Michele Kasick.rtf by lovemacromastia


									                                 The Role of Distance Education   1

               Michele Kasick
The Role of Distance Education in High Schools
         OMDE690 Capstone Project
                                                                                          The Role of Distance Education                          2

                                                                 Table of Contents

THE ROLE OF DISTANCE EDUCATION IN HIGH SCHOOLS ........................................ 3


       Advantages .............................................................................................................................. 4

       Disadvantages ......................................................................................................................... 7

   MANAGING DISTANCE EDUCATION WITHIN A SCHOOL OR DISTRICT ............................................. 9

       Administrative ......................................................................................................................... 9

       Budget ................................................................................................................................... 11

       Challenges............................................................................................................................. 12

   DISTANCE EDUCATION SUPPORT ................................................................................................ 15

       Teacher Support .................................................................................................................... 15

       Student Support ..................................................................................................................... 17

   CONCLUSION.............................................................................................................................. 21

REFERENCES ............................................................................................................................ 23

APPENDIX 1 ............................................................................................................................... 26

       Interview ............................................................................................................................... 26
                                                              The Role of Distance Education          3

                           The Role of Distance Education in High Schools

           According to Moore and Kearsely (1996), distance education is learning that occurs in a

place removed from the actual teaching. This type of education utilizes curriculum, teaching

techniques, and communications that are conducive to teaching and learning in environments

that are physically separated from one another. Furthermore, the management, administration,

and support of this learning may be arranged differently than that of traditional education (p. 2).

           Distance education has evolved through many generations. The first generation of

distance education included correspondence and independent studies. Open universities,

broadcast, and teleconferencing were popular forms of second-generation distance education.

The third generation of distance education included networks and multimedia (Moore &

Kearsley, 1996, p. 20). A fourth generation of distance education exists in the form of interactive

multimedia and computer mediated communications (Riley, Taylor, & Sansone, 2004, p. 3). The

current web-based delivery of courses and programs may be considered the fifth generation of

distance education.

           According to Emeagwali (2004), a survey conducted by Education Week found that one

quarter of the public schools in the United States have distance education programs (p. 14).

Furthermore, Rivero (2005) reports that the U.S. Department of Education study on Distance

Education Courses for Public Elementary and Secondary School Students: 2002-03 indicates

online enrollments of 328,000 students. Many of these enrollments are at the high school level

(p. 40).

           Blomeyer (2002) informs us that ninety-eight percent of public schools were connected to

the Internet in 2000 (p. 2). The next logical step would be to use this information highway to

provide learning opportunities for public school students. A 2001 Gallup poll indicated that

parents were not adverse to their children earning high school credits without attending high
                                                               The Role of Distance Education          4

school (Blomeyer, 2002, p. 2). When considering the growth of the Internet, and the need for

flexible learning at the high school level, distance learning is poised to play an important role in

the education of high school students.

       There are numerous issues relating to the implementation of distance learning in public

schools. These issues range from management, advantages and disadvantages, cost, and support

of distance learners. In order to analyze these issues effectively, the author has combined a

literature review with interviews of individuals who hold key positions within their school

districts or the learning community. It is believed that this information will validate the rise of

distance learning within public high schools, and ways in which challenges have been overcome.

           Advantages and disadvantages of using distance education in high schools


       A survey was conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics to obtain

baseline data from the 2002-2003 school year. The information gathered pertained to the

utilization of distance education courses in public elementary and secondary schools. The data

concludes that thirty-six percent of public school districts have students who are enrolled in

distance education courses (Setzer & Lewis, 2005, p. 4). It is encouraging to know that

"…nineteen states have virtual high schools that are officially recognized." (Emeagwali, 2004, p.


       One of the main advantages cited for providing distance education courses was the ability

to offer courses that were not available within the school or district (Setzer & Lewis, 2005, p.

14). Many secondary education students strive to accelerate their post-secondary careers. One

way in which they are able to do this is by enrolling in distance education courses while in high

school. Students are able to take advantage of advance placement and honors courses, which may

not have been offered during previous school semesters. Furthermore, when schools or districts
                                                               The Role of Distance Education        5

are unable to hire and retain highly qualified staff to teach honors and advanced placement

courses, enrolling students in distance education courses may be the answer.

