In rural Colorado school districts, small enrollments and limited staffing resources mean that students cannot get the selection of advanced or specialized courses necessary for college preparation or access to the broad selection of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) course options or foreign languages commonly available in urban districts. Technology-supported distance learning practices, both interactive video and web-based, are often the only options for these students. Additionally, students in rural elementary and middle schools do not have the same opportunities for field trips or specialized educational presentations that urban and suburban schools typically have.
Distance learning technologies make it possible for students to participate in concurrent enrollment classes, advanced placement classes, and specialized science, math, or technology education programs from external sources. The use of the technology is not limited to rural or K12 schools. Urban and suburban districts also use distance learning technologies to share resources between buildings or campuses, and it is used on post-secondary campuses to aggregate students into class sections from multiple sites. Ideally, these technologies make it possible for a student to have access to any needed resource from anywhere. This access includes services for special-needs students such as the hearing impaired, students with autism spectrum disorders, homebound or hospitalized students, and English Language Learners (ELL) populations, among others.
The Distance Learning grant project is a start for developing these solutions. The purpose of this project is threefold:
The grant has supported the introduction of 12 new interactive video distance learning sites in the state, and it will implement a statewide scheduling/clearinghouse application in 1Q 2013 that will facilitate statewide networking of educational resources. The project is also fund distance learning training programs and professional development for teachers offering distance learning classes.
The grant also provides ongoing surveying and mapping of distance learning activity and equipped sites in Colorado, identification of best practices (both technical and content), and generation of new course content and collaborations.
OIT has organized the Colorado Distance Learning Task Force, a statewide broadband steering committee (which includes Equipment, Content, and Professional Development subgroups) to guide the implementation of the $1+ million in grant funds intended to improve statewide capacity for interactive video-based distance learning.
We are interested in hearing about your experiences with interactive video distance learning in Colorado, and are seeking examples of current best practices. We are also interested in establishing a dialog with potential new users and content providers within the state. If you would like to share your knowledge, or provide feedback or request more information about this exciting project, please contact: