IDEAL—Improving Distance Education for Adult Learners

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Project IDEAL University of Michigan • Ann Arbor, Michigan First Edition • September 2002

Leslie I. Petty and Jerome Johnston

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
First Edition, September 2002 Published By Project IDEAL • Institute for Social Research • University of Michigan

With Funding From A consortium of 13 states working together to explore the potential of distance education to reach adult basic learners. Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina For further information on Project IDEAL www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/ideal/

© 2002 Regents of the University of Michigan First Printing: September, 2002 File: DEHandbook1stEdition.doc The preparation of this book was underwritten by the Project IDEAL states using funds from a variety of sources including national adult education leadership funds provided by the US Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the underwriters and you should not assume endorsement by them.

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Acknowledgements

Many of the insights in the Handbook were derived from working for two years with teachers and administrators in Pennsylvania as they experimented with teaching Workplace Essential Skills at a distance. We thank them all for the knowledge they imparted to their colleagues and to us. We also wish to thank all of the people who attended the Project IDEAL Facilitator Training in August, 2002 for their helpful comments and suggestions about ways to improve the Handbook. They provided invaluable advice about how to make it more useful for each of their states. Special thanks go out (in alphabetical order) to Julia Hixon, Randolph Hollingsworth, Chuck Klinger, Jane Martel, Kim McCoy, Beatta Peterson, Dehra Shafer, Deb Walker and Cheryl Zimmer for taking the time after the training session to review individual chapters and provide more extensive feedback.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Table of Contents
Introduction 1
Distance Education: A Variety of Options for Adult Learners................................... 2 Distance Learning Curricula........................................................................................ 3

Chapter 1: Recruitment

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What Audience Do You Want to Serve? ..................................................................... 5 What Does the Program Teach and Who Might Benefit From It? .............................. 6 What Skills Are Required for a Student to Be Successful? ......................................... 6 Narrowing the Target................................................................................................. 10 How Do You Recruit This Audience?....................................................................... 10 Making the Initial Contact ......................................................................................... 14

Chapter 2: Orientation of Distance Learning Students

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Learner Goal Assessment .......................................................................................... 15 Materials and Technology Access ............................................................................. 16 Product Specific Training .......................................................................................... 16 Assessment of Existing Competencies ...................................................................... 17 Skills Training ........................................................................................................... 19 Independent Study: Planning, Organization And Study Skills.................................. 20 Setting Expectations For The Class ........................................................................... 20 A Complete Orientation Plan..................................................................................... 21

Chapter 3: Teaching at a Distance

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Develop Learning Plans............................................................................................. 25 Providing Direct Instruction for Learners.................................................................. 26 Assign Work to Students ........................................................................................... 26 Motivate and Encourage Students ............................................................................. 27 Provide Feedback on Student Work .......................................................................... 28 Online Communication with Students....................................................................... 30 Thinking About Teaching At a Distance ................................................................... 30 Program-Specific Strategies ...................................................................................... 31

Chapter 4: Assessment of Distance Learning Students

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Assessment to Gauge Student Progress ..................................................................... 34 Measuring Learner Participation ............................................................................... 35 What Are Reasonable Expectations for Assessing Distance Learners? .................... 36 Identifying Assessment Strategies ............................................................................. 36

Appendix

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Is Online Learning for Me? ........................................................................................ 40 Computer Skills Assessment...................................................................................... 41 Tips for Teaching at A Distance ................................................................................ 43 Recruiting Materials................................................................................................... 45

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Introduction
Distance education refers to delivering instruction in non-classroom settings. It can take many forms – from online courses to independent study using videotapes and workbooks. This Handbook is intended to help teachers and administrators design and deliver distance education programs for adult basic learners. It is a very new field, and as a result, the Handbook itself is a work in progress. It identifies the key issues and offers guidance on what is currently known from the field. Much of what is presented here is drawn from one and one-half years of experimentation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in delivering Workplace Essential Skills to adult learners at a distance. As more states undertake to implement distance education programs for their adult learners, the available knowledge base will expand significantly and this book will be revised accordingly. This initial version therefore, is similar to an early map of the United States – it contains the outlines of the states and a few key features in each state, but many details remain to be discovered. As the early maps continually changed to reflect explorers’ new discoveries, so too will this Handbook. We invite you to join us in this exploration, using this Handbook as a guide to your initial forays into distance education for adult basic learners. Bear in mind that all of us are just starting out on this path; by sharing our knowledge we will be able to create more detailed guides for those who follow. The Handbook is organized into the following major topics of concern in the implementation of a distance education program: • • Recruiting students: how to identify the appropriate students for a distance learning program and recruit them to participate Developing orientation programs: designing an orientation that provides the teacher with information about the student, and the student with the necessary information and skills for successful participation Teaching at a distance: providing instruction at a distance, change in the teacher’s role, providing feedback on students’ work, motivating and supporting students at a distance Assessing participation and performance: reasons for assessment, possible ways to assess distance learning students

Each section provides an overview of the issue, specific implementation ideas and activities designed to help teachers and administrators plan for their programs. It is based upon the premise that distance learning is so different from classroom teaching that it amounts to “re-inventing the school.” Thus, readers will be challenged to think about 1

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners adapting or modifying their classroom teaching approaches in ways that are appropriate and effective for distance learning students. The Handbook will not provide all of the answers, but will serve as a guide to help you find your way. Ultimately, each program will adapt these ideas in the ways that best meet the needs of their students. An online course titled “Recruiting and Teaching Adult Learners at a Distance” is available to states in the Project IDEAL consortium. It provides opportunities for teachers and administrators to develop plans in response to lessons in the Handbook that are adapted to the opportunities and constraints of local communities. A separate course study guide provides students with guidance in using the online resources and becoming part of the online community that explores issues of distance education over an extended period of time. The course study guide is the recommended starting point for students new to online classes. Distance Education: A Variety of Options for Adult Learners States are looking at distance education as a means of reaching a greater proportion of adult learners in need of services. But what is distance learning? The terms distance education and distance learning have been in wide use for several decades, but the terms were coined at a time when the technological possibilities for distance instruction were more limited. The stereotype of distance learning is a course that has a textbook and a series of lectures broadcast on a regular basis to learners studying at home or in a remote classroom. Most of the distance learning series created for adult learners in recent years do not fit this stereotype. The video component does not show an instructor talking to an audience; instead, it provides case illustrations of problems discussed in the text, or scenarios that learners need to analyze. The video program may not be designed for broadcast at all, rather it is expected that learners will view portions of the program selectively on their VCR when the textbook calls for it. A new medium—the World Wide Web –has made possible a host of new distribution and communication possibilities. These new uses of media bring new possibilities to learning at a distance, but they make delivery by educators and consumption by learners a more complicated process. This project takes a broad view of what comprises distance education, preferring the term “non-classroom based learning,” coined by Lennox McLendon, Director of NAEPDC. By moving beyond the confines of the classroom, we expand the potential of adult educators to reach adults and increase the array of options from which potential students may choose. From this perspective, it is possible to envision a continuum of distance learning options including: • • • students working alone, either online or with video and/or print materials students working independently but meeting on a regular basis with others studying the same curriculum “hybrid” or “facilitated” programs which combine classroom learning with a distance component 2

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • classroom-based programs outside of the educational agency (e.g., at a local business or a community center in a rural community) informal educational programs aimed at motivating adults to continue their education structured classes which offer parallel content to classroom-based instruction and offer a certificate to students upon completion

As can be seen from even this limited list, distance education is not a unitary construct. It can–and should be–adapted to best meet the needs of the populations served by individual agencies and states. Our understanding of what constitutes distance learning for adult learners will continue to evolve as various ways of employing distance modalities are explored. Distance Learning Curricula Many curricula can be used for working with adult learners at a distance. These include multimedia instructional series designed for adult learners and produced with distance learning in mind (though not specifically designed just for distance learning) as well as computer assisted instruction (CAI). The curricula differ not only in content, but also in the methods used to deliver instruction. These differences have implications for teaching at a distance. Multimedia Instructional Series Project IDEAL states have expressed the interest in five instructional series. These include: Workplace Essential Skills, Crossroads Café, GED Connection, TV411, and On Common Ground. Only the first three have been selected for experimentation in the initial year of the project. All of these series are multimedia—they utilize two or more media to package the learning experiences. All of the series utilize print, but the series can be divided into two categories according to the role and prominence of online and video. Online is Central. Workplace Essential Skills (WES) and GED Connection both utilize video, print, and online. The core instruction is carried in the print and online. Given the centrality of the online, teachers turn to the online connection as the vehicle for supporting learners. WES and GED Connection both have an online management system that teachers can use to examine student portfolios and provide feedback to students on their performance. The system also has a built-in e-mail program to support other forms of teacher-student communication, making it reasonable for a distance education program to be built around online forms of learner support. The videos provide case examples of things referred to in the print and online. But a teacher is likely to think of the video as a secondary, not a primary means of instruction. Helping educators deliver WES and GED Connection at a distance places the primary emphasis on the challenging task of connecting learners to the Internet and supporting them in the use of online tools.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Video is Central. Crossroads Café, Madison Heights/Lifelines, On Common Ground and TV411 use video and print (though TV411 has a newly available set of Web resources for students to use). Learning from these series requires careful engagement of the video and some mediation by a teacher to help learners interpret and apply the lessons to their lives. While the workbook may “set up” the video for learners, it may be helpful if the teacher asks the learner to respond to questions about the video using a medium like email, chat or the telephone. Online Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) Another distance learning option is to use online versions of computer-assisted instruction, such as PLATO or SkillsTutor. This calls for a third approach to supporting distance learning. Virtually all of the instruction in these curricula is built into the software itself, potentially requiring a minimal intervention by teachers. But, the learners targeted for CAI may need to study at a literacy or computer center to get the kind of technical and learning support they need to complete the lessons in the program. They may also need to have a teacher keep them focused on their goal or help them see what their new set of skills qualifies them for. Implications for Teaching: The Need for Product Training Supporting adults studying curricula where the online is central involves different activities and skills than supporting adults studying curriculum where the video is central and both of these differ from computer assisted online learning. Thus, distance education requires differentiated approaches depending on the needs of learners and the characteristics of the curricula being taught. Each of the curricular products listed above and each of the CAI programs provides different resources for both teachers and students and makes different demands upon the teacher. Each has its own set of characteristics that will shape how teachers will use and teach with them. Successful distance learning teachers will have a thorough knowledge of the product or curriculum being used, including the instructional content, how the material is organized, what supports and resources it offers, etc. The developers of the major online courses and programs for adult distance education typically offer extensive training to familiarize teachers and administrators with the intricacies of their products; Project IDEAL strongly recommends that this product-specific training be an integral part of training for distance education teachers.

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Chapter 1: Recruitment
Recruiting adult learners into educational programs is always a challenging task; when the program involves distance learning it becomes even more so. It is important to match the needs and functional levels of the prospective students to the content of the educational program. In addition, because distance learning places greater demands than a traditional classroom does on students to function independently and structure their own learning, determining which students are likely to succeed at a distance is crucial. This chapter guides you through a process to determine who you want to recruit and how you might be able to reach them. • • • • What audience does your agency want to serve with distance education? What does the distance education program you are using teach? What skills are required for students to be successful with this distance learning course? How do you recruit this audience?