       In addition to the above stated advantage, meeting the needs of special populations and

avoiding scheduling conflicts are valid reasons to enroll students in distance education courses

(Setzer & Lewis, 2005, p. 14). In large schools or districts, it is sometimes difficult to

accommodate all high school students with a schedule that will allow them to meet the

requirements for graduation. If students are permitted to enroll in distance education courses

when a scheduling conflict arises, the chances of a student not meeting state requirements for

graduation and dropping out of school decreases. Montgomery County in Maryland offers a

prime example of this advantage. Using online courses they are able to provide students with

"…more flexible scheduling and greater opportunities for differentiated instruction than may be

found in traditional classroom courses" ("MSOC LEA District Profile Part III: Full Narrative

Montgomery County Public Schools: Cautious Enthusiasm for Online Learning", 2006, p. 1).

       The author has personally observed students currently taking advantage of distance

education within her school district. The main reasons for their enrollment in these courses are

scheduling conflicts and the courses are not offered within their local schools. It has been noted

that while these student typically attain average grades within their other core classes, they

appear to be thriving in their online courses. Sixty-six percent of the students have grades above

eighty-five percent and these same students have an eighty-four percent on-target rate.

       One obvious advantage of offering distance education courses to high school students is

that this type of course delivery will prepare students for college and the workforce (eSchool

News Staff, 2006). The state of Michigan has passed a bill that will require all students to

participate in an online learning experience to satisfy graduation requirements. These
                                                              The Role of Distance Education           6

requirements address a national need for online competencies not only for post-secondary

educational success, but also for all individuals to be successful within the workplace.

       Several counties in the state of Maryland are members of the Maryland Student Online

Consortium (MSOC). This group of school districts is committed to implementing and

expanding distance education in Maryland's high schools. Several advantages of distance

education have been realized by these schools. In particular, Baltimore County cites the use of

distance education to alleviate the problem of assigning a teacher to a class when there are too

few student enrollments ("MSOC LEA Profile Part III: Full Narrative -- Baltimore County

Public Schools: Rapid Growth Puts Online Learning in the Forefront", 2006, p. 2).

       School districts that take advantage of distance learning may be able to reap financial

benefits. In areas where curriculum content may rapidly become outdated, digital content may be

the answer. This type of content is not only easier to keep up-to-date, but it will also appeal to

today's students who are at home on the web (Rivero, 2005, p. 41). Moreover, digital content

may be modified to differentiate instruction to meet the diverse learning needs of individual


       It is possible for schools and districts to realize advantages that were not originally

considered as part of the decision to offer distance learning to their students. Over time, benefits

will increase while the challenges may change. Ryan Imbriale (personal communication, April

19, 2006), the Learning Specialist for Baltimore County Public Schools, describes one of the

added benefits for distance learning in his district. He states, "We have slowly built a cadre of

excellent online learning teachers who we use for training now and also for teaching some of our

professional development online courses." This added benefit has enabled Baltimore County to

move more quickly in implementing distance education in some of their schools because they

have trained and experienced teachers and mentors in those areas.
                                                              The Role of Distance Education       7


        Advantages and disadvantages must both be carefully considered before distance

education is implemented within a school or district. A final decision may be determined once

these considerations have been completed. Among the disadvantages to consider are technology

and the related equipment, interaction, student preparedness, and time management.

        Dependent upon the distance education course or course vendor, the computer system

requirements may provide an obstacle to distance learning for some students (Podoll & Randle,

2005, p. 16). Not only may the computer hardware be an issue, but also the installed software

may not be adequate or may prevent files from loading and applications from launching. As with

any form of technology, failures may sometimes occur. These failures may cause students to lose

assignments and the time spent composing them. Students may even fail assessments if the

computer freezes while they are taking them. The author has personally observed the affects of

improperly functioning hardware and software on student assignments and assessments. Students

have become frustrated, lost their confidence in their abilities, and consequently, are

unsuccessful in completing subsequent course work.

