and local
school district budgets to cover costs associated with directing, managing, and
supporting the distance learning efforts in the state.
Education Service Cooperatives—
Today there are six Education Service Cooperatives designated as distance learning
content providers offering courses through the Compressed Interactive Video (CIV)
network: Southeast, Dawson, Arch Ford, Northeast, Great Rivers, and Northwest.
These specialty providers have emerged with areas of focus on courses such as the
38 required courses districts must offer, concurrent credit within an Early College High
School setting, and career and technical education within the national career clusters,
advanced placement, credit recovery, ACT prep, and virtual field trip enrichment
In addition to the cooperatives with specialties, the Arkansas School for Math,
Science and the Arts (ASMSA) and the Arkansas Department of Education Distance
Learning Center (ADE DLC) are comprehensive content providers. While there is some
duplication of courses offered by the providers, this duplication is necessary to meet the
ever-increasing demand for distance learning classes. The providers work
collaboratively to see that as many student requests are met as can be. Unfortunately,
all student requests cannot be met because of current demand.
In addition to the CIV providers, the Arkansas Virtual High School (AVHS), provides
Online, web-based courses for students who need assistance in completing coursework
or who, for other reasons, cannot participate in a traditional or CIV classes.
Distance learning leaders expressed with clarity the vital role distance learning has in
alleviating the teacher shortage that occurs in many rural or low socioeconomic areas of
the state. However, to a person, these leaders also verbalized the preference of having
a live teacher available if it were possible to do so.
Leaders also recognize the importance of distance learning to address not only the
larger needs of schools in terms of offering essential courses like foreign languages, but
also in their ability to provide advanced placement, concurrent credit, credit recovery,
career and technical education, enrichment opportunities for students who otherwise
would rarely, if ever have access to them.
Each of the distance learning leaders we spoke to stated they are seeing an annual
increase in demand for courses and in the number of students enrolled in distance
learning classes. The momentum that is building, they believe, is due in part to the
importance school administrators now place on having distance learning classes
available for their students and the increased awareness of the opportunities available.
We asked all providers if they felt that the CIV program helped address a teacher
shortage, especially in less advantaged areas of the state. In all cases the providers
could cite without hesitation and with great clarity how their content is the bridge that
spans a teacher gap and also provides critical courses (e.g. AP) that either keeps
schools in compliance or provides courses otherwise not available to students because
a teacher is simply not available.
But this expansive spirit of collaboration between schools and providers did not
materialize without marketing effort on the part of providers and consensus building
endeavors by leaders of this program. In the early formation years of the CIV program,
content providers frequently encountered resistance to taking classes from them. It was
not uncommon to encounter districts that had engrained biases about ―partnering‖ with
the state’s department of education, which had often been viewed as an adversary
rather than an ally. However, the obvious success and value the school administrators
now place on distance learning seem to have greatly diminished this sentiment and true
partnerships are forming.
In one interview a provider commented that today (2008) their center has enough
staff to be able to offer the same class at different periods. This means that both
districts and schools have flexibility as to when they can offer a class. Further, the
distance learning center administrator said that schools are beginning to build their
master schedules around the schedules of the providers. ―This is a whole shift in
paradigm,‖ he said, ―because now you have local districts that used to operate in
isolation partnering with (providers) to complete their curriculum matrix. That didn’t
happen just a few years ago.‖
All of this speaks to the massive collaborative of the ADE, the State Coordinator,
Advisory Committee members, education service cooperative leaders, school
administrators, distance learning leaders and support personnel who have joined forces
for a common mission to better prepare a generation of learners for the rigors of life in
the 21st century, no matter the students’ geographic location or the socioeconomic status
of their community.