What Audience Do You Want to Serve? Adding distance education to the menu of existing educational programs requires that the local agency make decisions regarding what role the distance education programs will play. Will the distance education programs offer new areas of instruction or will they provide novel ways to teach content parallel to classroom-based programs? Will the distance education programs be aimed at students already being served by the agency or will they be an attempt to reach a new audience? These decisions need to be made in the context of the agency’s goals and missions and with a full understanding of the needs of the population the agency serves. Local programs vary in their goals and missions, based upon the needs of the particular population they serve. Some provide GED instruction, some workplace training, some basic literacy education, some a combination of programs. Each program will need to determine how distance education might fit the needs of their particular population. Distance education should be one of the options available to provide educational opportunities to students. For example, an agency whose primary educational mission is to prepare students to take the GED might select distance education options that work toward that goal, while an agency that concentrates on English as a Second Language (ESL) might look for programs that focus on the acquisition of English language skills. Thus, the first step in thinking about recruitment is understanding the needs of the audience you hope to reach. The next step is to examine the particular distance education 5

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners curriculum being taught to see how it meets the needs of the target audience and to understand the demands it places upon students. What Does the Program Teach and Who Might Benefit From It? It is necessary to understand the purpose of the program you are offering and how it meets the needs of your target audience. For instance, a distance education program focusing on employment skills might be useful for displaced workers, adults in welfareto-work programs and entry-level employees seeking to upgrade their skills. In contrast, a distance learning program designed to help non-native English speakers improve their English communication skills might have as its target audience recent immigrants to the United States. Think about the distance learning program you will be teaching and the content it includes. The more specific you are in detailing the content of the course, the more guidance this will provide in identifying the students for whom it might be appropriate. For example, it might seem as if the Employment Strand of Workplace Essential Skills is geared to people who are not currently employed. However, by examining in depth the topics covered in this strand, it becomes evident that this course could be suited both for people seeking employment (e.g., the focus on matching skills and jobs, applying for jobs, etc.) and for those already in the workplace who want to improve their skills (e.g., the sections about being ready to work, learning on the job and workplace safety). What Skills Are Required for a Student to Be Successful? In addition to understanding what the program teaches, it is important to understand the demands that the program places upon students. Any curriculum – including that for a distance learning program - is based upon certain assumptions about what a student will bring to the course. For example, students must read at a particular level to be admitted to GED classes or must demonstrate basic computer competency before being allowed to take a more advanced computer class. These are usually not arbitrary decisions, but rather ones that have been adopted because they increase a student’s likelihood of success. These issues become critical in distance education because distance learning students must function more independently than students in traditional classrooms; this makes it even more important that students be guided into classes in which they are have a good chance for success. Successful distance learning students are likely to be selfmotivated, able to work independently and have strong study and organizational skills. In addition, studying at a distance often requires that the student have access to various forms of technology (e.g., VCR, computer, etc). Thus, in dealing with distance learning programs there are at least three categories of skills and access that must be addressed: course-specific requirements, materials and technology issues, and learner characteristics. Course-specific requirements These will obviously differ for different distance learning programs and are closely tied to the content of the course. GED preparation math classes, for example, will assume that the student taking the class has already mastered certain basic mathematical concepts 6

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners and skills. Similarly, most curricula are written at a specific reading level, and students whose reading skills are below that level may have difficulty with the material. Courses using the computer for instruction require that the student have some basic computer literacy. It is necessary to review the course materials to determine what skills they demand of students. Materials and technology access issues In a classroom setting, most materials are supplied for the student (with the exception of basic items such as paper and pens). In addition to books and workbooks, distance learning often makes use of videotapes, television programming or computer based instruction. While most students are likely to have fairly easy access to a television and/or VCR, computer access is often more challenging. Thus, another factor to be considered in your recruiting is how to provide students with access to all of the materials and technologies they will need to get the most from the class. Learner Characteristics The Voice of Experience
In a classroom program, there are prerequisite skills necessary to be placed in a traditional class setting. For WES, an adult learner must be computer literate, or willing to learn. In addition, a computer with Internet access is required. An adult learner must therefore have the ability or resources to 1) become computer literate, 2) access a computer with Internet. Consequently, we cannot recruit low-level adult learners or those who have serious computer access problems. However, this problem is offset by the many advantages to WES, such as convenience, ease of use, etc. Furthermore, WES overcomes such problems as weather, travel, roads, scheduling problems, classroom boredom and the like. A person could even participate in WES if they were completely and physically unable to leave a hospital bed or a nursing home bed, for example. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

One of the major differences between traditional classroom instruction and distance education is the amount of face-to-face contact students have with their teacher and with other students. For most people, learning is a social process, and the support of teachers and classmates forms an important element of the learning that occurs. Distance learning students still have contact with their teacher, although the forms through which that contact occurs are different. Teachers and students may meet only once or twice over an entire course, with the remainder of the communication occurring on the phone, via mail, via email or through online learning communities. Many distance learning students have little or no face-toface contact with other students taking the same class, although some programs do encourage and facilitate student-to-student support (this may be in person, but may also occur through distance modalities). Experience suggests that students most likely to succeed are able to function on their own, be self-starters, motivated and have the organizational and study skills needed to work on their own. While less tangible than academic skills (it is more difficult to quickly assess someone’s ability to work independently than it is to assess their reading ability), these are important issues to address with potential learners.

Activity 1.1 asks you to think about what students will need to be successful in your distance education program. The Employment Strand of Workplace Essential Skills is used as an example. Use the chart to fill in details for the distance learning class you will 7

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners be teaching. In Column A, list course-specific requirements, in Column B describe the material and technology access issues for your program, and in Column C identify the learner characteristics students need to possess. The more specific you are in detailing what you think the student will need, the more focused you will be in your recruiting. (If you are taking the online course that accompanies the Handbook, the activity charts for all activities in the Handbook are available as assignments for download.)

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 1.1 : What’s Needed for Students to Be Successful? Course Title/Program: Workplace Essential Skills Employment Strand
Column A Course-Specific Requirements Example: -Reading at the 7 grade level or higher -Basic computer skills (typing, using mouse, scrolling through text, etc.) -Able to use computer to access Internet
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Column B Materials & Tech Access Example: -Access to TV and VCR to play videotapes -Need to arrange to pick up & return videotapes on regular basis (need transportation to central location) -Access to computer (does not need to be at home) with Internet capabilities

Column C Learner Characteristics Example: -Able to work independently -Able to deal with minor computer glitches with some support -Able to organize time -Self-motivated and a self-starter – does not need to be directed each step of the way -Reliable/responsible: will return borrowed video tapes

Course Title/Program: ____________________________________
Column A Course-Specific Requirements Column B Materials & Tech Access Column C Learner Characteristics

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Narrowing the Target Obviously, not all students are suited for all programs: in distance learning, “one size” definitely does not “fit all.” You should now have a clearer understanding of what your distance learning program offers and what the student is likely to need to be successful in it. That information should be the basis for thinking about recruiting students for your distance education program. Once again, the more specific you are, the more useful it will be. While a general statement such as “Our target audience is any adult who needs additional job skills” is inclusive, open and inviting, it does little to help you shape recruiting strategies. It is important to identify specific populations you wish to approach. Suppose you were offering a distance learning program to teach employment skills. You might decide that you want to focus on adults either in the workforce or those trying to enter it. Some possible approaches to recruiting might be through career transition programs, working with local businesses or building ties with local unions. In addition, your distance learning program requires that students complete some of their work via the Internet. Thus, you might want to recruit students who already have basic computer skills. One option might be to recruit students who are taking basic computer skills classes: they will have the skills to handle the computer component of your course and they may be looking for a job to use these new skills. Your recruiting strategy would be very different for a distance learning program that uses videotapes to teach English language skills to non-native English speakers. Here, you are less concerned with the person’s employment status and computer abilities than with their English skills. You might decide that working with churches in immigrant communities and social service agencies dealing with new immigrants are two approaches that might help you identify potential students. By taking into account the content of the course and the skills students will need, it is possible to focus recruitment efforts for your program. How Do You Recruit This Audience? Recruiting students for adult education programs is very challenging. Distance learning programs are no exception. While some potential students are attracted by the flexibility that distance learning offers, others are concerned about trying something different. Some things to keep in mind: • • • Expect recruiting to be difficult, particularly until your distance learning program becomes established. Use multiple recruiting strategies to increase your likelihood of success. Recruit from non-traditional adult education sources, as well as from established adult education programs and agencies. This allows you to reach a wider audience. Remember: traditional adult education programs reach only a small proportion of adults who need their services. 10

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • Form partnerships with other agencies, local business and local unions whenever possible. Convince these organizations that both of you will gain from the partnership. These partnerships will take time to build and nurture, but have the potential to greatly increase the number of students for your programs. Be creative: think of novel ways to advertise and market your program. Develop eye-catching flyers, posters and other materials to spread the word about your program. Take your message to where the people you want to reach will see it.

It may be helpful to look at recruiting strategies from two different perspectives: identifying organizations and agencies with which you can form partnerships and promoting your program directly to potential students. Working with Other Agencies, Organizations and Businesses One goal for distance learning programs is to reach students who might not enroll in existing classroom-based programs. How do you reach these students? One possible way might be to work with other agencies, organizations or businesses in your community. This requires that you take the initiative to build connections with groups that are outside of the traditional adult education community. It will take time and effort but it is likely to provide access to a group of adults you might not otherwise reach. When approaching another agency, it is helpful to encourage the other agency to see that the relationship has benefits for both sides. Working with another agency allows you access to a larger pool of potential students and allows them to offer their clients an additional service. The initial arrangements to work with another agency need to be made with someone who can authorize the relationship. However, once the agreement to work together has been reached, it is more effective to deal directly with people who interact on a regular basis with the people you want to recruit. Building partnerships with local businesses is another effective technique. Businesses should be encouraged to see this as a “win-win” situation: you gain students, they gain better skilled employees. To accomplish this, adult education providers may want to work in conjunction with local workforce development agencies to help educate both the employers and the employees about the value of a skilled and educated workforce. A key to success in this arena is being able to match your distance learning program to the business’ needs. For example, if the company has many immigrants for whom English is a second language, making communication difficult, they may find a distance learning program offering English language instruction of more immediate value than one that prepares students for the GED test. You need to do your homework: learn what the needs and concerns of the business are and help them understand how your program fits those needs. The range of businesses and agencies with whom you can explore relationships is limited only by your imagination. Some places that have been explored by organizations running distance learning programs include: 11

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • • • • • • • Local businesses Housing Authorities and housing projects Veteran’s organizations Unions One-stop career and job training centers Head Start and Even Start programs Church organizations Social service agencies Homeless shelters

Activity 1.2 asks you to think about the target audience for your program and how you might be able to recruit them. In Column A, identify at least 5 possible audiences for this program in your area. Keep in mind the course content and the demands the course will place upon the students. In Column B, list at least two ways you might be able to reach each of the populations you listed in Column A. An example is shown below. Activity 1.2 Example: Identifying and Recruiting a Target Audience Course Title/Program: Workplace Essential Skills Employment Strand
Column A Possible Audiences Displaced workers Column B Possible Ways to Recruit Each Audience 1. Agencies providing counseling for displaced workers. 2. Work with local plant’s human resources director to provide information to all laid off workers. Welfare-to-work clients Students taking basic computer skills classes Union members in unskilled or semiskilled positions Women re-entering the workforce after long absences 1. Provide information to clients at their training sessions. 2. Get information to clients through their case workers. 1. Computer training classes held at our agency. 2. Basic computer classes taught by community education. 1. Local autoworker’s union. 2. Hotel worker’s union at large downtown hotel. 1. Mothers of children attending the local middle school. 2. Women coming into our agency for career counseling.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 1.2: Identifying and Recruiting a Target Audience Course Title/Program: ___________________________
Column A Possible Audiences Column B Possible Ways to Recruit Each Audience

Promoting Your Program Directly to Potential Students Distance learning programs can be promoted in many places, using many different media. The goal should be simple: to reach as many people in your target audience as possible and to provide the information in a way that interests and excites them. Again, your only limits are your imagination and (unfortunately) your budget. Organizations that have offered distance learning programs have used a variety of promotional approaches, including the following: • • • Promotional flyers Mailers Ads in local newspapers 13

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • Local radio and television spots Information on the paper placemats used at local fast food restaurants Posters in grocery stores, local malls, churches, social service agencies, unemployment offices, local schools, housing projects, homeless shelters, etc. Information in church newsletters Flyers sent home with children attending local public elementary schools and Head Start programs Websites with information about your agency’s offerings

• • •

Flyers, posters and other promotional materials should be attractively designed; if you can afford it, color and graphics add visual appeal. The text needs to be simple and direct, without getting bogged down in too many details. Be certain that all promotional materials include your agency’s name, phone number, email address (if available) and a contact person’s name (if appropriate). (A selection of print materials used for recruitment by sites in the Pennsylvania pilot study is included in the Appendix) Making the Initial Contact What does your agency do when a potential student has seen or heard your promotional materials and is interested in your distance education program? It is imperative that the initial contact the potential student has with your agency is a positive experience. The prospective student needs to feel welcome, comfortable and respected. They need to come away from the encounter with the impression that your agency understands their needs, can help them accomplish their goals and provides an environment in which they can grow. Each agency has their own way of welcoming adults into the learning community that they can adapt to include adults learning at a distance.

