Distance education

Technology has enabled us to become more mobile even while standing still—it allows us to connect with others easily in ways we couldn’t before. With this technology comes a new opportunity in education for teachers to reach students with mobility issues and for students to attend classes and pursue degrees at their own pace.Distance learning is hardly a new concept—for years many universities have offered correspondence courses. However, today’s distance learning isn’t just for college kids anymore. It’s estimated that approximately 2.5% of school-age Canadians are engaged in home-based education programs, which often rely on distance education materials supplied by local school boards.

Your school’s students may have the chance to become distance learners, if they aren’t already. It’s likely that your school board is seeking ways to ensure that these students still gain the classroom community feel, even if they aren’t in a physical classroom. We’ve compiled a few tips and ideas to help your school and your students get the most from distance education:

  • Hold virtual office hours by instant messaging via your school’s online learning platform, or use technology like Skype™ or AIM™ to ensure that you are available to students and parents virtually.
  • Require unique contributions to forums or discussion boards. By forcing students to respond, they will be motivated to respond quickly and to further review materials.
  • Use role playing. Assign students a role applicable to the area of study, such as a political figure or a historical person, and have them field and respond to questions from one another.
  • Encourage the use of e-folios to share student work with one another or to prepare student work for virtual parent-teacher conferences.
  • When using video conferencing, make all mailed handouts colour-coded to easily refer to materials throughout class. Encourage the use of colour-coding with tabs.
  • When video conferencing, consider the use of special background materials that will increase visibility or reduce background distraction, such as a tabletop display.
  • Provide students with a photo and a brief background about yourself and a welcome to class gift, like Pencils or an Apple-shaped stress ball prior to the class’s start date. Encourage them to post their own introductions online, too.
  • Once students complete an online course, stay connected with students and parents through direct mail or e-mail marketing opportunities in order to promote upcoming courses. Entice them and keep your programs top of mind with branded items like Apple-shaped Post-it Notes or a Drawstring Sport Sack.

Just because students aren’t physically in the classroom doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on the camaraderie and interaction of the classroom setting. Give them the tools and support to feel like part of the community today.

Buchanan, Marian. “How Many Homeschoolers Are There in Canada?” Canadian Home Based Learning Resource Page. Web. 28 Apr. 2010.

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