        In addition to these technology issues, one must also consider how a student's socio-

economic status affects their access to the technology required to take advantage of distance

education. In areas of low-income or poverty, students may not have access to computers or

Internet connections outside of school (Rivero, 2005, p. 40). Additionally, school districts in

low-income or poverty-stricken areas may have an insufficient computer-to-student ratio to

support the implementation of distance education within their school. While this may be a

prohibitive factor, it should not deter districts from providing distance education opportunities to

their students.
                                                              The Role of Distance Education         8

       Another disadvantage to offering distance education courses is the lack of face-to-face

interaction (Podoll & Randle, 2005, p. 15). In distance education, written communication skills

are vital. Students and teachers will not be able to utilize the visual cues they have become

dependent upon in the face-to-face classroom environment (Lamb & Callison, 2005, p. 30). This

lack of face-to-face contact may cause some students to feel isolated. This feeling of isolation

may prohibit students from being successful. It is extremely important that students who are

considering distance education courses be made aware of the delivery format and types of

interaction that will be required and available for each course considered.

       In order for students to be successful as distance learners, they must be properly prepared

for this type of education. Only nineteen percent of students enrolled in distance education

within the state of Maryland have participated in some form of orientation provided by the State

or their local school. Many students are unaware of the workload, delivery formats, or skills

needed to be a successful distance learner. According to Mupinga (2005), students involved in

online learning must have excellent technical skills in order to be successful. Students must have

the technical knowledge to operate many types of technology depending on the delivery format

of their particular course (p. 107). Contrary to popular belief, distance education is not passive

learning. Students are required to participate, collaborate, and construct knowledge from these

experiences (Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee, 2004, pp. 8-9).

       J. Mills (personal communication, April 18, 2006) cited a disadvantage to using

outsourced courses. She noted that problems with online instructors negatively affected a

students learning. The school principal was very upset with the issues the student was having

with the vendor. The resolution was to withdrawal the student from the class. The student's grade

was determined based on work completed to that point.
                                                             The Role of Distance Education          9

       Finally, a lack of time management skills and self-motivation at the high school level

may prove detrimental to the completion of distance education courses (Podoll & Randle, 2005,

p. 15). One of the requirements to being a successful distance student is self-motivation. Part of

this is being able to manage ones time appropriately. Because communication in distance

education courses typically requires self-reflection before one responds in discussions and

assignments, students must ensure that they are able to devote time to this self-reflection (Podoll

& Randle, 2005, p. 15). Time management is closely related to a student's preparedness for

distance education, in particular, being able to handle the course's workload. The author has

noted that students who lack self-motivation and time management skills are unable to keep up

with the required pace of the course. In some instances, the lack of motivation may be attributed

to a student's frustration with the course pacing or non-functioning technology. Students then fall

behind in assignment submissions, assessment completions, and discussions. In a semester that

only encompasses eighteen weeks, it is difficult for students to make up missed work and

complete the course, thereby increasing the course dropout rate.

                     Managing distance education within a school or district


       Because distance education is in a stage of infancy within high schools, many

considerations must be taken into account regarding its management. The National Education

Association provides seven criteria for evaluating online learning. In addition to areas of

curriculum, student and teacher roles, and assessment, districts must consider the management

and support systems to be used (Pape, 2005, p. 15). While many of the areas to be managed will

remain the same as those for traditional classes, the nature of distance learning requires

additional, and innovative, management techniques for areas particular to distance education.
                                                                The Role of Distance Education    10

       Management of distance education begins with legislation, policies, and procedures

developed and passed at the state level. Many states have formed agencies to oversee distance

education activities. These agencies may be charged with determining how credit, and eventually

diplomas, will be awarded to students enrolled in distance education within their individual

schools and districts. Furthermore, these agencies may be responsible for deciding how student

enrollment in distance education is handled. The state of Michigan has realized the benefits of

distance education and has mandated that all of its high school students complete an online

education experience prior to graduating, beginning with the class of 2012. They believe that

requiring this experience will not only add rigor to the curriculum and the state's diploma

process, but will also provide the skills needed for graduates to be successful in a technological

society (eSchool News Staff, 2006, para. 13). This groundbreaking legislation may pave the way

for other states to consider similar graduation requirements.