Highly Qualified Teachers
Through grants provided by the Arkansas Department of Education, the Education
Service Cooperatives and Content Providers are able to hire highly qualified teachers
who are content specialists. They teach students in 1-4 districts during one class period
with no more than thirty students in a class session. For the 2008-2009 school year,
there are more than 100 highly qualified teachers, each of whom has received training
for teaching at a distance either by going through programs offered by Texas A&M or
through those offered by the ADE. In addition, much is learned in organic, ongoing,
collegial, and informal settings as the instructors meet and talk with each other.
CIV instructors in each of the provider locations we visited were enthusiastic and
passionate about teaching in a CIV distance learning environment. And, when asked
what they liked most about teaching through CIV, many cited the fact that they were
technology rich environments that allowed them to teach with great efficiency and focus
without the many distractions inherent in traditional classes.
All could quickly identify how they ―connected‖ with their remote students, enabling
them to create a sense of a caring community. They attend sporting events. They read
the local papers of their attending students. They make hospital visits to students who
are sick. In fact, in one interview, a teacher said that one of her remote students told her
she was the only visitor the hospitalized student had—that no one from her land-based
school had even called. Teachers also stated they often feel an even greater connection
to students, because there is a certain ―safety‖ through instant messaging or emails to
reveal otherwise intimate or private issues that rarely are made known in a traditional
When asked the question, Do some kids do better than others in this (CIV)
environment, one instructor responded, ―Absolutely. I have a credit recovery student who
had been flunking, but he was hoping to graduate. In the CIV class he has responded
remarkably well. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that he feels a personal
connection on the screen and I’m on the screen. He is not sitting in the back of the room
unnoticed. I think it has something to do with his never having been thought of as a
When asked what the reason might be, this same instructor responded, ―For certain
populations it works so well because there is safety in the anonymity because of the
distance; it gives them a voice and allows them to speak out.‖
Distance Learning Facilitators—
All distance learning courses must have an adult facilitator to supervise any
instructional activity where students meet as a group. Facilitators are trained in
classroom management, organizational strategies, testing ethics, and other essential
skills. The facilitator role is vital for quality teaching environments.
In the early days of implementation, facilitator trainings were handled individually by
each content provider. This resulted in incongruent processes and dissimilar
expectations. Leaders of the program recognized quickly that creating consistencies in
the facilitator role was paramount to seamless and transparent class management.
Today, facilitators are required to go through two days of formal training each year and
informal professional development occurs frequently throughout the year through
monthly meetings, annual conferences, and sharing sessions.
Repeatedly, we were told by the distance learning instructors that they depend on
the facilitator to be an extra set of eyes and ears; to be always at the ready to hand out
papers or tests and any other myriad tasks concomitant with distance learning teaching.
An effective facilitator is necessary to ensure ethical testing and course work procedures
Of those we interviewed, one teacher’s statement typifies our findings about the
importance of the distance learning facilitator:
―I utilize my facilitators to no end. I’ll ask them what’s going on this week, or, so
and so is acting quiet in class this week. Is something going on? We’re not
standing there in the hall. We don’t hear the kids. We also change schools. Our
next class is with a different school. So even if the kids are buzzing about
something in one school, it’s a different buzz in the next. People who are not
involved with distance learning would say that it’s not possible to build
relationships with your students, but the fact that I’m also able to build a personal
relationship with the facilitator, there’s no limit. I can find out anything I could find
out in a teachers’ lounge.‖
Distance Learning Coordinators & Technology Coordinators
Each content provider has a Technology Coordinator who assists in the installation
and maintenance of distance learning equipment and networking issues. In addition, a
Distance Learning Coordinator (DLC) in each education service cooperative provides
distance learning support to member schools. They are the eyes and ears for continuous
improvement in classroom settings as well as the cheerleaders for distance learning.
DLCs assist schools in customizing the distance learning program and in identifying
needed classes. The DLCs meet on a monthly basis for maximum interagency
coordination, best practices sharing, training, and other collaborative purposes. DLCs
and Tech Coordinators are the backbone and supporting skeletal structure of the state’s
distance learning initiative, and as such, serve a vital role in its success.
