From a Distance
By Kate Conley
Distance education used to refer to cor- respondence courses (or, in my case, to how far away I sat from the teacher).
Some sources cite a 1728 newspaper ad for a
shorthand course as the first distance learning
opportunity. The Open University concept hit
in the 1960s, and now technology has bent the
time–space continuum even further, allowing
for ever newer ways of learning, such as Second Life, Khan Academy, and Full Sail University. Schools use distance education to address scheduling conflicts, help students gain
access to hard-to-staff courses, provide credit
recovery, offer dual enrollment with colleges,
and supplement the face-to-face classroom.
This has created alternative learning opportunities for millions. In a November 2011
report from the National Center on Education
Statistics, 1. 8 million K− 12 students in U.S.
public schools were enrolled in online courses
in 2009− 10.
Online learning, our target topic this issue,
has exploded despite many persistent myths:
Online degree programs are a scam, the courses
are easier than those in brick-and-mortar settings, credits earned online won’t transfer, distance learning is for kids who can’t hack it in
“real” schools, and so on.
In his article, “Rural Districts Bolster Choices
with Online Learning” (see page 12), Don
Brown, an instructional technologist, dispels
some of those myths. He describes how his rural
education service district in Oregon was able to
offer enrichment courses as well as give struggling students ways to graduate.
Though a conversation about distance learning can sometimes sound more like a breakfast
order—flipped, blended, hybrid—online learning holds promise for students of all kinds. Of
course, as with any educational program, one
size does not fit all. Not all students can be successful in a totally online program. Students can
get more out of their education if they know a
bit about how they learn best. The Connecticut
Distance Learning Consortium (CTDLC) offers
a quiz to help students determine their readiness
for online courses.
To help you help your students get the most
from a hybrid approach, Liz Pape, Tracy Sheehan, and Colleen Worrell share ways to save time
and money. In their article, “How to Do More
with Less” on page 18, they describe several ways
to engage students using free and inexpensive
tools and employing techniques from blended
and flipped classroom environments.
Online learning is likely to become part of everyone’s educational experience as opportunities
continue to evolve. How will you leverage this
powerful technology for teaching?
Kate Conley is ISTE’s
and the editor of L&L.
Her first career was
as an English teacher
in the San Francisco
Bay Area. She holds
a master’s degree in
journalism and a
bachelor’s in English.
Conley has worked at
ISTE for more than
Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation: http://aalf.org
CTDLC readiness quiz: www.ctdlc.org/Students/Online_
Distance Education: www.tandf.co.uk/journals/CDIE
Distance Education and Training Council: www.detc.org
ISTE’s new online professional development courses: iste.
NCES report on distance education courses: http://nces.