       Management activities regarding distance education may vary depending upon the type

of distance education involved. To begin managing distance education, schools and districts must

first assess whether they have a need for distance education, and the types of courses and

delivery formats that will best suit those needs (Moore & Kearsley, 1996, p. 173). No matter

what the type or delivery format of the distance education course, management must be fully

committed to its successful implementation. This commitment includes identifying available and

needed resources, distance learning and communication tools, course management, and delivery

methods. Lastly, there must be a planning process. According to Waterhouse (2005), an effective

planning process will produce effective distance education resulting in a meaningful learning

experience for all students (p. 48).

       According to J. Sener (personal communication, April 6, 2006), processes used to

determine need and implement distance education will vary dependent upon the district or
                                                               The Role of Distance Education        11

school. For example, while many counties within Maryland are currently offering distance

learning to their students, some have adopted guidelines while others have obtained the approval

of their school boards to create legal policies and procedures. Once a school system has

determined there is a need for distance education, support at every level will ensure the

sustainability of the distance education program. According to Sally Regnier, an instructional

technology specialist with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, obtaining support for distance

education, in particular online learning, is difficult because there is a lack of data on this type of

learning ("MSOC LEA Member Profile Part III: Full Narrative -- Anne Arundel County Public

Schools: Hard-Earned Success; Questions about Long-Term Sustainability", 2006, p. 1).

Therefore, it is important that administrators and teachers are provided with education and

training in the many aspects of distance education. Even though they may be adept at managing

and teaching in a traditional education environment, different methods, and additional skills are

needed when dealing with distance education.


         Funding for distance education is handled differently by various schools and districts. In

order to sustain distance education, funding must be included in the annual budget. While initial

implementations or pilot programs may be funded through grants, these monies are not

guaranteed. A challenge for many districts is obtaining administrative buy-in for distance

education, and thus ensuring continued funding for these efforts, as well as sustainability of the

programs. Over forty-three percent of Maryland school districts cite funding or budget as one of

their main challenges. Many of the members of the Maryland Student Online Consortium

(MSOC) voice concerns over dwindling grant money. The MSOC grant has allowed the

consortium members to assess needs, plan, implement, and offer distance learning courses to

many high school students by awarding scholarships.
                                                             The Role of Distance Education         12

       For those schools and districts that develop distance education budgets, many factors

must be considered. R. Imbriale (personal communication, April 19, 2006) notes that it is helpful

to analyze prior enrollments as well as future needs when developing this budget. Furthermore,

management of the distance learning funds may have a direct affect on the success of the

program. Grant accountants may not have an understanding of distance education that could

possibly assist them with their management activities (J. Mills, personal communication, April

18, 2006).

       Due to the scarcity of funds, and the number of priority programs that compete for those

funds, ninety-four percent of Maryland school districts outsource all of their courses. Through

the Maryland Virtual Learning Opportunity, these courses are reviewed to ensure that they meet

state educational requirements. R. Imbriale (personal communication, April 19, 2006) notes that

even a school district as large as the one in which he works which has twenty-six high schools,

has "… not begun discussions about development [of courses] due to it’s high cost."


       The author, who currently teaches in the state of Maryland, has analyzed issues related to

distance education programs offered in sixteen of its counties. Table 1 provides information

obtained from Maryland counties regarding challenges to distance education. The major

challenge noted by 50% of the counties offering distance education in Maryland is buy-in from

stakeholders. This buy-in includes support at the district and school levels, as well as recognition

of the benefits of distance education. In some instances, administration and staff were not

encouraging students to enroll in distance education courses. Stakeholder buy-in, particularly at

the administration level, can influence program funding. Evidence of this relationship can be

realized by the 43.8% of counties that listing funding or budget as a challenge to their distance

education program.
                                                             The Role of Distance Education       13

