distance learning, distance education, online learning, online education

Distance Learning Gains Momentum in Public Elementary Schools

January 05, 2010 05:20 PM
by Colleen Brondou
Although distance learning has been a mainstay of college education for years, more elementary schools are using the approach to expand their curriculum.

Distance Education Starting Earlier

In Aledo, Texas, fourth-graders cracked eggs and asked questions about yolks and shells as part of a lesson called Eggs Everywhere. Twenty miles away at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, instructor Leishawn Spotted Bear answered those questions. The students were taking part in a distance-learning lesson that has been offered by the museum since 2004.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the museum’s distance-learning program has incorporated 25,000 students across 16 states and Canada, and is continuing to grow. Several classes are sometimes involved in the same distance-learning session, with students in other schools and even other states talking together throughout the program.

“The beauty of it is, it reduces the walls of the classroom,” Laurie Hogle of the Region XI educational technology department told the Star-Telegram.

Background: Michigan high schools make strides in distance learning

In 2009, Michigan began to allow some high school students to take more classes online. Eleven school districts and a charter school received a waiver to allow them to break state rules requiring students to be in the school building for approximately 1,100 hours during a school year. The waiver also applied to a limit of the number of online courses a student can take outside the school each year.

Opinion & Analysis: Is online learning effective?

Although online learning is becoming more popular, critics have said it doesn’t offer a complete educational experience. Taking a course through the Internet means also having access to other resources on the same subject. Advocates say this access provides people with a more enriched experience, while critics say the wide range of resources can make it hard for people to concentrate on one thing at a time.

Others say that online learning lacks an official method of measuring both the environment’s effectiveness and digital literacy. Though some companies have started to administer testing tools, a lack of universal access for lower income students may make the results unreliable.

Related Topic: Distance education—from Iraq

North Dakota State University professor Cheryl J. Wachenheim was deployed to Iraq in 2008. That didn’t stop her from continuing to teach her classes, however. With the help of her laptop, Wachenheim conducted her micro- and macroeconomics classes online for between 20 and 75 students.

Reference: Online courses

Find more information on online courses and distance education in findingDulcinea’s Online College Courses and Degrees Web Guide.

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