The Voice of Experience
In the past 18 months we have located segments of the local population that have previously been blocked from access to classes because of numerous barriers. Now that the inroads to reaching these learners have been created and continue to evolve, we would be abandoning these groups if distance education did not continue in some form. In such a rural setting as ours, many residents are very isolated, geographically and psychologically. Distance education can break through these barriers and begin to expand the learner’s world so that they can become better equipped to overcome the factors that limit their opportunities in the world. We have established a continuously evolving network with other agencies that will enable us to reach a significant number of learners. The nature of the project has led to new collaborative endeavors with partners in the community that provide more comprehensive services to the client --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

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Chapter 2: Orientation of Distance Learning Students
Orientation is a critical component of a distance learning program. A carefully planned orientation can address a wide range of issues and better prepare the distance learner for a successful and positive experience. Obviously, the orientation will introduce the student to the curriculum materials and to the concept of working at a distance. In addition, orientation allows the teacher to assess a student to determine if this program is a good match for their interests and abilities, and to determine if the student has the requisite skills to succeed. Orientation can also be a time during which the teacher can help the student set goals for participating in the program and clarify the expectations for course participants. Study skills, strategies for working at a distance and computer skills (for programs with an online component) are other topics that can be covered in an orientation for distance learning students. Teachers can also use the orientation process to build rapport with their students. Finally, orientation provides a way for teachers to take care of some of the “housekeeping” details, such as obtaining ways to contact the student (e.g., a home telephone number or e-mail address). In order to best cover these issues, face-to-face orientations are recommended. Although it is possible to conduct orientations online or via the telephone for students who are unable to attend a face-toface orientation, it is more difficult to do so. In some ways, orientation may look very similar to what you typically do for your students in classroom-based programs. However, it should also cover some areas specifically of concern to distance learners. This chapter explores the following issues: • • • • • • • Learner goal assessment Materials and technology access Baseline assessment of existing competencies Product-specific training Skill training (e.g., computer use) Independent study: planning, organization and study skills Setting expectations for the class

Learner Goal Assessment Orientation can be used to help learners identify their goals for participating in the distance education program. This information is not only useful to the student, but can 15

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners assist the teacher in best meeting the student’s needs. Understanding the student’s goals is also helpful in determining if the distance learning program is a “good fit” for that particular student. Many agencies already ask questions about goals as part of their intake process. This same process can be used at an orientation with prospective distance learning students. If you do not have a process to assist students with goal setting, we recommend that you create one to use in your orientation. It can be as simple as a form on which the teacher records the student’s goals for the distance learning course and his or her long-term educational goals (e.g., obtain a GED, learn to speak English well enough to enroll in ABE classes). Materials and Technology Access Your students will need to know how to obtain materials (videotapes, workbooks, etc) and how and where they can access a computer (for curricula with an online component). This information should be provided to the student during orientation. It may be helpful to provide the student with a “quick reference” sheet listing pertinent information (e.g., a list of places at which they can pick up and drop off videotapes) for later reference. Product Specific Training In the previous chapter, you explored the demands that your distance learning curriculum places upon students. A well-designed orientation provides the opportunity to train your students in the skills they will need to be successful. Clearly, students need to understand what the components that comprise your program are, and need to be taught how and when to use them. For example, you may decide that you want the students to use the three WES components (online, video and workbook) in a specific fashion. You may want them to read the “Before You Watch” section prior to viewing the videotape, view the entire video and then return to the workbook. You must therefore familiarize the students with the various parts of the workbook, and teach them the desired sequence. Activity 2.1 asks you to examine the need for product specific training for your selected distance leaning product. You are asked to identify the features of the curriculum for which students will need training (Column A) and to explain how you will provide this training during your orientation session (Column B). You will have several features of your product for which training will help your students succeed.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 2.1: Product Specific Training Needs
Column A Features for which training is needed Example (for Workplace Essential Skills): Navigating the WES website Column B How training will be provided Computers will be available for all orientations. We will walk student through website at orientation, answering any question they have. We will also have handouts with step-by-step directions reference. We will explain the system to students and recommend the appropriate level for them to begin their studies. Students will work through a sample of the different levels during the orientation session.

Example: (for Crossroads Café): Understanding how to use the multi-level worktexts

Assessment of Existing Competencies It is important to determine if the student has the requisite skills (e.g., reading abilities, computer competencies) needed to participate in the distance learning program; orientation provides the teacher with an opportunity to do this. Examining the students’ 17

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners skills can be done with a formal assessment tool (e.g., TABE, CASAS) or by informal means (e.g., watching their computer skills as they register as a WES online student, observing the ease with which they read materials about the program, listening to their oral English skills as they talk to the teacher). For students to succeed in a distance learning program, they must have the academic skills needed to handle the work. Thus, some type of assessment is strongly recommended to help ensure that the program is a “good fit” for the student’s needs and abilities.

The Voice of Experience
Keep the on-site and one-on-one orientations for content and to allow us to get to know the students and collect more information. Feedback and communication need to be stressed at the orientation. Even those skilled in computer use have problems. Orientations usually lasted from 20 minutes to one hour, but orientation length, focus and intensity need to be determined by learner’s background, experience with computers, computer access and lifestyle --The revised plans of a PA literacy center that taught “WES at a Distance” for 8 months

Many agencies already have a system in place for evaluating all new students and it may be possible to expand that to include distance learning students. In fact, some agencies may require that the same assessment tool is used. However, it is important to make sure that the assessment measure is appropriate for the content being studied in the distance learning program: using a TABE test of reading ability may not be useful for students entering a distance learning program aimed at improving their oral English skills. The more closely you can match your assessment of the student’s skills to the content of the distance learning program, the more useful the process will be. (For more information about assessment and adult education distance learners, see the Project IDEAL working paper on assessment.)

Think about the following issues to determine what type of initial student diagnostics you will do at orientation: • Does my agency require that I use a particular assessment tool for all students, regardless of the program in which they are enrolled? If so, your decisions have already been made for you. Do I want to use a formal assessment tool? If yes: – What are the skills I want to assess? – What tool(s) will I use? How well do they match the content of my distance learning program? – When will I administer the assessment? – Who will administer the assessment? – What criteria will I use for determining if this student is a good candidate for this distance learning program? – If the student does not meet the criteria, what action do I take? • • Provide additional training prior to admitting student to course Refer student to a more appropriate class 18

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • Allow the student to enter class but provide additional support as needed

Do I want to assess the student’s skills on an informal basis? If yes: – What are the skills I want to assess? – What are the conditions or situation in which I anticipate that I will be able to see the student demonstrate these skills? – What criteria will I use for determining if this student is a good candidate for this distance learning program? – If the student does not meet the criteria, what action do I take? • • • Provide additional training prior to admitting student to course Refer student to a more appropriate class Allow the student to enter class but provide additional support as needed

Skills Training If the student does not have all of the needed skills to succeed in your distance learning program, you may decide to require additional training before allowing the student to study at a distance. This is more likely to be a concern for programs with a computer component than for those that rely on workbooks and videos. Basic computer skills are a necessity for students studying online at a distance, because conventions for print on the computer differ from conventions for print on the printed page. For example, students know to flip the pages of a book to find what comes next; they might not know that they need to scroll down on a Web page to see all of the information on the page. Computer knowledge needed to study online includes such rudimentary skills such as: • • Using the mouse to navigate on the screen and to click on appropriate items. Using a keyboard to enter text. While touch typing is not essential, the student needs to have a level of comfort at using the keyboard to enter responses and complete assignments. Being able to connect – and stay connected – to the Internet. Understanding how a Web page is set up, including using the back button to return to where you have been.

• •

It may be helpful to use a quick checklist to assess students’ computer skills. An example is included in the Appendix. If you determine that students need additional skills prior to beginning the distance education program, you may opt to provide this training yourself (for example, running a 19

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners one- or two-session class on basic computer skills) or you may refer the student to an existing program (e.g., a regularly scheduled basic computer class). You will need to determine what resources are available at your agency to help the students build the necessary skills to participate in the distance education program. Independent Study: Planning, Organization And Study Skills Distance learning requires that the student be able to organize his/her time, work independently and have good study skills. Students who lack these skills are apt to flounder in a distance learning program. But how can you quickly assess if a student has these skills? Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to make this determination. Thus, it is recommended that orientation for distance learning programs provide a component on independent study skills and time usage. One way to get a rough idea of how well-suited a student is for distance learning is to use the 10-item questionnaire provided on the Kentucky Virtual High School website (www.kvhs.org, click on “Is online learning for me?” A printed copy of this questionnaire is included in the Appendix). It asks students about their need for teacher support, ability to work independently, organize their time, etc. Based upon the student’s answers, the Web version provides a recommendation about how well suited the student appears to be to study at a distance. This questionnaire (or any variations of it you may develop) provides another piece of information you and your students can use to help them select the most appropriate educational opportunity. Concrete information about time usage, study skills and the ability to organize are a valuable component of orientation for distance learning students. It is recommended that you provide your students with assistance in these areas before they begin working at a distance. Setting Expectations For The Class Orientation is the ideal time to set the expectations for the distance learning class, including what the student is expected to do and what the student should expect from the teacher. This is the time to spell out, in detail, the course requirements. It is anticipated that these may vary widely: some agencies will use distance learning classes as a less formal educational opportunity and choose not to impose many requirements, while others may view the distance learning class as a structured (but non-classroom based) learning experience. Whatever the expectations are for your class, they need to be communicated to the students. The questions below will help you think about setting expectations for your students. • Are there specific assignments, or is the student free to explore the material on his/her own? Are there “due dates” by which you expect work to be turned in to the teacher? Does this vary depending upon the materials being used (e.g., online vs. workbooks). – If students are working in workbooks, are they required to submit them to the teacher for review? How often? By mail, at a drop off point, or in person? 20

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • What type of feedback will the student receive on his/her work? – How does the teacher return work to students? – How quickly should students expect teacher feedback on their work? – What should the student do if he/she has questions about the teacher’s feedback? • Is the student required to take any tests? If so, how and where will this be done? Does your agency require both pre- and post-testing of students for accountability purposes? How will you arrange this for your distance students? Will the student receive a certificate or any documentation of completion at the end of the course? What are the requirements in order to receive this recognition? How will the student and teacher communicate? – Email? Make certain that both the student and teacher have each other’s addresses. Make sure student knows how to access email system. If a learner does not have an email account, be ready with a current list of free email providers. (On the Web search for “free email.”) – Telephone? Make certain that both the student and teacher have each other’s phone numbers (if you want to permit students to contact you). Specify the times the teacher is available for calls. – Drop-in office times? Identify when and where these will be held. – Virtual office hours? If teachers and students are comfortable with the technology, this could be a regularly scheduled time during which the teacher is available online for communication with an instant messenger program, such as those offered by AOL or Yahoo. The more clearly expectations for all parties involved are presented before the start of the class, the more smoothly things will operate. Be as specific as possible with your students. Consider presenting them handouts with the pertinent information. A Complete Orientation Plan In Activity 2.2, you will design an orientation plan for your distance learning program. You will list the components you want to include and describe how you will implement them. Your plan should be geared toward the specific distance education curriculum you will be teaching. The goal of this activity is to have a plan that you can put into action 21

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners with your students, yet allow you to remain flexible enough to meet the needs of individual students.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 2.2: An Orientation Plan
Component Learner Goal Assessment How it will be implemented (leave blank if you will not include this component in your orientation)

Materials and technology access

Baseline assessment of existing competencies and for assessing learning Product-specific training

Skill training (e.g., computer use)

Preparation for independent study

Setting expectations for completing work

Other component (specify)