Combined, the technology and distance learning coordinators have created a human
network and infrastructure parallel to the statewide technology infrastructure. In their
case, these coordinators support the technology, course and professional needs of
schools, providers, teachers, students and parents. They are the glue that helps bond
and the human network that supports distance learning efforts in Arkansas.
1. Maintain both the compressed interactive video (CIV) and the web-based,
online distance learning modalities. A primary goal of the legislature is to
increase educational equity and access to alternate learning opportunities. The
synchronous (CIV) and asynchronous (Online) distance learning options are
achieving this goal. Research shows:
o Students perform better in educational environments where the structure of the
instruction matches the preferred learning style (Allen, Burrell, Bourhis, and
o Students with a preference for social learning (learning with and in the presence
of others demonstrate greater satisfaction for the face-to-face instruction
(Bernard et al. (2004); Allen, Timmerman, et al. (2002)), which occurs in the CIV
o ―Students preferring the use of technology or who exhibit known characteristics
of successful online learners (motivation, independence, self discipline, etc.)
were more satisfied with web-based, online distance learning modalities (Allen,
Bourhis, et al. (2002).
o It is imperative that all decision makers in distance learning environments better
understand the students who take these courses, so that the level of scaffolding
can be adapted for ―bimodal‖ student populations and to enable multiple
pathways for students with different learning preferences (Cavanaugh 2001).
2. Monitor the System. The accomplishments and worthiness of the state’s distance
learning program are creating a rapid growth in the number of participating students,
providers, and support staff, etc. Associated with this success, however, is a need to
formalize the development of a growth management plan of ―the system‖ (providers,
teachers, equipment, network, etc.) to assess the load and to manage the budget for
future growth and success.
3. Scheduling. It is our understanding that courses are scheduled on a first-come first-
served basis. While this may not be a current problem for students in high poverty or
rural schools, it is our experience that as the program grows, it may become one. To
ensure equity of access to quality instructors and curriculum for districts in need, a
priority system to assure that the students with the greatest need are met first should
be given consideration.
4. Equipment Maintenance and Obsolescence. No one with whom we spoke
mentioned or discussed the state’s plan for equipment maintenance or replacement
as systems age or break down. There may be a plan; however, if there is not, we
recommend one be put in place as soon as possible.
5. E-rate Funding. Because, today, the lion’s share of funding for the Distance
Learning Program comes from the federal government’s e-rate (telecommunications)
program, it is essential that e-rate be filed annually. However, as with all federal
subsidies, they may go away at some point, especially should the
Telecommunications Act of 1996 be reauthorized. Backup or alternative funding
plans should be considered so that the great progress that has been made will not
be negatively impacted by a potential loss of funding.
6. Increase CIV Availability to Elementary and Middle Schools. Several individuals
expressed a desire that the state’s distance learning program be extended to
elementary and middle schools. These individuals had either experienced or had
seen the enrichment and engagement power of connecting to the hundreds of
subject matter experts and informal education centers around the world available
through interactive video. Additionally, they articulated how distance learning
capability would be used for collaborative learning environments and cross-cultural
learning. Although outside the current state funding scope, discussion should begin
as to how students in elementary and middle schools can have access to CIV
enrichment and instructional content.
7. Equipment Modification. Computer monitors in some CIV classes were large,
obstructing the distant teacher’s view of student faces. When these monitors are
replaced, recommendations for replacement should be gathered from distance
teachers and leaders.
8. Credit Recovery. There appears to be a growing interest to have credit recovery
offered through CIV to meet district needs. We recommend a continuation of credit
recovery offerings through CIV and that leaders explore future funding for credit
recovery offerings via CIV for summer, after-school, and within the school day.
9. Community Use. One district discussed the future potential of this network as a
possible outreach to the community – extending classes, training needs and job skill
opportunities to the community at large. An investigation and survey among districts
statewide should be implemented to determine the viability of pursuing this avenue
for the community now that the infrastructure is in place.