                                        Distance Education

                          Challenge            Percent of counties reporting

                    Buy in                     50.0%

                    Funding/Budget Issues      43.8%

                    Not a priority             31.3%

                    Courses                    31.3%

                    Time constraints           25.0%

                    Students                   25.0%

                    Policy/Procedures          25.0%

                    Stakeholder orientation    18.8%

                    Communication              12.5%

                    Mentors                    12.5%

                    Technical issues           6.3%

       Table 1

       Figure 1 provides a graphical representation of the distance education challenges faced by

counties in Maryland. It is interesting to note that while stakeholder buy-in is 50%, only 18.8%

cited stakeholder orientation as an issue. One might consider these two challenges to be directly

related. Proper orientation of stakeholders may provide first-hand knowledge of the benefits of

distance education. While none of the Maryland counties has provided this orientation, nineteen

percent have had students participate in some type of orientation.
                                                                  The Role of Distance Education            14

                                     Distance Education in Maryland Counties

           50. 0%

           40. 0%

           30. 0%

           20. 0%

           10. 0%

            0. 0%

               B uy in               Funding/B udget Issues    No t a prio rity        Co urses
               Time co nstraints     Students                  P o licy/P ro cedures   Stakeho lder o rientatio n
               Co mmunicatio n       M ento rs                 Technical issues

       Figure 1

       As previously discussed, funding challenges are cited by over forty-three percent of

Maryland counties. In addition to stakeholder support, the priority level given to distance

education efforts may also affect funding. Over thirty-one percent of Maryland school districts

cited low priority levels as a challenge to implementing distance education. Low priority may

inhibit counselors and teachers from encouraging students to consider distance education as an

alternative that will meet their needs. It would appear that a lack of stakeholder buy-in affects the

priority level given to distance education. If district administration assigns a low priority to

distance education, this assignment trickles down to local school administration, counselors, and

teachers. Garofoli & Woodell (2003) state, "These teachers have to be convinced based on their

own needs and values" (para. 3). Not only must teachers be convinced of the value of distance

education, but also the administration. Once this has been accomplished, the priority level for

distance education should rise.
                                                              The Role of Distance Education        15

       In addition to the challenges noted in Figure 1, Waterhouse (2005) informs us that

challenges to elearning fall into three categories; technology, instructor, and effectiveness (p.

19). While the technology challenges include learning management systems and technology

failures, the instructor category addresses such challenges as a "…fear of the unknown"

(Waterhouse, 2005, pp. 20-21). Administrators as well as instructors should be made to realize

that distance education would not eliminate their jobs or create a larger workload.

       In his interview J. Sener (personal communication, April 6, 2006) notes "Keeping up

with the growing demand for quality services; [and] dealing with the unreflective resistance

among many practitioners who don’t understand the potential or benefits of online education" as

the major challenge to performing his job as a learning consultant for many Maryland public

schools. R. Imbriale (personal communication, April 19, 2006) notes a similar challenge when he

states, "It’s difficult to work with the various COMAR regulations and work within the school

system policies and procedures when these are often antiquated and designed for the old model

of schooling not the new virtual model." It would appear that while many Maryland schools are

now utilizing distance learning, the regulations and guidelines that govern these schools have yet

to incorporate these advancements in education. It is obvious that the demand for this type of

education exists, however, unless everyone involved in writing policy and legislation are aware

of the benefits, distance education efforts will not be able to move forward in public schools.

                                    Distance education support

Teacher Support

       Support systems within distance education may affect the success rates of students and

teachers. To address the instructor challenge of a large workload, districts should ensure that

teachers and mentors have the proper training to support a distance education environment.