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Chapter 3: Teaching at a Distance
Teaching is at the heart of a distance learning course. Although most of the student’s work will be at a distance rather than in a classroom setting, the teacher still needs to structure the learning experience, make assignments, provide feedback on student work and provide encouragement and motivation. But how do you do this at a distance? This chapter explores possible ways of accomplishing key teaching activities and tasks when teaching students in a non-classroom setting. Develop Learning Plans In a classroom, teachers typically design a lesson plan for the entire group. Since distance learning students are likely to be working at their own pace, an individual learning plan may be needed. To a large degree, how teachers approach developing the plan is a function of how informal or structured the individual’s distance learning program is. For very informal programs, where students work on what they choose at their own pace, a learning plan is less critical. In this situation, the teacher may simply guide the student through the materials in a fashion that best meets his or her individual needs, rather than actively directing the student’s work. When a distance education program is more formal and structured, the teacher needs to have thought out the objectives for the student and the steps a learner needs to take to meet those objectives. Issues to consider in developing learning plans for these students include: • Making use of the existing distance learning curricular materials. Most distance learning programs have extensive support materials for students to facilitate independent learning. These materials can form the basis for a learning plan, often with little other work by the teacher. Supplementing existing curricula materials with other materials. Teachers may use the existing distance learning curricular materials as the foundation for the learning plans and supplement these materials with handouts, practice materials, additional readings and referrals to related websites. This may be useful in providing additional skills practice for students and expanding the lessons beyond what is covered in the curriculum. Planning for individual students vs. planning for a group of students. One of the strengths of distance learning is its individualized nature. However, it is unrealistic to expect teachers to generate a different learning plan for each individual student. One possibility is for the teacher to have a general outline of the 25

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners content, activities and sequence they want students to follow, which they can vary as needed for individual students. All of these require that the teacher have an intimate familiarity with the content and materials in the distance course. Providing Direct Instruction for Learners This is a particularly challenging task for distance teachers. In a classroom, the teacher is often the primary source of information for the student. In distance courses, the primary source of information is more apt to be the curricular materials. This requires a dramatic switch in how teachers view their roles. In many cases, the teacher’s role is less of an “expert” presenting the information, and more of a “guide” leading the student through the content available in the learning materials This does not mean that the teacher is not needed to present, clarify or expand on content. In fact, the teacher is critical in helping the student fully understand and apply the information in the distance learning products. In the Pennsylvania experiment, the teachers used several methods to present the content information covered in WES to students, including: • • • Supplementing the WES content with referrals to other materials Referring students to related websites (for those working online) Using regular mail, email, phone calls and occasional drop-in sessions to provide additional information and clarify areas of confusion for students

The Voice of Experience
…You must provide many more visual/mental examples. An instructor can’t just hold up an example, or show a picture. You must provide these online or through print medium, with accompanying text for explanation. Lessons must include, in writing, each step that you might normally do verbally in a regular classroom setting. But in doing so, instructors need to be careful not to bog down students with a lot of text-heavy material. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

Including as much content as possible when providing feedback on the student’s work.

It is not enough for the student to have access to the distance learning material on their own. They need to interact with a teacher who can reinforce and expand on the content in order to maximize the potential for learning. Thus, although the teacher’s role as the provider of content information may shift, it remains crucial to the learning process. Assign Work to Students The way in which teachers assign work to students will also be influenced by how formal or informal the distance learning program is. In an informal program, a student may select those areas in which he or she wants to work, with the teacher providing feedback and support. This was the approach most often taken in the Pennsylvania experiment, where most teachers indicated that they did not typically “assign” work to their WES students. Instead, they were likely to suggest what materials the student should cover, often providing the students with a recommended sequence and time frame. In a more 26

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners structured distance learning program, however, teachers are likely to make specific assignments to their students. As discussed earlier, these expectations for student work should be clearly defined during the orientation. Teachers will need to determine the appropriate time frame in which to expect students to complete work. They will need to instruct students on how to submit work for evaluation and when and via what mechanism(s) they will receive feedback. In addition, teachers must decide if they expect all students to complete the same assignments, in the same time frame, or if they are going to develop individual learning plans for each of their students. Motivate and Encourage Students A critical issue for any adult education program is the ability to keep students involved. This is difficult in a traditional classroom setting, but becomes even more challenging when dealing with students working at a distance. Students rely on teacher feedback on their work and support from both the teacher and other students to help them succeed in the coursework. In a classroom setting, this is usually accomplished as part of the ongoing face-to-face interaction between teacher and student and between student and student. How can this be accomplished when teaching at a distance? Is it possible to orchestrate online learning in a way that allows students to support each other? Ironically, some of the difficulties in supporting and motivating students in distance education programs may stem from the same attributes of distance learning that are attractive to students. Distance education appeals to many students because it removes some of the barriers that impede their attending a traditional classroom program at a regularly scheduled time. They may lack transportation to the class, have erratic work schedules or problems with childcare that make attendance on a regular basis difficult, if not impossible. Distance education allows them to have a greater degree of control over the time and place in which they can further their education. However, it does so at a cost: it frequently removes many of the social supports that a classroom teacher and other students provide, while simultaneously requiring them to structure their time and work independently. Thus, the teachers need to develop new ways to motivate and support their online students. The Pennsylvania experiment again provides some insight into this issue. Most teachers in that pilot study reported that it was more difficult to support and motivate their students in a distance learning program than in a traditional classroom program, largely due to less frequent contact with the students and their inability to read the student’s nonverbal communications and body language. In addition, many teachers felt it was more difficult to build a personal rapport with a student they rarely, if ever, saw in person; they felt that this lack of a personal relationship made it more challenging for them to find the best ways to motivate and support students. Despite these difficulties, teachers did find effective ways to support their students, including: • • Sending e-cards encouraging students and praising accomplishments Sending individual, rather than group emails to students, to make the messages more personal 27

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • • • • • • • • Emailing encouragement to students on a regular basis Sending emails which asked questions and prompted students to think about their goals Offering assistance to students in finding information or sites on the Internet that could help their studies Telephoning students in order to have a synchronous conversation and learn more about the student’s goals and concerns Telephoning students who had not been active online for a period of time to encourage them to stay with the program Provided certificates upon completion of a pre-determined unit of work Offering drop-in times for students who wanted assistance from a teacher in person Using praise and positive feedback on students’ work Offering constructive criticism Helping students see how the content they were studying could be applied to situations they encounter in their daily lives

All of these were methods of providing support from the teacher to the student. But, student-to-student support is also an important aspect of learning for many adult students. Little is known at this time about the most effective ways to create systems to allow distance students to support one another. Some possibilities you may want to try include: • • • • Encouraging students to meet on a regular basis at a convenient location (e.g., coffee shop) in the community Establishing chat rooms online Establishing asynchronous communication online. Encouraging students to study at a distance with a partner.

Given what is known about the social component of learning, the issue of student-tostudent support for distance learning students is one that needs much more attention in the future. Provide Feedback on Student Work Providing feedback on student work is one of the most important tasks for distance teachers. Commenting and correcting the student’s work not only provides the student with the relevant academic information, but allows the teacher to build a relationship with the student. Methods of providing feedback to distance learning students will vary depending upon the design of the distance learning program (e.g., is it an online program or does it use videos and workbooks?).

28

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Courses with an Online Component. Students taking online classes will receive most feedback from their teacher online. This may be through a system that is a part of the course (e.g., the online management system that is part of WES and GED Connection) or via a separate email account. While the built-in systems have the advantage of being an integral part of the distance learning program, they often have limitations that prevent the teacher from offering the type of feedback he or she would like to provide. For example, the online management system in WES allows a teacher to indicate if work has been completed (e.g., done to the teacher’s satisfaction) or attempted (e.g., the student has done some work, but there is room for improvement), but does not provide a way for teachers to provide more detailed feedback. Many teachers in the Pennsylvania pilot study felt this was inadequate and created their own ways providing supplemental feedback. Some worked within the LiteracyLink online system and provided feedback by inserting their comments – in all capital letters or italics – within the students’ text in their portfolio entry. Others moved outside of the online management system and sent separate emails in which they responded to the student’s work. It is often useful to set up separate email accounts (using one of the free email services) to provide another way in which to interact with students. The timing of teacher feedback is important for students working online. Once they send their work, they expect rapid turnaround. Most teachers in the Pennsylvania study attempted to respond to students’ work within 48 hours – at least to let the student know that they had received the work and would respond shortly. Receiving prompt response to their online work seemed to help keep students motivated and working online. Because students do not have the ability to immediately question the teacher if they are confused by the feedback they receive, any online feedback on student’s work needs to be concise, clear and easy to understand. As much as possible, teacher comments need to be precise and leave little room for confusion. It is also helpful if the feedback is personalized to the individual student; this may be facilitated by the individualized nature of distance learning. The Voice of Experience
I emailed encouragement, asked questions and prompted goal-setting and feedback. They emailed me their progress in workbooks, or comments about the videos. I corrected the spelling and grammar of only those students who would not be threatened by critique of their work, and sent back to them highlighted or underlined portions of their essays or resumes through the other email systems. If they only had the WES [email] system, then I capitalized what needed to be corrected. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

Courses with Workbook Components. Providing feedback on work done in workbooks is challenging, because of the difficulties involved in providing the teacher with access to the student’s workbook. Expectations for how often work will be turned in, where it will be turned in and how it will be returned all need to be established during orientation. Without these expectations, it becomes very difficult for teachers to have access to completed student work. Some possible ways to accomplish this include: • Establishing central drop-off points at which students can leave workbooks (or workbook pages) for teacher review and at which they can pick up their corrected workbooks 29

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • Cutting the bindings off of the workbooks, punching the pages with a 3-hole punch and placing them in a 3-ring binder. This will allow the student continue working in the workbook and simply send completed pages to the teacher. Providing the student with stamped, self-addressed envelopes in which to return workbooks or workbook pages to the teacher. Scheduling on-site review or practice sessions to which students bring their workbooks for teacher feedback.

• •

Providing feedback to students working at a distance in programs that do not have an online component is quite challenging. It will take a concerted effort by the teacher to implement a program in which students regularly receive feedback on work completed in workbooks. As more programs implement distance learning programs, it is expected that knowledge about the most effective ways to accomplish this will grow. CAI programs. CAI programs such as Skills Tutor and PLATO provide their own feedback on student performance. But this may not be sufficient to keep a student motivated to persist at completing the assigned lessons, whether the assignments come from the program itself or from a plan worked out during orientation. Some form of ongoing support using an independent communication system (email or phone) will probably be required to help learners stay focused on their goal. Both of these programs can provide teachers with statistics on usage and performance that can be included in the communication. Online Communication with Students Communicating with students online is different from communicating with them in a face-to-face situation. Neither you, nor they, have the advantages of eye contact, body language or tone of voice to help clarify what is said. As a result, it is imperative that online communications be clear, concise and not open to misinterpretation. In the Appendix, Deb Walker—an experienced online teacher in Pennsylvania—provides some useful tips Thinking About Teaching At a Distance Activity 3.1 asks you to think about how you will handle these teaching tasks when teaching at a distance. For each task, describe how you plan to do this with your distance learning students.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 3.1: Teaching Tasks and Activities
Teaching Task or Activity Develop study plans How you will do this with your distance learning students?

Present content knowledge to students

Assign work to students

Motivate and encourage students

Provide feedback on student work

Program-Specific Strategies There are common principles that are useful to any distance teacher. However, since each distance learning program is unique, each also makes certain demands upon the teacher. At this time, not enough research has been done with different distance learning products to propose program-specific strategies. However, the next version of this Handbook will draw on the experience of the states involved in Project IDEAL and will explore specific teaching strategies for use with several of the key distance leaning programs.

