Weekend Post: Implementing a Distance Learning Course

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The implementation of a Distance Education program can seem daunting to various school institutions, particularly when it comes to funding. In the article posted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, they explore the implementation of K-12 cyber charter schools that are becoming more and more available to parents that would like to keep their children at home while they attend school.

The Program
Students have the opportunity to take courses that are generally not offered at any one school through online courses. Currently, there are 12 cyber-schools that are available in the Pittsburgh area with nearly 3,000 students attending (Chute, 2005). This is still a fraction of the total 1.8 million students in Pennsylvania, yet the program is becoming more popular. Parents choose to send their children for a number of reasons, mainly because they are looking for something that they can’t get in a traditional public school. Whether it’s a mobile classroom, alternative to spending hours on a school bus in rural areas, or just being able to find a program that is tailor-made, the cyber-classroom is a nice alternative (Chute, 2005).

Implementation Problems
There are several problems with implementation of a cyber-classroom, many of which the article touches on. The first is the lack of course diversity in many programs. One mother has all but one of her children in cyber schools, each of them having tried at least three during their school programs (Chute, 2005). She has the same concern, namely that not very school has the program that she and her children want to have available. So, they go to different courses as they become available and interested in different subjects.

The next problem would be funding. In Pennsylvania, there is a state law that requires a course program to provide a home computer and printer to a student that is without such equipment and the parents do not have to pay tuition, which is paid for by the state (Chute, 2005). This means that the schools need to balance their funding with the price of equipment for the students, material designed for the online delivery, equipment to deliver the material, and instructors to teach a variety of topics.

The final concern is commitment. Many of the students end up dropping out of their cyber-schools because they have lost the motivation to continue on with the demands for online learning (Chute, 2005). It’s often up to the instructor and the parents to work together, in order to keep their children motivated and participate in the courses.

The article covered many of the concerns of distance education that all institutions have, namely funding, availability, and motivation to keep the student throughout the course. What hadn’t been covered, and could have been, were the methods used to keep students, particularly K-12 students, interested and motivated through the online course. Otherwise, it was a well-written article.

Chute, Eleanor Cyber Schools Spring up in State, Post-Gazette.com, Pittsburgh, PA May 8th 2005. Found online at HYPERLINK "http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05128/500990.stm" http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05128/500990.stm on 05/14/2005.