Arkansas Dept of Education Critical Academic Licensure Shortage Areas
Arkansas K-12 Distance Learning Initiative Content Offerings
2008-2009 Public Entities Served
Preference Survey Results—
STUDENTS WITH CIV & ONLINE EXPERIENCE
CIV ONLINE DISLIKE BOTH
Sample CIV Student Comments— (with minor editing for spelling)
o I like this CIV course better. In my online course I did not get to interact or ever
speak to my teacher verbally. It was all through e-mail. I did not learn much in
this class, and I did not retain anything from the class. Because the CIV course
is so interactive I retain more and learn more.
o I like CIV learning better because you can actually see your instructor and talk to
o Yes, CIV learning, definitely! I like being able to see and talk to my instructor
everyday. I also learn a lot more in the CIV learning than the online learning.
o I like the CIV learning because I have a human teaching me and I get to interact
with other schools.
o The CIV courses are so much easier than a web-based course. With CIV you
have an instructor that helps you through everything that you need to get done
unlike a web-based course you have to do everything on your own. Your
assignments get posted and you’re expected to get them done.
o It’s much less personal that distance learning. It’s harder for me to learn over
web-based courses than it is the distance learning classroom. I feel like the
reason is because I enjoy having an instructor.
o I hate online. Having a teacher there to teach is 110 times better. I have
Spanish over the computer and it’s really hard to learn a language without
someone who knows how to speak it and can teach
o CIV is the one I prefer, because I have someone there pushing me to do things.
With web-based, I feel like I am pushing myself all the time.
o I am not a self motivated student so web based courses are not for me. The one
that I was enrolled in I failed.
o I feel a detachment from those teachers compared to the CIV distance learning
teachers. CIV adds that bit of closeness my web-based class does not give.
o I prefer CIV simply because there is someone there to give you a little push to
get your work done. My online classes are self-taught and therefore, if I'm not
self-motivated enough on a given day I could fall behind and never catch up.
o In my CIV class I can get shown how to do the work rather than be told to do the
o I didn’t like the online web based course because all I did was read and I could
only email my teacher. She didn’t want us to email her about little stuff and I need
someone to explain stuff to me. So that didnt work out very well for me.
o I would definitely choose the CIV so we have teachers teaching us, instead of
just emails every once in a while.
o CIV is better because it offers a closer relationship with the teacher and it feels
more like a real classroom. It's not as independent either. There are other
students taking alongside me.
Sample Online Student Comments: (with minor editing for spelling)
o I prefer online because you can learn at your own speed and not the speed of the
o I like the online learning, because I work better independently, rather than as a
o I would rather be online than over the camera stuff!
o I prefer online learning because you don’t have to been seen by others
o It is better because you do everything online instead of having to sit in the
classroom all day and listening to a college professor lecture the whole time.
o Online learning because it is easier to communicate with the teacher and keep
up with how you are actually doing in the class.
o I received college credit for the class, I had a log in account where I could check
my grade any time I wanted to. I could personally email my teacher. I had all of
the class materials on my page. I knew the grade I made on tests the minute I
o I prefer the online-learning. It was easier to understand, and I enjoyed it very
much. The online teacher I had was very beneficial and I learned a lot from it.
It's not the same with the CIV learning.
o I like the online learning because I can go at my own pace and not feel like I'm
o I would prefer to have online because I tend to work faster on my own and not
having others slow me down.
o The online learning. I tend to work and respond better on a computer.
Sample Letters of Support for Online Courses
We had a student last year, (name excluded), you may recall her. She was an older
student pushing the 21 year old deadline; without the AVHS courses she took over the
06-07 and 07-08 school years she would have never graduated. Because of the
program she is now a graduate with many future possibilities ahead. When I saw her
last, a couple of weeks ago, she was considering a career in the Navy. I’m sure we
saved a fine young lady with the help of this program.