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Chapter 4: Assessment of Distance Learning Students
The issue of assessing distance learners is fraught with difficulties. In addition to the logistics, there are serious questions about how and why they should be assessed. If distance learning is seen as parallel to a classroom-based program, then comparable assessments seem appropriate. However, if distance learning is seen as a less formal educational experience, it may not be necessary to have as structured an assessment process. In addition, some early experience suggests that distance learners may spend considerably less time involved with the learning materials than classroom students. If this is the case, the expectations for progress would be different for the two groups. However, given the current climate of accountability, assessment is a concern for distance learning programs. Several types of assessment can be distinguished: (1) assessment for placement purposes, (2) assessment to gauge student progress, and (3) assessment for accountability purposes. In addition, measuring learner participation (“seat time”) is important to classify the learner in several ways. The issue of assessing students to determine if they have the requisite skills to participate in a distance learning class was discussed in the chapter on orientation. Assessing student progress is of tantamount importance to teachers: it allows them to determine what a student has learned and helps them plan an appropriate educational program for the student. In addition, student progress can be used as one measure for accountability purposes. Assessment for accountability is focused on what the information programs need to report to their state, and the state to the Federal government. To a large extent, this is driven by the demands of the National Reporting Standards (NRS). Issues related to accountability are beyond the scope of the first edition of the Handbook, but they are addressed in a separate working paper from Project IDEAL. In addition, some states make a distinction between traditional assessments using standardized tests for pre- and posttesting and assessing student work using checklists, inventories, etc. Activity 4.1 asks you to think about the importance of assessment for the various constituencies in adult education (students, teachers, programs, and states). In Column A, describe, for all adult education programs (classroom and distance), why assessment is important for each of the groups named. In Column B, identify special issues for distance education programs. This exercise will help you broaden your understanding of the role that assessment can play in using distance learning with adult basic learners.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 4.1: Importance of Assessment
Constituency Students Column A Importance in General Column B Specific Issues for Distance Students

Teachers

Adult Education Programs

Your State

Assessment to Gauge Student Progress It is important for teachers and their adult education agencies to have a way to determine if an individual student is making progress in a course. This is true for distance learning students as much as it is for students in classroom programs. The logistics of doing this at a distance, however, are more challenging to teachers. What is used as the basis for assessment? Can this be based solely on students’ work in the course, or are more formal means of gauging progress (i.e., teacher evaluations, tests, quizzes, etc.) needed? These are decisions that will need to be made on a state-by-state basis, reflecting each state’s requirements for adult education programs. Assessing student work on an on-going basis has already been discussed in the previous chapter (Providing Feedback on Students’ Work). This provides both the teacher and the student with a sense of the student’s progress, points out both strengths and weaknesses and helps the teacher plan appropriately to meet the student’s needs. If a more formal 34

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners record of student work is desired, it may be useful to develop a portfolio in which to capture examples of work demonstrating growth. The State of Ohio is using portfoliobased assessment for all of their adult basic learners and has developed a standardized portfolio format. (For more information visit www.literacy.kent.edu/opas/ portfoliomodel.html) Depending upon the structure of adult education programs in a particular state, using tests and quizzes to assess distance students may make distance learning more parallel to classroom-based assessment. Thus, it may be most appropriate for more formal or structured distance learning classes as opposed to those programs that aim to provide informal educational opportunities. There are many issues involved in administering tests and quizzes at a distance, particularly concerning the security of the testing situation; these same concerns apply to assessing distance students using standardized tests. Thus, many programs that require testing as part of their distance learning courses (e.g., Maryland’s online high school completion program) require students to come to a secure location for pre- and post-testing. Coming to a center or agency for testing may be difficult for those students who opt for distance learning because of the difficulty of getting to an adult education center. If testing at a secure location is required, it may be useful to think about community-based locations (e.g., local schools, local libraries), close to students’ homes, that might be recruited to act as testing centers. Additionally, it may possible to create for a network of local proctors who can give exams to students. Accessibility of adult education centers is a reason some students opt for distance education; the easier it is for students to get to a specified location for testing, the more likely it is that they will comply. Some online programs, such as PLATO and SkillsTutor have assessment components as an integral part of their design. Teachers using these programs therefore have an advantage in having built-in assessment tools that are designed to fit with the curriculum they are teaching. For other programs, it is important to make sure that the tests being used assess what is being taught. The match between existing assessment tools and several distance learning programs are discussed in depth in the Project IDEAL assessment working paper. Measuring Learner Participation One measure often used in classroom-based programs is that of “seat time,” the amount of time a student spends in orientation, the classroom, the lab, etc. This figure determines when a learner becomes an official student (12 hours), whether they can be considered a Project-Based Learner (30 hours of instruction maximum), and when assessment of educational functioning levels should be administered (frequently at 40 or 50 hours). How do you measure “seat time” for distance learners working independently? One possibility is to develop standards for a minimum amount of time a student would need to spend to complete a particular segment of a distance learning course. Any student who completed that segment (based on an examination of their work) would be credited with that number of hours, regardless of the actual time it took him or her to complete the work. (An Excel template that can be used for this purpose is available from Project 35

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners IDEAL). But what figures do you use as a time estimate? It is hoped that as more states explore this issue, a consensus can be reached for several of the distance curricula. What Are Reasonable Expectations for Assessing Distance Learners? Administrators participating in the Pennsylvania experiments were asked to indicate how reasonable or realistic a variety of assessment options were, both from the perspective of their agency and from the perspective of a distance learner. Administrators reported that the following options were reasonable from both an agency and student perspective: • • • • Teachers keep a portfolio of each student’s work Teachers maintain a log of student contacts, noting time of contact and topics covered Students in online programs are required to complete a specified number of online assignments Students working in workbooks are required to submit workbooks to teachers on a regular basis and are required to complete a specified number of assignments The Voice of Experience
Tying in the students’ online presence with the [Pennsylvania Department of Education] requirements of assessment and hours presents a challenge… The real challenge, if we are working with ‘real’ distance learners in a nontraditional manner, is not to create barriers that discourage those we are trying to reach. -- Administrator of a Pennsylvania literacy center that experimented with offering “WES at a Distance”

The administrators appeared had some concern about assessment options that required the students to come to a central location for a pre- and/or posttest. They saw the posttest as the most challenging requirement. In addition, they did not think it was realistic to require students to track the time they spent working on assignments. These administrators appeared to have concerns about imposing requirements that may diminish the appeal of distance learning to students who either cannot, or chose not to, come to adult education centers. However, these concerns may be less of an issue if these requirements are communicated to the student up front. Identifying Assessment Strategies

Activity 4.2 asks you to think about how you will handle assessment for your distance learning students. First, you need to determine if your state and/or local program have an assessment policy or plan and describe what it is. That information should be used as a basis for completing the rest of the activity; in other words, your decisions must be in line with any existing policies. For each item listed, decide if you will require this for your distance learning students. Then, for each item you will require, describe your plans for implementing this assessment strategy.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 4.2: Identifying Assessment Strategies
Strategy Require students to come to a central location to take a pretest prior to taking a distance learning class Require students to come to a central location to take a posttest in order to get credit for completing distance learning class Teacher maintains a portfolio of each distance student’s work to use in assessing progress For programs with an online or CD component: require students to successfully complete a specified number of assignments to get class credit For distance programs with a workbook component: require that students submit work to teacher on a regular basis For programs with a workbook component: require that students successfully complete a specified number of workbook pages to get class credit For programs with a video component, require students to view a specified amount of the videos to get class credit Estimate “seat time” using Project IDEAL template Will You Require? ❑ Yes ❑ No Description of implementation plan

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant

❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No

Require students to track the amount of time they spend working on assignments and use this as a basis for estimating “seat time.” Maintain a log of student contacts, noting time and topic of contact

❑ Yes ❑ No

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
Will You Require? ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant Other assessment activity (Specify)

Strategy For programs with a “built–in” evaluation component: require students to complete all evaluation activities Require student to take teacher designed and administered tests and quizzes

Description of implementation plan

Other assessment activity (Specify)

38

Appendix
On the following pages are a number of resources to assist you in developing your plans for recruiting and teaching adults at a distance. • • • • Is Distance for Me? Computer Skills Assessment Tips for Teaching at a Distance Examples of Recruitment Materials

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Is Online Learning for Me?
This quiz appears on the Kentucky Virtual High School website (www.kvhs.org). Students interested in studying online can fill it out to assess whether they are good candidates for distance learning.
1. My need to take this course is ❑ high- I need it immediately to graduate, to fulfill a credit requirement, or other important reason. ❑ moderate- I could take it at my local high school later or substitute another course. ❑ low- it is a personal interest that could be postponed. 2. Having face-to-face interaction is ❑ not particularly important to me. ❑ somewhat important to me. ❑ very important to me. 3. I would classify myself as someone who ❑ often gets things done ahead of time. ❑ needs reminding to get things done on time. ❑ puts things off until the last minute. 4. Classroom discussion is ❑ rarely helpful to me. ❑ sometimes helpful to me. ❑ almost always helpful to me. 5. When an instructor hands out directions for an assignment, I prefer ❑ figuring out the instructions myself. ❑ trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed. ❑ having the instructions explained to me 6. I need my teachers to constantly remind me of due dates and assignments ❑ rarely. ❑ sometimes. ❑ often. 7. Considering my academic, extracurricular, family and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on an online course is ❑ more than for my high school face-to-face course. ❑ the same as for a class at school. ❑ less than for a class at school. 8. When I am asked to use email, computers, or other new technologies presented to me ❑ I look forward to learning new skills. ❑ I feel scared, but try anyway. ❑ I put it off or try to avoid it. 9. As a reader, I would classify myself as ❑ good- I usually understand the text without help. ❑ average- I sometimes need help to understand the text. ❑ below average- I often need help to understand the text. 10. If I have to go to a school to take exams or complete work ❑ I have difficulty getting to school, even in the evenings and on weekends. ❑ I may miss some lab assignments or exam deadlines if school is not open evenings and weekends. ❑ I can go to school anytime.

40

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Computer Skills Assessment
Kimberly McCoy (Technology Projects Coordinator, Ohio Literacy Resource Center, Kent State University) developed this computer skills self-rating form. It is very comprehensive, and suitable for use to help teachers determine their own computer competencies as well as the skills of their students. It includes skills that students may not need to use online distance education programs; you may want to use the items here as a guide to develop your own checklist that focuses on the skills required by the particular distance education program you are offering.

Technology Assessment
To be completed by each designated Project Ideal instructor 1. Do you have a computer at your local program? ❑ Yes ❑ No 2. Does the computer at your program have Internet access? ❑ Yes ❑ No 3. Please indicate your knowledge level of each of the computer skills/tasks listed below. If additional training is needed, indicate that as well.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
Self Sufficient ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ Limited Knowledge ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ No Knowledge ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ Need raining ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑

Computer Skill Open & close Windows (Minimize & Maximize) Work with the Taskbar Save a file to disk Create new folders Cut/copy and paste Insert clipart Create tables and graphs Create or format a document Create a spreadsheet Send and receive email messages Use Electronic list/Mailing list Downloading items from the Internet Attach documents to an email message Create an email address book Create an MS Power-point presentation Managing Bookmarks and/or Favorites Creating a Website/page Search the Web using directories & engines Chat rooms Instant Messenger (AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, etc.) Start up and shut down a computer Navigation on the Internet Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser Netscape Communicator/Navigator Keyboarding Basic mouse navigation (clicking, right clicking & dragging etc.)

42

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Tips for Teaching at A Distance
Deb Walker (spearmint100@yahoo.com) is an experienced distance education teacher in Pennsylvania. Below she offers some tips on working at a distance with adult learners.
Online Comfort Zone

1. Preparation • Know your materials • Study the online procedures as a student – register and learn! • Prepare a method of recording information 2. Be patient, firm, and forgiving. Students will need to learn the following things, all at once, all on-line!

· Typing · Navigating · Internet

· Math · Reading · Grammar

· Spelling · Testing · Email

· History · Websites · Science

· Communicating · Organization · Self-motivation

3. Try to really understand the reasons why the learner is studying online 4. Don’t judge a person by his [email] paragraph 5. Online persona • Personality: matching their speed, expectations and rhythm • Sense of Humor: You say tomãto…I say tomâto • Sixth Sense : What do they mean by that? • Educational Presence: You get what you pay for 6. Respond quickly and frequently • Response time: 3-Day Rule • Form letters • Form answers to frequent questions, site problems 7. Respond appropriately • Watch terms and expressions • Never promise something you cannot deliver • Protect anonymity • Don’t take it personal • Keep responses non-political, non-religious, and non-judgmental

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners 8. Collecting Necessary Information • Send a warm welcome letter immediately, asking about their current situation, educational background, goals, email address, and computer experience. • Friday Progress Reports that they can just check and email back. • Use the multiple mail system with discretion. Students prefer their anonymity. Send each email separately unless they know they are part of a class. • Keep a file of individual email correspondence for quick reference 9. Motivation and Encouragement • Offer certificates for completed sections • Praise, e-cards, congratulations • Ask opinions • Ask for help • Stay on top of regional happenings for correspondence 10. Handling duplicate responses • Create a website, community or Word/e-mail document for posting/sending websites, references, duplicate questions, problems on site affecting everyone 11. Educational Expectations • Response Time: 3 Day Rule • Work in grammar and spelling gradually • Continually challenge • Take them to other sites • Ask about classes in their area and offer to find an agency near them • Remind them often why they are doing this 12. Keeping yourself motivated, energized and enthused!

