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Amanda Armor

Foundations of Distance Learning (ED500)


Dr. Sprenger
Reflections on Digital Learning
1. What online programs have you experienced/aware of? At your school? Your personal
experiences as a student? Have you actually taught? Where did they each fit on the
continuum of brick and mortar to fully immersive online learning?
I taught a few online courses at my current district in the last few years and at a school I
previously taught for back in 2006-2008. As a student I have been taking part in online course
through Clarion towards my Technology Masters as well as the Educational Technology
Certificate Program for the past few years. I also participated in some distance learning classes
through the AIU throughout my teaching career, attended some online meetings, and took part in
some distance learning lessons for art history back when I attended high school (2000-01).
The program at my school falls somewhere near the center of the continuum. We do have a
number of students who attend a full schedule of cyber school courses from far away locations
(some even on the road travelling, while they do), from other school districts, and from their own
homes locally, but additionally we have many students who attend regular classes at our brickand-mortar campus and spend a period or two out of their day in the cyber lab taking advanced
courses or classes not offered physically on campus (eg: Mandarin Language). I would say we
are moving up the continuum a bit because so many students are full-day cyber students, but our
offering of physical computer lab space for these students and the option to do half-day or period
only courses through the cyber program will likely keep us from moving too far up the continuum
for a while still. I would say that the program at Clarion is somewhere around the middle of the
spectrum as well, though I dont know how many courses are offered via cyber for undergrad
students so it is hard to judge. I do know that both institutions fall more into the facilitated cohort
and hybrid/blended models as well. The courses I took through the AIU and online for further
professional development were fully online, but they did still offered a modicum of interaction
between students. The art history course I sat in on in high school, being so early in the distance
learning online movement was conducted through a classroom with a video screen. We could
see them and they us. It was rather exciting for the time, but really only beneficial for a lectureheavy course. I would say it fell more on the face-to-face end of the continuum, since the
students werent actually using the technology to communicate for the most part, just the teacher.
2. Who takes online courses in your K-12 school/community you live in?
We have quite a varied mix in our education community. The teachers participate in online
courses for their own professional development, As for our students, we have both on campus
students taking one or two courses, performing arts and co-op students who take all of their core
courses from the cyber program, full-time cyber students who attend classes at the brick and
mortar building in our cyber labs, and distance ed students who are coming from a variety of
places. Some of our distance learners live in the area and take classes from home due to heath,
or behavior problems. Others attend simply due to interest in taking courses online. Still others
are working kids who due to athletics or arts talent have to take classes online to keep up with
school, but still wish to remain a part of their home district. Additionally we have students from
other districts who take classes from our cyber school, some of whom are even taught by teacher
from within our district as well.
3. How are online courses controlled? or regulated? What is out there to ensure they are
good learning environments?
Kerry Rice, the author of our textbook for Foundations of Distance Learning, noted that online
instruction actually makes it easier to evaluate teacher performance. With technology capturing
all of the instruction happening a digital footprint of a teachers work is created which can be
reviewed and used as data for evaluation purposes(11). Additionally it provides a collection of
data for the instructor his/herself to use to better reach students at their own level (11). The book
lists a variety of professional organizations (iNACOL/ NEA/SREB.ISTE) that have published their

own set of standards and guidelines to better ensure that the proper teachers are being hired and
that the proper learning environments are being cultivated so that student learning is the most
successful it can be (13). These differing organizations are pretty well in agreement on most of
their standards. The book and the standards I read through by iNACOL seem to make a major
point of having certified teachers as instructors for these courses. This is a bit odd to read, being
a Pennsylvania teacher. Thought I do understand that some states still hire on uncertified people
for their brick and mortar teaching jobs. I think that that particular standard should be held by all
institutions, regardless of where their learning takes place.
4. What does the author recommend to be done to ensure good online teaching? How are
many online teachers actually prepared to teach online? Do they match up?
Rice, in compiling the feedback from the professional standards, noted the importance of specific
teacher qualifications for those wishing to teach online including, but not limited to, familiarization
with basic educational software and applications as well as learning management systems,
having had prior experience teaching and more importantly learning in an online environment,
and participation in continuing education courses and workshops. The fact that many teachers
learn their craft in a brick and mortar school may put them at a disadvantage. It is difficult to
teach in an environment that you havent experienced as a student.
In addition to the qualifications, Rice also breaks down online teacher best practices: teachers
should be able to use their skills to improve upon student learning through formal and informal
instruction, build a good line of communication with both students and their parents, to use
technology as a tool for collaboration, and to provide a safe learning environment for students.
Finally she notes that it is important to choose a program that is well suited to you if you plan to
teach in an online program. The place that you work from, the amount you get paid, the studentteacher ratio, and the amount of travel necessary may vary from school to school and it is
important that you make decisions about what program will be best suited to you before taking a
job.