In my short time with AVHS there have been a lot of MHHS students who were able to
walk at graduation because of this program. (Mountain Home, AR)
I have one success story that I would like to share. This student's name was (name
excluded). He graduated from Marion High School in 2007. At first, I did not think that
he would complete the courses through AVHS. If he did, he could graduate. He took
about two or three semester of classes. He actually completed the courses, and he was
able to graduate from Marion High School.
A month later----(This student) died while playing basketball. It was such a comfort to
his family to know that (their child) had graduated from High School because this was his
last big accomplishment!!! AVHS classes made this possible because they were free to
him and available. (Marion, AR)
In the 3 years of my ALE experiences, we have used the Arkansas Virtual High School
course offerings for several students and several different courses ranging from English
to Oral Communications to Computer Business Applications to Geometry.
In my first year at Casa with the Baskin Alternative Learning Center (2006/2007), a
young lady needed her senior English and was able to take the course through AVHS.
This young lady did an exceptional job with the course work and scored in the 90%
range for her final grade. She is currently enrolled in beauty school.
In the second year with the ALE program (2007/2008), we used the English courses
extensively. One young man named was unable to graduate with his regular class and
returned the following year to finish his credit work for his high school diploma to
graduate in December. He needed both his sophomore and junior first semester
English. He was able to take the AVHS English courses and complete his credit
recovery to graduate in December and is currently employed in Texas.
Another young lady, an expectant mother, was able to do AVHS classes at home to
complete her high school courses and graduate in May 2008. She has a beautiful baby
boy and is currently employed with the nursing home in Ola.
The list goes on and on, but as you can see, the AVHS courses are very beneficial to the
Alternative Learning Environment.
Thank you so much for your time and endless help with the classes. (Director/Dean of
Allen, M., Bourhis, J., Mabry, E., Burrell, N., & Timmerman, C.E. (2006). Comparing
distance education to face-to-face methods of education. In B. Gayle, R. Preiss, N.
Burrell, & M. Allen (Eds.). Classroom communication and instructional processes:
Advances through meta-analysis (pp. 229-24). Mawhah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Lou, Y., Borokhovski, E., Wade, A., Wozney, L., Wallet,
P. A., Fiset, M., & Huang, B. (2004). How does distance education compare with
classroom instruction? A metaanalysis of the empirical literature. Review of
Educational Research, 74(3), 379–439.
Cavanaugh, C. (2001). The effectiveness of interactive distance education technologies
in K–12 learning: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Educational
Telecommunications, 7(1), 73–78.
Cavanaugh, C., Gillan, K., Kromrey, J., Hess, M., & Blomeyer, R. (2004). The effects of
distance education on K–12 student outcomes: A meta-analysis. Naperville, IL,
Learning Point Associates.
Wainhouse Research Report 2008 (with permission per Alan Greenberg, Senior Analyst
& Partner, Wainouse Research, LLC).
NOTE: In Cathy Cavanaugh’s research on student achievement in elementary and high
school, she discusses how studies provide evidence that strong academic skills,
motivation, discipline, and course structure compatible with one’s learning style
are conducive to success in K-12 online learning. Factors such as these have
been accounted for in a student success prediction instrument developed
specifically to identify secondary level students who are likely to succeed in
virtual school courses. The Educational Success Prediction Instrument
(ESPRI) is found to be highly successful at predicting students’ success with
About the Research Team
The Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) is a not-for-
profit located in Indianapolis, Indiana. CILC was established in 1994 to
plan, develop, and implement a distance learning initiative in Indiana. Over
the past 15 years CILC has evolved to be the country’s established global
videoconferencing content hub, as well as a national resource for K-12
distance learning information.
Further information can be obtained from:
251 E. Ohio Street,
Indianapolis, IN 46204
Voice: (317) 231-6525
Ruth Blankenbaker, Executive Director