44

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Recruiting Materials
The following pages show examples of recruiting materials developed by some of the agencies participating in the Pennsylvania distance experiments. They are intended to provide you with some ideas for designing recruiting materials for your program.

45

Leslie I. Petty and Jerome Johnston

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
First Edition, September 2002 Published By Project IDEAL • Institute for Social Research • University of Michigan

With Funding From A consortium of 13 states working together to explore the potential of distance education to reach adult basic learners. Arkansas, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina For further information on Project IDEAL www.rcgd.isr.umich.edu/ideal/

© 2002 Regents of the University of Michigan First Printing: September, 2002 File: DEHandbook1stEdition.doc The preparation of this book was underwritten by the Project IDEAL states using funds from a variety of sources including national adult education leadership funds provided by the US Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the underwriters and you should not assume endorsement by them.

i

Acknowledgements

Many of the insights in the Handbook were derived from working for two years with teachers and administrators in Pennsylvania as they experimented with teaching Workplace Essential Skills at a distance. We thank them all for the knowledge they imparted to their colleagues and to us. We also wish to thank all of the people who attended the Project IDEAL Facilitator Training in August, 2002 for their helpful comments and suggestions about ways to improve the Handbook. They provided invaluable advice about how to make it more useful for each of their states. Special thanks go out (in alphabetical order) to Julia Hixon, Randolph Hollingsworth, Chuck Klinger, Jane Martel, Kim McCoy, Beatta Peterson, Dehra Shafer, Deb Walker and Cheryl Zimmer for taking the time after the training session to review individual chapters and provide more extensive feedback.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Table of Contents
Introduction 1
Distance Education: A Variety of Options for Adult Learners................................... 2 Distance Learning Curricula........................................................................................ 3

Chapter 1: Recruitment

5

What Audience Do You Want to Serve? ..................................................................... 5 What Does the Program Teach and Who Might Benefit From It? .............................. 6 What Skills Are Required for a Student to Be Successful? ......................................... 6 Narrowing the Target................................................................................................. 10 How Do You Recruit This Audience?....................................................................... 10 Making the Initial Contact ......................................................................................... 14

Chapter 2: Orientation of Distance Learning Students

15

Learner Goal Assessment .......................................................................................... 15 Materials and Technology Access ............................................................................. 16 Product Specific Training .......................................................................................... 16 Assessment of Existing Competencies ...................................................................... 17 Skills Training ........................................................................................................... 19 Independent Study: Planning, Organization And Study Skills.................................. 20 Setting Expectations For The Class ........................................................................... 20 A Complete Orientation Plan..................................................................................... 21

Chapter 3: Teaching at a Distance

25

Develop Learning Plans............................................................................................. 25 Providing Direct Instruction for Learners.................................................................. 26 Assign Work to Students ........................................................................................... 26 Motivate and Encourage Students ............................................................................. 27 Provide Feedback on Student Work .......................................................................... 28 Online Communication with Students....................................................................... 30 Thinking About Teaching At a Distance ................................................................... 30 Program-Specific Strategies ...................................................................................... 31

Chapter 4: Assessment of Distance Learning Students

33

Assessment to Gauge Student Progress ..................................................................... 34 Measuring Learner Participation ............................................................................... 35 What Are Reasonable Expectations for Assessing Distance Learners? .................... 36 Identifying Assessment Strategies ............................................................................. 36

Appendix

39

Is Online Learning for Me? ........................................................................................ 40 Computer Skills Assessment...................................................................................... 41 Tips for Teaching at A Distance ................................................................................ 43 Recruiting Materials................................................................................................... 45

v

Introduction
Distance education refers to delivering instruction in non-classroom settings. It can take many forms – from online courses to independent study using videotapes and workbooks. This Handbook is intended to help teachers and administrators design and deliver distance education programs for adult basic learners. It is a very new field, and as a result, the Handbook itself is a work in progress. It identifies the key issues and offers guidance on what is currently known from the field. Much of what is presented here is drawn from one and one-half years of experimentation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in delivering Workplace Essential Skills to adult learners at a distance. As more states undertake to implement distance education programs for their adult learners, the available knowledge base will expand significantly and this book will be revised accordingly. This initial version therefore, is similar to an early map of the United States – it contains the outlines of the states and a few key features in each state, but many details remain to be discovered. As the early maps continually changed to reflect explorers’ new discoveries, so too will this Handbook. We invite you to join us in this exploration, using this Handbook as a guide to your initial forays into distance education for adult basic learners. Bear in mind that all of us are just starting out on this path; by sharing our knowledge we will be able to create more detailed guides for those who follow. The Handbook is organized into the following major topics of concern in the implementation of a distance education program: • • Recruiting students: how to identify the appropriate students for a distance learning program and recruit them to participate Developing orientation programs: designing an orientation that provides the teacher with information about the student, and the student with the necessary information and skills for successful participation Teaching at a distance: providing instruction at a distance, change in the teacher’s role, providing feedback on students’ work, motivating and supporting students at a distance Assessing participation and performance: reasons for assessment, possible ways to assess distance learning students

Each section provides an overview of the issue, specific implementation ideas and activities designed to help teachers and administrators plan for their programs. It is based upon the premise that distance learning is so different from classroom teaching that it amounts to “re-inventing the school.” Thus, readers will be challenged to think about 1

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners adapting or modifying their classroom teaching approaches in ways that are appropriate and effective for distance learning students. The Handbook will not provide all of the answers, but will serve as a guide to help you find your way. Ultimately, each program will adapt these ideas in the ways that best meet the needs of their students. An online course titled “Recruiting and Teaching Adult Learners at a Distance” is available to states in the Project IDEAL consortium. It provides opportunities for teachers and administrators to develop plans in response to lessons in the Handbook that are adapted to the opportunities and constraints of local communities. A separate course study guide provides students with guidance in using the online resources and becoming part of the online community that explores issues of distance education over an extended period of time. The course study guide is the recommended starting point for students new to online classes. Distance Education: A Variety of Options for Adult Learners States are looking at distance education as a means of reaching a greater proportion of adult learners in need of services. But what is distance learning? The terms distance education and distance learning have been in wide use for several decades, but the terms were coined at a time when the technological possibilities for distance instruction were more limited. The stereotype of distance learning is a course that has a textbook and a series of lectures broadcast on a regular basis to learners studying at home or in a remote classroom. Most of the distance learning series created for adult learners in recent years do not fit this stereotype. The video component does not show an instructor talking to an audience; instead, it provides case illustrations of problems discussed in the text, or scenarios that learners need to analyze. The video program may not be designed for broadcast at all, rather it is expected that learners will view portions of the program selectively on their VCR when the textbook calls for it. A new medium—the World Wide Web –has made possible a host of new distribution and communication possibilities. These new uses of media bring new possibilities to learning at a distance, but they make delivery by educators and consumption by learners a more complicated process. This project takes a broad view of what comprises distance education, preferring the term “non-classroom based learning,” coined by Lennox McLendon, Director of NAEPDC. By moving beyond the confines of the classroom, we expand the potential of adult educators to reach adults and increase the array of options from which potential students may choose. From this perspective, it is possible to envision a continuum of distance learning options including: • • • students working alone, either online or with video and/or print materials students working independently but meeting on a regular basis with others studying the same curriculum “hybrid” or “facilitated” programs which combine classroom learning with a distance component 2

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • classroom-based programs outside of the educational agency (e.g., at a local business or a community center in a rural community) informal educational programs aimed at motivating adults to continue their education structured classes which offer parallel content to classroom-based instruction and offer a certificate to students upon completion

As can be seen from even this limited list, distance education is not a unitary construct. It can–and should be–adapted to best meet the needs of the populations served by individual agencies and states. Our understanding of what constitutes distance learning for adult learners will continue to evolve as various ways of employing distance modalities are explored. Distance Learning Curricula Many curricula can be used for working with adult learners at a distance. These include multimedia instructional series designed for adult learners and produced with distance learning in mind (though not specifically designed just for distance learning) as well as computer assisted instruction (CAI). The curricula differ not only in content, but also in the methods used to deliver instruction. These differences have implications for teaching at a distance. Multimedia Instructional Series Project IDEAL states have expressed the interest in five instructional series. These include: Workplace Essential Skills, Crossroads Café, GED Connection, TV411, and On Common Ground. Only the first three have been selected for experimentation in the initial year of the project. All of these series are multimedia—they utilize two or more media to package the learning experiences. All of the series utilize print, but the series can be divided into two categories according to the role and prominence of online and video. Online is Central. Workplace Essential Skills (WES) and GED Connection both utilize video, print, and online. The core instruction is carried in the print and online. Given the centrality of the online, teachers turn to the online connection as the vehicle for supporting learners. WES and GED Connection both have an online management system that teachers can use to examine student portfolios and provide feedback to students on their performance. The system also has a built-in e-mail program to support other forms of teacher-student communication, making it reasonable for a distance education program to be built around online forms of learner support. The videos provide case examples of things referred to in the print and online. But a teacher is likely to think of the video as a secondary, not a primary means of instruction. Helping educators deliver WES and GED Connection at a distance places the primary emphasis on the challenging task of connecting learners to the Internet and supporting them in the use of online tools.

3

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Video is Central. Crossroads Café, Madison Heights/Lifelines, On Common Ground and TV411 use video and print (though TV411 has a newly available set of Web resources for students to use). Learning from these series requires careful engagement of the video and some mediation by a teacher to help learners interpret and apply the lessons to their lives. While the workbook may “set up” the video for learners, it may be helpful if the teacher asks the learner to respond to questions about the video using a medium like email, chat or the telephone. Online Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI) Another distance learning option is to use online versions of computer-assisted instruction, such as PLATO or SkillsTutor. This calls for a third approach to supporting distance learning. Virtually all of the instruction in these curricula is built into the software itself, potentially requiring a minimal intervention by teachers. But, the learners targeted for CAI may need to study at a literacy or computer center to get the kind of technical and learning support they need to complete the lessons in the program. They may also need to have a teacher keep them focused on their goal or help them see what their new set of skills qualifies them for. Implications for Teaching: The Need for Product Training Supporting adults studying curricula where the online is central involves different activities and skills than supporting adults studying curriculum where the video is central and both of these differ from computer assisted online learning. Thus, distance education requires differentiated approaches depending on the needs of learners and the characteristics of the curricula being taught. Each of the curricular products listed above and each of the CAI programs provides different resources for both teachers and students and makes different demands upon the teacher. Each has its own set of characteristics that will shape how teachers will use and teach with them. Successful distance learning teachers will have a thorough knowledge of the product or curriculum being used, including the instructional content, how the material is organized, what supports and resources it offers, etc. The developers of the major online courses and programs for adult distance education typically offer extensive training to familiarize teachers and administrators with the intricacies of their products; Project IDEAL strongly recommends that this product-specific training be an integral part of training for distance education teachers.

4

Chapter 1: Recruitment
Recruiting adult learners into educational programs is always a challenging task; when the program involves distance learning it becomes even more so. It is important to match the needs and functional levels of the prospective students to the content of the educational program. In addition, because distance learning places greater demands than a traditional classroom does on students to function independently and structure their own learning, determining which students are likely to succeed at a distance is crucial. This chapter guides you through a process to determine who you want to recruit and how you might be able to reach them. • • • • What audience does your agency want to serve with distance education? What does the distance education program you are using teach? What skills are required for students to be successful with this distance learning course? How do you recruit this audience?

