Benefits Offered by Using Distance Education: Literature Review by Cynthia Joffrion

Background It is important to review research and literature on exploring the potential benefits offered by using Distance Education.
 
 
Cynthia Joffrion
Cynthia Joffrion
 
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Jan. 12, 2010 - PRLog -- Increasing Student Enrollment

In the state of Texas K-12 public and private schools have experienced a steady growth in student enrollment for the past several years. The United States Department of Education's, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has complied data that indicates that the stream of continued growth is predicted to increase nationally over the next ten years.  Specifically, NCES statistics projected enrollment in K-12 schools nationally to increase 4 percent between 2004 and an 11% increase in student enrollment by 2010. The continued growth in enrollment will increase the need for additional classroom space construction, textbooks, instructional materials, classroom computers, and qualified teachers.   Distance learning course offers a viable solution to this problem.

The growth in distance learning and Internet based education is changing the face of traditional education (Jones, 2002.  Nationally, traditional instructional delivery is changing from being teacher centered to student centered. The student-centered instructional approach provides an environment that is conducive to Distance Education. Instructional approaches are becoming more learner-centered: "recursive and non-linear, engaging, self-directed, and meaningful from the learner's perspective" (McCombs, 2000.  One of the principles of student-centered instruction is to provide learning opportunities on demand, which are meaningful to the students (Yelon, 1996).  Distance Education provides on-demand instruction. Research studies have been quite consistent finding that distance learning classrooms report similar effectiveness results as reported under traditional instruction methods. In addition, research studies often point out that student attitudes about distance learning are generally positive (USDLA, 2004).

To meet the needs of America's growing student population, we need to build new schools and modernize existing one (Clinton, 2000).  As student enrollment increases and class sizes grow it becomes increasingly difficult for teachers to engage in student centered teaching. Traditional local classroom instruction provides customized, flexible content to a relatively low number of students. Distance learning courses can reach a very large audience while offering students a flexible schedule (Jones, 1999).  Over the last 10 years, our public schools have grown by 6.6 million students, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and strained school facilities. Multiple modes of enabling interaction among students and teachers will be critical to the success of schools (Hanna, 2003).

The demand for teachers has indeed grown. Since 1984, both student enrollments and teacher retirements have increased (Snyder, Hoffman, & Geddes, 1997). Substantial numbers of schools with teaching openings have experienced difficulties finding qualified candidates to fill their positions (Ingersoll, 1999). While teacher shortages are easing in some areas, they remain a problem elsewhere, especially in the Sun Belt. Texas, for instance, needs 45,000 new teachers annually, more than double the 20,000 new certifications it issued last year, according to the State Board of Educator Certification (Axtman, 2004.  The Vocational Education Journal cites increased student enrollment as a factor in lack of qualified educators.(1999) Now, in the wake of such reports as America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages and The Forgotten Half, public school educators face the Herculean task of improving instruction for all students and helping to prepare a world-class workforce while their state and local education funding decreases (USDOE, 2004.  Distance Education allow certified teacher to transmit classes to many places reaching many students at one time.

An analysis of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) budget over the past 3 years shows no significant increase in the amount of funds available to states and Local Education Agencies (LEA). The small increase that was scene was utilized by the DOE in developing and monitoring the No Child Left Behind Act. In 1995 the DOE budget was 71 billion in comparison the 2003 budget was 85 billion (USDOE, 2004). Currently, many states and LEA's rely heavily on grant funds to implement and sustain targeted instruction and special programs. Stakeholders are relying heavily on these innovative programs to narrow the achievement gap. However, further analysis of the budget shows that in 2003 the LEA's formula grants budget was approximately 71 billion. In 2004 and 2005 the budgeted amount is 70 billion. A decrease of 1 billion is present for each year after 2003. A vivid example of how constricting state budgets have come to bear on major reorganization is when the Texas Education Agency (TEA), long considered a national leader for school technology planning and programs, announced in September 2003 the elimination of at least 200 jobs and the liquidation of its educational technology division.

State and Federal grant programs have been cut. It is evident by the decrease that innovate systemic initiatives have a difficult time receiving grants. Some areas have been increased such the Reading First Program which saw a 9.9% increase. Still minimal if you compare the number of school districts that the funds are being distributed to. As student enrollment increases the need for increased federal and local funds increase. Therefore, Distance Education courses can be a cost efficient means of addressing areas that have minimal funding.

Videoconferencing systems revenues in the U.S. reached $359 million in 2003, declining by 7.4% over 2002. The revenue drop-off is attributed to depressed IT spending resulting from a tough economic climate, as well as the continued decline across the board in Average Selling Prices (ASPs). Revenue growth in the U.S. videoconferencing systems market took a harder hit while revenues outside of U.S. showed a lower cumulative decline of 1.9%, with Asia showing a revenue growth of 5.9%. Over the last two years, growth in videoconferencing systems was hampered by reductions in IT budgets, deferred projects, and smaller deployments (Frost & Sullivan, 2004).

Callahan noted at a recent UCEA conference that the largest high school class in U.S. history would occur in 2009. (2003) School system must begin strategically planning now to accommodate enrollment increases. Distance Education may provide a solution to the capacity constraints growing enrollments place on school systems. Educators must look for other instructional method that is non-traditional and cost effective. The literature is very clear in insolating the current trends and issues faced by school systems related to increased student enrollment.
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Source:Cynthia Joffrion
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Page Updated Last on: Jan 12, 2010



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