Davis and Roblyer (2005) provide insight into the qualities and competencies that teachers must
                                                               The Role of Distance Education         16

possess to be successful in an online environment (pp. 400-401). The U.S. Department of

Education agrees that there is a need to provide preservice teachers with the competencies

needed for virtual schooling (Davis & Roblyer, 2005, p. 402). In 2004, a model to integrate

virtual schooling into preservice teacher education was funded by a grant. In addition to ensuring

that preservice teachers possess these valuable skills, it is also important that those individuals

currently holding teaching certifications be required to develop these skills as part of certification

renewal. This type of support, through education, for both preservice and existing teachers will

ensure the success of distance education programs. Table 2 provides information on the number

of mentors and online teachers trained within Maryland counties. As J. Mills (personal

communication, April 18, 2006) notes, "Each school has trained mentors who are the backbone

and strength of distance learning courses. They are the ones who make it work!"
                                                                The Role of Distance Education       17

           Staff Trained as Mentors or Online Teachers in Maryland Counties 2004-2005

         County            Mentors            Online         County           Mentors            Online

                                             Teaching                                           Teaching

 Anne Arundel             3              9               Harford             4              0

 Baltimore City           16             16              Kent                0              0

 Baltimore County         9              4               Montgomery          0              12

 Carroll                  0              5               Prince Georges      23             0

 Cecil                    3              3               Queen Anne's        0              0

 Charles                  1              3               Somerset            4              0

 Dorchester               0              2               Washington          0              3

 Frederick                0              9               Worcester           0              0

         Table 2

         Using policies and procedures, teachers and mentors are provided administrative support.

While in most cases, the job of a mentor is to guide and assist students in their online learning,

there are instances in which they must involve themselves with instructors provided by

outsourced courses, guidance counselors, and other administrators. Proper training in this area, as

well as, solid procedures and guidelines has provided the tools needed for the author to perform

her job as a mentor.

Student Support

         Student support comes in many forms. According to Moore and Kearsley (1996), student

support may occur at several stages (p. 168). They may need counseling to determine if distance

education is a viable option or to determine if they possess the competencies and motivation for
                                                              The Role of Distance Education       18

distance learning. Orientation to distance education may provide the information students need to

make an informed decision to avail themselves of distance education opportunities or to enroll in

one particular course. Mentors can provide administrative assistance as well as ongoing guidance

for students who plan to enroll, or are enrolled in distance education courses. R. Imbriale

(personal communication, April 19, 2006) notes, "Student support is the biggest reason we are

successful with our program. Without the mentor teacher role, most students at the high school

level would be unsuccessful."

       Many students in distance education feel isolated from their teacher and peers. Having a

mentor by their side provides the human interaction that many teenagers need. Anderson (2004)

states, "Thus, there is danger in assuming that all human interactions can be substituted by

interactions with machines" (p. 95). Conversely, it should not be assumed that human interaction

is always desirable.

       According to Anderson (2004) services for distance education students fall into the

categories of cognitive, affective, and systemic (p. 99). Cognitive services may include

additional course materials that assist students in their learning, study guides, and other resources

that the student may use to explore the content. Furthermore, collaborative activities, multimedia

resources, simulations, and product examples, may be used to provide additional resources for

students. As course content changes, these reusable objects can be modified to reflect current

information (Anderson, 2004, p. 99). Students in distance education courses expect course

content to be up-to-date.

       Affective student services are more difficult to describe. Feelings of frustration, fear,

enthusiasm, and pride have a direct affect on learning. Developing an online or learning

community provides social support and fosters communication among peers and the teachers.

This type of support is beneficial in reducing drop out rates caused by feelings of isolation.
                                                              The Role of Distance Education       19

Communication is an important component of education. Student interactions with each other,

the teacher, content, and interface, occur within many distance education courses. The optimal

blend of interactions has yet to be determined.

       Systemic student services are those of an administrative nature. These services may

include student orientations, self-help guides, and links to areas for library services, counseling,

and registration. In the author's school district, many of these services are provided by the on-site

mentor. As a mentor, the author has assisted students in completing online orientations for

learning management systems used to access particular courses, accessing digital textbooks and

other online resources, and in the use of course specific software. Assistance in counseling and

registration is also handled by the mentor within the author's school district. R. Imbriale

(personal communication, April 19, 2006) notes that within his district, "Students have access to

a student orientation module for all our online courses and have the online teacher’s email and

phone number." Table 3 provides information on courses offered within Maryland counties, the

number of students enrolled, and the number of students who participated in distance education

orientation provided by MSOC or their local school. One might conclude that orientations

provided by course vendors are adequate for distance education students at the high school level.
                                                              The Role of Distance Education     20