What Audience Do You Want to Serve? Adding distance education to the menu of existing educational programs requires that the local agency make decisions regarding what role the distance education programs will play. Will the distance education programs offer new areas of instruction or will they provide novel ways to teach content parallel to classroom-based programs? Will the distance education programs be aimed at students already being served by the agency or will they be an attempt to reach a new audience? These decisions need to be made in the context of the agency’s goals and missions and with a full understanding of the needs of the population the agency serves. Local programs vary in their goals and missions, based upon the needs of the particular population they serve. Some provide GED instruction, some workplace training, some basic literacy education, some a combination of programs. Each program will need to determine how distance education might fit the needs of their particular population. Distance education should be one of the options available to provide educational opportunities to students. For example, an agency whose primary educational mission is to prepare students to take the GED might select distance education options that work toward that goal, while an agency that concentrates on English as a Second Language (ESL) might look for programs that focus on the acquisition of English language skills. Thus, the first step in thinking about recruitment is understanding the needs of the audience you hope to reach. The next step is to examine the particular distance education 5

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners curriculum being taught to see how it meets the needs of the target audience and to understand the demands it places upon students. What Does the Program Teach and Who Might Benefit From It? It is necessary to understand the purpose of the program you are offering and how it meets the needs of your target audience. For instance, a distance education program focusing on employment skills might be useful for displaced workers, adults in welfareto-work programs and entry-level employees seeking to upgrade their skills. In contrast, a distance learning program designed to help non-native English speakers improve their English communication skills might have as its target audience recent immigrants to the United States. Think about the distance learning program you will be teaching and the content it includes. The more specific you are in detailing the content of the course, the more guidance this will provide in identifying the students for whom it might be appropriate. For example, it might seem as if the Employment Strand of Workplace Essential Skills is geared to people who are not currently employed. However, by examining in depth the topics covered in this strand, it becomes evident that this course could be suited both for people seeking employment (e.g., the focus on matching skills and jobs, applying for jobs, etc.) and for those already in the workplace who want to improve their skills (e.g., the sections about being ready to work, learning on the job and workplace safety). What Skills Are Required for a Student to Be Successful? In addition to understanding what the program teaches, it is important to understand the demands that the program places upon students. Any curriculum – including that for a distance learning program - is based upon certain assumptions about what a student will bring to the course. For example, students must read at a particular level to be admitted to GED classes or must demonstrate basic computer competency before being allowed to take a more advanced computer class. These are usually not arbitrary decisions, but rather ones that have been adopted because they increase a student’s likelihood of success. These issues become critical in distance education because distance learning students must function more independently than students in traditional classrooms; this makes it even more important that students be guided into classes in which they are have a good chance for success. Successful distance learning students are likely to be selfmotivated, able to work independently and have strong study and organizational skills. In addition, studying at a distance often requires that the student have access to various forms of technology (e.g., VCR, computer, etc). Thus, in dealing with distance learning programs there are at least three categories of skills and access that must be addressed: course-specific requirements, materials and technology issues, and learner characteristics. Course-specific requirements These will obviously differ for different distance learning programs and are closely tied to the content of the course. GED preparation math classes, for example, will assume that the student taking the class has already mastered certain basic mathematical concepts 6

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners and skills. Similarly, most curricula are written at a specific reading level, and students whose reading skills are below that level may have difficulty with the material. Courses using the computer for instruction require that the student have some basic computer literacy. It is necessary to review the course materials to determine what skills they demand of students. Materials and technology access issues In a classroom setting, most materials are supplied for the student (with the exception of basic items such as paper and pens). In addition to books and workbooks, distance learning often makes use of videotapes, television programming or computer based instruction. While most students are likely to have fairly easy access to a television and/or VCR, computer access is often more challenging. Thus, another factor to be considered in your recruiting is how to provide students with access to all of the materials and technologies they will need to get the most from the class. Learner Characteristics The Voice of Experience
In a classroom program, there are prerequisite skills necessary to be placed in a traditional class setting. For WES, an adult learner must be computer literate, or willing to learn. In addition, a computer with Internet access is required. An adult learner must therefore have the ability or resources to 1) become computer literate, 2) access a computer with Internet. Consequently, we cannot recruit low-level adult learners or those who have serious computer access problems. However, this problem is offset by the many advantages to WES, such as convenience, ease of use, etc. Furthermore, WES overcomes such problems as weather, travel, roads, scheduling problems, classroom boredom and the like. A person could even participate in WES if they were completely and physically unable to leave a hospital bed or a nursing home bed, for example. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

One of the major differences between traditional classroom instruction and distance education is the amount of face-to-face contact students have with their teacher and with other students. For most people, learning is a social process, and the support of teachers and classmates forms an important element of the learning that occurs. Distance learning students still have contact with their teacher, although the forms through which that contact occurs are different. Teachers and students may meet only once or twice over an entire course, with the remainder of the communication occurring on the phone, via mail, via email or through online learning communities. Many distance learning students have little or no face-toface contact with other students taking the same class, although some programs do encourage and facilitate student-to-student support (this may be in person, but may also occur through distance modalities). Experience suggests that students most likely to succeed are able to function on their own, be self-starters, motivated and have the organizational and study skills needed to work on their own. While less tangible than academic skills (it is more difficult to quickly assess someone’s ability to work independently than it is to assess their reading ability), these are important issues to address with potential learners.

Activity 1.1 asks you to think about what students will need to be successful in your distance education program. The Employment Strand of Workplace Essential Skills is used as an example. Use the chart to fill in details for the distance learning class you will 7

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners be teaching. In Column A, list course-specific requirements, in Column B describe the material and technology access issues for your program, and in Column C identify the learner characteristics students need to possess. The more specific you are in detailing what you think the student will need, the more focused you will be in your recruiting. (If you are taking the online course that accompanies the Handbook, the activity charts for all activities in the Handbook are available as assignments for download.)

8

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 1.1 : What’s Needed for Students to Be Successful? Course Title/Program: Workplace Essential Skills Employment Strand
Column A Course-Specific Requirements Example: -Reading at the 7 grade level or higher -Basic computer skills (typing, using mouse, scrolling through text, etc.) -Able to use computer to access Internet
th

Column B Materials & Tech Access Example: -Access to TV and VCR to play videotapes -Need to arrange to pick up & return videotapes on regular basis (need transportation to central location) -Access to computer (does not need to be at home) with Internet capabilities

Column C Learner Characteristics Example: -Able to work independently -Able to deal with minor computer glitches with some support -Able to organize time -Self-motivated and a self-starter – does not need to be directed each step of the way -Reliable/responsible: will return borrowed video tapes

Course Title/Program: ____________________________________
Column A Course-Specific Requirements Column B Materials & Tech Access Column C Learner Characteristics

9

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Narrowing the Target Obviously, not all students are suited for all programs: in distance learning, “one size” definitely does not “fit all.” You should now have a clearer understanding of what your distance learning program offers and what the student is likely to need to be successful in it. That information should be the basis for thinking about recruiting students for your distance education program. Once again, the more specific you are, the more useful it will be. While a general statement such as “Our target audience is any adult who needs additional job skills” is inclusive, open and inviting, it does little to help you shape recruiting strategies. It is important to identify specific populations you wish to approach. Suppose you were offering a distance learning program to teach employment skills. You might decide that you want to focus on adults either in the workforce or those trying to enter it. Some possible approaches to recruiting might be through career transition programs, working with local businesses or building ties with local unions. In addition, your distance learning program requires that students complete some of their work via the Internet. Thus, you might want to recruit students who already have basic computer skills. One option might be to recruit students who are taking basic computer skills classes: they will have the skills to handle the computer component of your course and they may be looking for a job to use these new skills. Your recruiting strategy would be very different for a distance learning program that uses videotapes to teach English language skills to non-native English speakers. Here, you are less concerned with the person’s employment status and computer abilities than with their English skills. You might decide that working with churches in immigrant communities and social service agencies dealing with new immigrants are two approaches that might help you identify potential students. By taking into account the content of the course and the skills students will need, it is possible to focus recruitment efforts for your program. How Do You Recruit This Audience? Recruiting students for adult education programs is very challenging. Distance learning programs are no exception. While some potential students are attracted by the flexibility that distance learning offers, others are concerned about trying something different. Some things to keep in mind: • • • Expect recruiting to be difficult, particularly until your distance learning program becomes established. Use multiple recruiting strategies to increase your likelihood of success. Recruit from non-traditional adult education sources, as well as from established adult education programs and agencies. This allows you to reach a wider audience. Remember: traditional adult education programs reach only a small proportion of adults who need their services. 10

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • Form partnerships with other agencies, local business and local unions whenever possible. Convince these organizations that both of you will gain from the partnership. These partnerships will take time to build and nurture, but have the potential to greatly increase the number of students for your programs. Be creative: think of novel ways to advertise and market your program. Develop eye-catching flyers, posters and other materials to spread the word about your program. Take your message to where the people you want to reach will see it.

It may be helpful to look at recruiting strategies from two different perspectives: identifying organizations and agencies with which you can form partnerships and promoting your program directly to potential students. Working with Other Agencies, Organizations and Businesses One goal for distance learning programs is to reach students who might not enroll in existing classroom-based programs. How do you reach these students? One possible way might be to work with other agencies, organizations or businesses in your community. This requires that you take the initiative to build connections with groups that are outside of the traditional adult education community. It will take time and effort but it is likely to provide access to a group of adults you might not otherwise reach. When approaching another agency, it is helpful to encourage the other agency to see that the relationship has benefits for both sides. Working with another agency allows you access to a larger pool of potential students and allows them to offer their clients an additional service. The initial arrangements to work with another agency need to be made with someone who can authorize the relationship. However, once the agreement to work together has been reached, it is more effective to deal directly with people who interact on a regular basis with the people you want to recruit. Building partnerships with local businesses is another effective technique. Businesses should be encouraged to see this as a “win-win” situation: you gain students, they gain better skilled employees. To accomplish this, adult education providers may want to work in conjunction with local workforce development agencies to help educate both the employers and the employees about the value of a skilled and educated workforce. A key to success in this arena is being able to match your distance learning program to the business’ needs. For example, if the company has many immigrants for whom English is a second language, making communication difficult, they may find a distance learning program offering English language instruction of more immediate value than one that prepares students for the GED test. You need to do your homework: learn what the needs and concerns of the business are and help them understand how your program fits those needs. The range of businesses and agencies with whom you can explore relationships is limited only by your imagination. Some places that have been explored by organizations running distance learning programs include: 11

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • • • • • • • Local businesses Housing Authorities and housing projects Veteran’s organizations Unions One-stop career and job training centers Head Start and Even Start programs Church organizations Social service agencies Homeless shelters

Activity 1.2 asks you to think about the target audience for your program and how you might be able to recruit them. In Column A, identify at least 5 possible audiences for this program in your area. Keep in mind the course content and the demands the course will place upon the students. In Column B, list at least two ways you might be able to reach each of the populations you listed in Column A. An example is shown below. Activity 1.2 Example: Identifying and Recruiting a Target Audience Course Title/Program: Workplace Essential Skills Employment Strand
Column A Possible Audiences Displaced workers Column B Possible Ways to Recruit Each Audience 1. Agencies providing counseling for displaced workers. 2. Work with local plant’s human resources director to provide information to all laid off workers. Welfare-to-work clients Students taking basic computer skills classes Union members in unskilled or semiskilled positions Women re-entering the workforce after long absences 1. Provide information to clients at their training sessions. 2. Get information to clients through their case workers. 1. Computer training classes held at our agency. 2. Basic computer classes taught by community education. 1. Local autoworker’s union. 2. Hotel worker’s union at large downtown hotel. 1. Mothers of children attending the local middle school. 2. Women coming into our agency for career counseling.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 1.2: Identifying and Recruiting a Target Audience Course Title/Program: ___________________________
Column A Possible Audiences Column B Possible Ways to Recruit Each Audience

Promoting Your Program Directly to Potential Students Distance learning programs can be promoted in many places, using many different media. The goal should be simple: to reach as many people in your target audience as possible and to provide the information in a way that interests and excites them. Again, your only limits are your imagination and (unfortunately) your budget. Organizations that have offered distance learning programs have used a variety of promotional approaches, including the following: • • • Promotional flyers Mailers Ads in local newspapers 13

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • Local radio and television spots Information on the paper placemats used at local fast food restaurants Posters in grocery stores, local malls, churches, social service agencies, unemployment offices, local schools, housing projects, homeless shelters, etc. Information in church newsletters Flyers sent home with children attending local public elementary schools and Head Start programs Websites with information about your agency’s offerings

• • •

Flyers, posters and other promotional materials should be attractively designed; if you can afford it, color and graphics add visual appeal. The text needs to be simple and direct, without getting bogged down in too many details. Be certain that all promotional materials include your agency’s name, phone number, email address (if available) and a contact person’s name (if appropriate). (A selection of print materials used for recruitment by sites in the Pennsylvania pilot study is included in the Appendix) Making the Initial Contact What does your agency do when a potential student has seen or heard your promotional materials and is interested in your distance education program? It is imperative that the initial contact the potential student has with your agency is a positive experience. The prospective student needs to feel welcome, comfortable and respected. They need to come away from the encounter with the impression that your agency understands their needs, can help them accomplish their goals and provides an environment in which they can grow. Each agency has their own way of welcoming adults into the learning community that they can adapt to include adults learning at a distance.

