My “Real World Situation”

Considerations for Introducing Online Leaning into the Alternative Education High School in which I Teach.

By Keith Feiring

Introduction

The administration in the Alternative Education High School where I teach, wants to offer online learning courses to better serve our students and to be able to support a larger student body than we now have.

I have a background in computers and have been asked for suggestions to create an online learning program in our school. I was also informed that no one in our school has experience with online learning. 

In this paper, I present to the administration and faculty a concise approach for exploring the considerations necessary to introduce online learning into our school.

 

Key Elements of Paper

 

Course Delivery Options

Examine Learning Models

Vendor Interview

Surveys

Present Tools

 

 

The chart presents the following “Course Delivery Options.”

Course Delivery Options

·         Create our own web site

·         Create our own course material

·         Our school issues credits

·         Vendor Provides Web Site

·         We create and provide course materials

·         Vendor provides course materials

·         Our school issues credits

·         Vendor provides all courses to students

·         Our school issues credits

Surveys

To make an informed decision we need to learn about our present conditions. Questionnaires should be developed and distributed to staff and students along with conducting face to face interviews.

·         Survey the Administration about goals, community impact, time and budget considerations:
Query what the budget is and how has the financial value of this program been determined?

“Learning technology appears to have great educational potential. It can be motivating, time-efficient, and particularly effective at supporting the learning of conceptually difficult topics (Atkins, 1993). However, such benefits also have their costs, and unfortunately, even a cursory review of the literature reveals that methodologies for evaluating these are comparatively scarce.”[i]

·         Survey the teachers and students regarding their computer skills and interest in participating in the program.

·         Survey what technical resources are available to our school.      

Examine Learning Models

An example follows, however it needs to be developed to be of greater value.

Our Alternative Education Students presently work within a pedagogical model that does not have classroom participation. The online student shares this model. Our students work independently within their own time schedules. This style of participation is compatible with an asynchronous online model. Our students have no contact with other students related to school participation.

Tools

Staff should be informed of what “tools” and features are common on online learning web sites, what they do.

Tools (The following is a partial list)

announcements

discussion boards

password login

chat

e-mail

web pages

 

Many additional issues need to be examined. Among them are:

·         How will tools be provided

·         What are the hardware and software requirements

·         How Learning Web Site will be administered

·         Teacher, student training

·         Cost factors

Vendor Interview
One solution to the issue of providing “course delivery options” is to have a vendor provide them. The following is a summary of the main points I discussed in a telephone interview with Mr. Justin McMorrow, General Manager, eCollege, K-12 regarding his company’s services[ii]

eCollege provides:

·         Services on a cost per student basis

·         An online web site which includes all hardware, software required to operate an online web site

·         “Tools” as mentioned in the table above

·         Assistance in course development and training

·         We may use already created courses in our school for a licensing fee

·         Student can take courses at other web sites and have our school issue credits for the courses

In addition to looking toward vendors for help in setting up our program we can also contact other schools that offer online learning and solicit their advice. For example: Plano Independent School District

Opportunities, Challenges, Strengths & Weaknesses

Online learning offers a tremendous opportunity for our students. It is a perfect extension to our present Alternative Education program. Presently our students work alone. Here are a few possibilities.

Online learning provides the opportunity:

·         To create a learning community among participating students

·         For them to develop valuable computer skills

·         To develop the ability to communicate with others

It is imperative that both teachers and students are able to utilize the technologies:  from knowing how to type to working with internet software.  This must not be overlooked. The lack of having computer and internet skills will eliminate persons from participation.  This will include some excellent on-ground teachers. The challenge is for these individuals to improve their skills rather than not participate.

“Many advocates of computer-mediated distance education emphasize its positive aspects and understate the kinds of communicative and technical capabilities and work required by students and faculty.”[iii]

Communicating in the online environment is very challenging. The teacher must have the skills to be an online facilitator. The teacher needs to encourage students to interact and learn from each other in a positive manner. The teacher must help students benefit from utilizing this online medium.

“Off-campus instruction provides the important social presence of the instructor that enhances the communication and lowers frustration levels of the distant student.”[iv]

We have no experience with online learning in our school. This may pose a major problem. The administration and faculty must commit to developing the program through: active participation, assessments and adjustments to the program, adequate funding and commitment to the program for a reasonable time period.

Summary

I suggest staff follow the approach I have outlined in order to become informed about online learning as it applies to our school. We should speak with representatives from different vendors as well as other schools that offer online learning to help us become better informed. We also must offer to provide training to better enable our students and teachers to participate in the program. Finally, we should embrace our future online learning program as one that will be highly beneficial and educational to all of our participants.

 

 

References



[i] 

Martin Oliver, Grainne Conole and Lisa Bonetti, Teaching and Learning Technology Centre, University of North London, 236-250 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PP 0171 753 3109 (1999) The hidden costs of change: evaluating the impact of moving to on-line delivery

[ii] Mr. Justin McMorrow, General Manager, eCollege, K-12 (2002)  www.ecollege.com

[iii] Experiences, Noriko Hara , Rob Kling, The Center for Social Informatics , Indiana University, Bloomington 
 Students’ Distress with a Web-based Distance Education Course: An Ethnographic Study of Participants'

[iv] Frances F. Hunter, Texas A&M University  - The Evolving Definition of Distance Learning in a College of Education