Distance Education

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In April 2017, Adult Education rolled out distance education for students across the state, coordinated from the Regional Adult Learning Center.  Barriers such as lack of transportation or competing responsibilities from work and family often prevent individuals from participating in traditional adult education classes.  Current demands for online technologies in work and daily life have prompted Adult Education to integrate more technology use to provide opportunities to build technology skills while simultaneously building basic academic skills.
What is Distance Education (DE)
Distance education (DE) can best be defined as formal learning where students and instructors are separated by geography, time, or both for the majority of the instructional period.  Distance learning materials are delivered through a variety of media including, but not limited to, print, audio recording, videotape, broadcasts, computer software, web-based programs and other online technology.  Teachers support distance learners through communication via mail, telephone, e-mail, online technologies/software and occasional personal face to face meetings. A combination of face-to-face time (enrollment/orientation, pre and post assessment, regular check-in’s) combined with DE from home is often referred to as blended learning.
Students can be asked the following discussion points as they determine DE to be their most appropriate option:
  • Do you have a quiet place to study at home?
  • Can you meet deadlines?
  • Are you willing to spend time each week for online learning (5-8 hours minimum)?
  • Can you demonstrate routine and structure for studying?
  • Do you have access to technology (home, library, other)?
  • Are you comfortable using various computer features (as so described above)?
  • Can you work independently?
  • How do you handle situations when you get ‘stuck’ and need assistance?
  • Are you comfortable calling the ALC if /as needed for clarification and help?
  • Can you return to the ALC for post testing or check in at least every six week?
  • Are there other barriers or concerns to be discussed? 
It is important to determine if the student has the skills needed to participate in online learning.  Learner persistence and success in DE depends on more than students' academic skills and knowledge.  Distance education requires students organize their time, work independently, have good study skills, and solve problems using technology.

Digital Literacy Skills
Basic computer skills (e.g., proficiency with common computer applications, internet browsers, and use of email) are a necessity for students studying online.  It is also critical that learners have a basic understanding of how websites and hyperlinking work.  Computer knowledge needed to study online includes:
  • Using the mouse to navigate on the screen and to click on appropriate items;
  • Using keyboard to enter text;
  • Being able to connect and stay connected to the internet;
  • Understanding how a web page is set up, including using the back button; and
  • Managing new tabs in browser windows.
If you are interested in more information about whether distance education is right for you, contact any Regional Adult Learning Center for more details.