                        Distance Education Courses Offered in Maryland

           County                    Number of        Number of            Students Participating

                                      courses       Students Enrolled          in Orientation

Anne Arundel                    5                   17                                0

Baltimore County                11                  76                               50

Carroll                         5                   1                                64

Cecil                           0                   0                                 0

Charles                         5                   10                                0

Dorchester                      0                   0                                 8

Frederick                       3                   42                                0

Harford                         1                   pilot                             0

Kent                            1                   unknown                           0

Montgomery                      2                   235                               0

Prince Georges                  9                   19                                0

Queen Anne's                    0                   0                                 0

Somerset                        11                  14                                0

Washington                      11                  55                                0

Worcester                       1                   39                                0

          Table 3

          An important component of student support is the provision of library services. Students

enrolled in distance education courses may not have physical access to library resources.
                                                               The Role of Distance Education      21

Providing electronic resources allows students to access them anytime, anywhere. These

resources not only encompass research materials, but also support from librarians in effectively

using information literacy skills. The possession of these skills is critical for distance education

students. Due to the wealth of available information, new distance learning students may become

overwhelmed. For this reason, librarians are proponents of information literacy competence.

George and Frank (2004) note, "Students need the ability to define an information need, locate,

evaluate and analyze information, and use it appropriately" (p. 141). These skills are necessary

for students to be successful in distance learning. Support can be offered by providing online

tutorials and guides, as well as synchronous and asynchronous communications with library



         Distance education in high schools is a viable option for students to obtain credit for

courses for which they may otherwise not have access. High schools across Maryland are

proving that their students can be successful in this type of environment. According to J. Mills

(personal communication, April 18, 2006), "It [distance learning] is not without problems, but

given all the circumstances, all being positive and in place, it can be a bonus to our schools. For

the right student this environment could provide nothing but positive results." The advantages of

offering distance education to high school students far outweigh the disadvantages.

         With the proliferation of distance education courses provided by institutions of higher

learning, students who have had exposure to distance learning in high school may be more likely

to be successful in college. Even those students who do not attend college may reap the benefits

of having participated in distance education. The skills and knowledge gained while in high

school will prepare them for today's information society and a lifetime of learning.
                                                               The Role of Distance Education        22

       While many school districts face challenges to implementing distance education, being

able to provide equitable access to courses for all students appears to be a reason many schools

continue to offer distance education to their students. As time progresses, the many stakeholders

will realize the benefits of distance education and will become avid proponents. Furthermore,

schools will continue to find innovative means to address challenges to distance education.

Perhaps giving hands-on demonstrations to all stakeholders will provide a marketing tool and

gain support for distance education efforts.

       As distance education grows within high schools, new methods of supporting teachers

and students will arise. The role of the mentor/teacher may be expanded to include providing

professional development to those who still need to be trained. Moreover, providing mentors

with an overview of the content area of the courses, as well as instructional materials, may

enhance their capabilities. Additionally, school districts may begin to consider utilizing virtual

libraries for all of their schools. Students in traditional classes will then be able to take advantage

of anytime, anywhere educational resources.

       Distance education is here to stay. Distance education in high schools is becoming

prevalent. From offering select courses to entire virtual high schools, teenagers are being offered

educational opportunities of which previous generations could only dream. The possibilities are

limitless. High school students are beginning to realize the high stakes involved in furthering

their education. Distance education provides education for the future.
                                                           The Role of Distance Education       23


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       Zawacki-Richter (Eds.), Learner Support in Open, Distance and Online Learning

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                                                              The Role of Distance Education       26

                                            Appendix 1


        As a component for the Master of Distance Education degree at the University of

Maryland, University College, I have decided to research The Role of Distance Education in

High Schools. In order to analyze numerous issues relating to the implementation of distance

learning in public schools effectively, I have composed open-ended questions as part of an

individual interview process. These issues range from management, advantages and

disadvantages, cost, and support of distance learners. It is believed that this information will

validate the rise of distance learning within public high schools, and ways in which challenges

have been overcome. Considering the growth of the Internet, and the need for flexible learning at

the high school level, distance learning is poised to play an important role in the education of

high school students.

        You have been selected to complete this interview because of your unique position within

your school/school district or the learning community. Please consider these questions carefully.

This interview should take a minimum of one hour to complete. It has been provided in

Microsoft Word format so that you may respond using the same document. Responses should be

returned by April 18, 2006 to:

                                          Michele Kasick
        By postal mail                                                By email

        Worcester Career and Technology Center                        nybble59@comcast.net
        6268 Worcester Highway
        Newark, MD 21841
        410-632-5050 xt 3319

        I would like to thank you in advance for taking part this interview.

Name:        _____________________________________________________________
                                                              The Role of Distance Education         27

School/District/Organization: _____________________________________________

Address:      _____________________________________________________________


Telephone: _________________________________________________________

Email:        _____________________________________________________________

         Throughout this interview, the term district will be used to refer to your school, school

district, or learning organization. The interview consists of five sections containing thirty-seven

questions. These sections pertain to background information, implementation, management,

support, advantages/disadvantages, and the overall effectiveness of distance education within

your district. Please be as thorough as possible when answering these questions.

   A. First, I would like to gather some background information. This information will allow

         me to analyze your responses within the correct context for the role that you currently

         hold within your district.

   1. What is your role within distance education for your district?

   2. Please describe the duties of your role.

   3. What qualities do you feel qualify you for this role?

   4. What aspects of this role do you find rewarding?

   5. What aspects of this role do you find most challenging?

   B. Next, I would like to ask questions regarding the implementation of distance education

         with your district.

   1. What factors prompted your district to become involved in distance education at the high

         school level?

   2. What process was utilized to determine the overall need for distance education?
                                                          The Role of Distance Education          28

3. What individuals or groups were involved in the implementation of distance learning

   within your district?

4. When considering the groups or individuals involved in the implementation process, what

   roles did they play?

5. Please think about the overall process to implement distance learning within your district.

   What was the timeframe from the first discussions for the possibility of offering distance

   education, to the time of delivery of the first distance education course?

6. What factors influenced this timeframe?

7. What challenges to the implementation of distance learning did your district face?

8. What groups/individuals provided those challenges?

C. The next area I would like to address involves the management of distance learning that

   is currently in place within your district.

1. How is the management of distance learning addressed within your district? To be more

   specific, does your district recognize a distance learning unit, or is there a collaborative

   group comprised of individuals from several instructional areas that are responsible for

   managing distance learning?

2. For the group or individual charged with managing distance education, what are their


3. What are the challenges faced when managing distance education within your district?

4. How are these challenges being addressed?

5. What decisions regarding distance education are made at the district and/or instructional


6. What factors determine how distance education will be provided within your district?
                                                         The Role of Distance Education       29

7. How does your district decide whether to develop curriculum or outsource


8. What policies or procedures are in place regarding student enrollment and support?

9. How is your district distance education budget determined and managed?

D. Student support is an area that may prove critical to the success or failure of distance

   education students. These next questions will refer to this subject.

1. How is support for distance education students addressed within your district?

2. What forms of distance education support are provided?

3. Has student support played an important role in the success or failure of your distance


4. What challenges to supporting distance education students has your district faced?

5. Has your district been successful in addressing these challenges? Please give some

   specific examples.

E. This next section will address advantages and disadvantages of distance education in high


1. What advantages prompted your district to consider the use of distance education?

2. Have these advantages been realized?

3. Has your district gained any advantages, using distance education, which had not

   previously been considered?

4. Have these additional advantages affected the implementation of distance education

   within your district?

5. What disadvantages were considered by your district prior to implementing distance

   education offerings?

6. Have these disadvantages been realized?
                                                        The Role of Distance Education        30

7. What additional disadvantages has your district discovered since implementing distance

   education offerings?

8. Have these disadvantages influenced the implementation of distance education within

   your district?

9. How is your district addressing these disadvantages?

F. When considering all of the above issues that your district has encountered for distance

   education, what has been the overall effectiveness of your distance education program?

   Please explain.

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