The Voice of Experience
In the past 18 months we have located segments of the local population that have previously been blocked from access to classes because of numerous barriers. Now that the inroads to reaching these learners have been created and continue to evolve, we would be abandoning these groups if distance education did not continue in some form. In such a rural setting as ours, many residents are very isolated, geographically and psychologically. Distance education can break through these barriers and begin to expand the learner’s world so that they can become better equipped to overcome the factors that limit their opportunities in the world. We have established a continuously evolving network with other agencies that will enable us to reach a significant number of learners. The nature of the project has led to new collaborative endeavors with partners in the community that provide more comprehensive services to the client --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

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Chapter 2: Orientation of Distance Learning Students
Orientation is a critical component of a distance learning program. A carefully planned orientation can address a wide range of issues and better prepare the distance learner for a successful and positive experience. Obviously, the orientation will introduce the student to the curriculum materials and to the concept of working at a distance. In addition, orientation allows the teacher to assess a student to determine if this program is a good match for their interests and abilities, and to determine if the student has the requisite skills to succeed. Orientation can also be a time during which the teacher can help the student set goals for participating in the program and clarify the expectations for course participants. Study skills, strategies for working at a distance and computer skills (for programs with an online component) are other topics that can be covered in an orientation for distance learning students. Teachers can also use the orientation process to build rapport with their students. Finally, orientation provides a way for teachers to take care of some of the “housekeeping” details, such as obtaining ways to contact the student (e.g., a home telephone number or e-mail address). In order to best cover these issues, face-to-face orientations are recommended. Although it is possible to conduct orientations online or via the telephone for students who are unable to attend a face-toface orientation, it is more difficult to do so. In some ways, orientation may look very similar to what you typically do for your students in classroom-based programs. However, it should also cover some areas specifically of concern to distance learners. This chapter explores the following issues: • • • • • • • Learner goal assessment Materials and technology access Baseline assessment of existing competencies Product-specific training Skill training (e.g., computer use) Independent study: planning, organization and study skills Setting expectations for the class

Learner Goal Assessment Orientation can be used to help learners identify their goals for participating in the distance education program. This information is not only useful to the student, but can 15

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners assist the teacher in best meeting the student’s needs. Understanding the student’s goals is also helpful in determining if the distance learning program is a “good fit” for that particular student. Many agencies already ask questions about goals as part of their intake process. This same process can be used at an orientation with prospective distance learning students. If you do not have a process to assist students with goal setting, we recommend that you create one to use in your orientation. It can be as simple as a form on which the teacher records the student’s goals for the distance learning course and his or her long-term educational goals (e.g., obtain a GED, learn to speak English well enough to enroll in ABE classes). Materials and Technology Access Your students will need to know how to obtain materials (videotapes, workbooks, etc) and how and where they can access a computer (for curricula with an online component). This information should be provided to the student during orientation. It may be helpful to provide the student with a “quick reference” sheet listing pertinent information (e.g., a list of places at which they can pick up and drop off videotapes) for later reference. Product Specific Training In the previous chapter, you explored the demands that your distance learning curriculum places upon students. A well-designed orientation provides the opportunity to train your students in the skills they will need to be successful. Clearly, students need to understand what the components that comprise your program are, and need to be taught how and when to use them. For example, you may decide that you want the students to use the three WES components (online, video and workbook) in a specific fashion. You may want them to read the “Before You Watch” section prior to viewing the videotape, view the entire video and then return to the workbook. You must therefore familiarize the students with the various parts of the workbook, and teach them the desired sequence. Activity 2.1 asks you to examine the need for product specific training for your selected distance leaning product. You are asked to identify the features of the curriculum for which students will need training (Column A) and to explain how you will provide this training during your orientation session (Column B). You will have several features of your product for which training will help your students succeed.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 2.1: Product Specific Training Needs
Column A Features for which training is needed Example (for Workplace Essential Skills): Navigating the WES website Column B How training will be provided Computers will be available for all orientations. We will walk student through website at orientation, answering any question they have. We will also have handouts with step-by-step directions reference. We will explain the system to students and recommend the appropriate level for them to begin their studies. Students will work through a sample of the different levels during the orientation session.

Example: (for Crossroads Café): Understanding how to use the multi-level worktexts

Assessment of Existing Competencies It is important to determine if the student has the requisite skills (e.g., reading abilities, computer competencies) needed to participate in the distance learning program; orientation provides the teacher with an opportunity to do this. Examining the students’ 17

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners skills can be done with a formal assessment tool (e.g., TABE, CASAS) or by informal means (e.g., watching their computer skills as they register as a WES online student, observing the ease with which they read materials about the program, listening to their oral English skills as they talk to the teacher). For students to succeed in a distance learning program, they must have the academic skills needed to handle the work. Thus, some type of assessment is strongly recommended to help ensure that the program is a “good fit” for the student’s needs and abilities.

The Voice of Experience
Keep the on-site and one-on-one orientations for content and to allow us to get to know the students and collect more information. Feedback and communication need to be stressed at the orientation. Even those skilled in computer use have problems. Orientations usually lasted from 20 minutes to one hour, but orientation length, focus and intensity need to be determined by learner’s background, experience with computers, computer access and lifestyle --The revised plans of a PA literacy center that taught “WES at a Distance” for 8 months

Many agencies already have a system in place for evaluating all new students and it may be possible to expand that to include distance learning students. In fact, some agencies may require that the same assessment tool is used. However, it is important to make sure that the assessment measure is appropriate for the content being studied in the distance learning program: using a TABE test of reading ability may not be useful for students entering a distance learning program aimed at improving their oral English skills. The more closely you can match your assessment of the student’s skills to the content of the distance learning program, the more useful the process will be. (For more information about assessment and adult education distance learners, see the Project IDEAL working paper on assessment.)

Think about the following issues to determine what type of initial student diagnostics you will do at orientation: • Does my agency require that I use a particular assessment tool for all students, regardless of the program in which they are enrolled? If so, your decisions have already been made for you. Do I want to use a formal assessment tool? If yes: – What are the skills I want to assess? – What tool(s) will I use? How well do they match the content of my distance learning program? – When will I administer the assessment? – Who will administer the assessment? – What criteria will I use for determining if this student is a good candidate for this distance learning program? – If the student does not meet the criteria, what action do I take? • • Provide additional training prior to admitting student to course Refer student to a more appropriate class 18

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • Allow the student to enter class but provide additional support as needed

Do I want to assess the student’s skills on an informal basis? If yes: – What are the skills I want to assess? – What are the conditions or situation in which I anticipate that I will be able to see the student demonstrate these skills? – What criteria will I use for determining if this student is a good candidate for this distance learning program? – If the student does not meet the criteria, what action do I take? • • • Provide additional training prior to admitting student to course Refer student to a more appropriate class Allow the student to enter class but provide additional support as needed

Skills Training If the student does not have all of the needed skills to succeed in your distance learning program, you may decide to require additional training before allowing the student to study at a distance. This is more likely to be a concern for programs with a computer component than for those that rely on workbooks and videos. Basic computer skills are a necessity for students studying online at a distance, because conventions for print on the computer differ from conventions for print on the printed page. For example, students know to flip the pages of a book to find what comes next; they might not know that they need to scroll down on a Web page to see all of the information on the page. Computer knowledge needed to study online includes such rudimentary skills such as: • • Using the mouse to navigate on the screen and to click on appropriate items. Using a keyboard to enter text. While touch typing is not essential, the student needs to have a level of comfort at using the keyboard to enter responses and complete assignments. Being able to connect – and stay connected – to the Internet. Understanding how a Web page is set up, including using the back button to return to where you have been.

• •

It may be helpful to use a quick checklist to assess students’ computer skills. An example is included in the Appendix. If you determine that students need additional skills prior to beginning the distance education program, you may opt to provide this training yourself (for example, running a 19

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners one- or two-session class on basic computer skills) or you may refer the student to an existing program (e.g., a regularly scheduled basic computer class). You will need to determine what resources are available at your agency to help the students build the necessary skills to participate in the distance education program. Independent Study: Planning, Organization And Study Skills Distance learning requires that the student be able to organize his/her time, work independently and have good study skills. Students who lack these skills are apt to flounder in a distance learning program. But how can you quickly assess if a student has these skills? Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to make this determination. Thus, it is recommended that orientation for distance learning programs provide a component on independent study skills and time usage. One way to get a rough idea of how well-suited a student is for distance learning is to use the 10-item questionnaire provided on the Kentucky Virtual High School website (www.kvhs.org, click on “Is online learning for me?” A printed copy of this questionnaire is included in the Appendix). It asks students about their need for teacher support, ability to work independently, organize their time, etc. Based upon the student’s answers, the Web version provides a recommendation about how well suited the student appears to be to study at a distance. This questionnaire (or any variations of it you may develop) provides another piece of information you and your students can use to help them select the most appropriate educational opportunity. Concrete information about time usage, study skills and the ability to organize are a valuable component of orientation for distance learning students. It is recommended that you provide your students with assistance in these areas before they begin working at a distance. Setting Expectations For The Class Orientation is the ideal time to set the expectations for the distance learning class, including what the student is expected to do and what the student should expect from the teacher. This is the time to spell out, in detail, the course requirements. It is anticipated that these may vary widely: some agencies will use distance learning classes as a less formal educational opportunity and choose not to impose many requirements, while others may view the distance learning class as a structured (but non-classroom based) learning experience. Whatever the expectations are for your class, they need to be communicated to the students. The questions below will help you think about setting expectations for your students. • Are there specific assignments, or is the student free to explore the material on his/her own? Are there “due dates” by which you expect work to be turned in to the teacher? Does this vary depending upon the materials being used (e.g., online vs. workbooks). – If students are working in workbooks, are they required to submit them to the teacher for review? How often? By mail, at a drop off point, or in person? 20

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • What type of feedback will the student receive on his/her work? – How does the teacher return work to students? – How quickly should students expect teacher feedback on their work? – What should the student do if he/she has questions about the teacher’s feedback? • Is the student required to take any tests? If so, how and where will this be done? Does your agency require both pre- and post-testing of students for accountability purposes? How will you arrange this for your distance students? Will the student receive a certificate or any documentation of completion at the end of the course? What are the requirements in order to receive this recognition? How will the student and teacher communicate? – Email? Make certain that both the student and teacher have each other’s addresses. Make sure student knows how to access email system. If a learner does not have an email account, be ready with a current list of free email providers. (On the Web search for “free email.”) – Telephone? Make certain that both the student and teacher have each other’s phone numbers (if you want to permit students to contact you). Specify the times the teacher is available for calls. – Drop-in office times? Identify when and where these will be held. – Virtual office hours? If teachers and students are comfortable with the technology, this could be a regularly scheduled time during which the teacher is available online for communication with an instant messenger program, such as those offered by AOL or Yahoo. The more clearly expectations for all parties involved are presented before the start of the class, the more smoothly things will operate. Be as specific as possible with your students. Consider presenting them handouts with the pertinent information. A Complete Orientation Plan In Activity 2.2, you will design an orientation plan for your distance learning program. You will list the components you want to include and describe how you will implement them. Your plan should be geared toward the specific distance education curriculum you will be teaching. The goal of this activity is to have a plan that you can put into action 21

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners with your students, yet allow you to remain flexible enough to meet the needs of individual students.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 2.2: An Orientation Plan
Component Learner Goal Assessment How it will be implemented (leave blank if you will not include this component in your orientation)

Materials and technology access

Baseline assessment of existing competencies and for assessing learning Product-specific training

Skill training (e.g., computer use)

Preparation for independent study

Setting expectations for completing work

Other component (specify)

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Chapter 3: Teaching at a Distance
Teaching is at the heart of a distance learning course. Although most of the student’s work will be at a distance rather than in a classroom setting, the teacher still needs to structure the learning experience, make assignments, provide feedback on student work and provide encouragement and motivation. But how do you do this at a distance? This chapter explores possible ways of accomplishing key teaching activities and tasks when teaching students in a non-classroom setting. Develop Learning Plans In a classroom, teachers typically design a lesson plan for the entire group. Since distance learning students are likely to be working at their own pace, an individual learning plan may be needed. To a large degree, how teachers approach developing the plan is a function of how informal or structured the individual’s distance learning program is. For very informal programs, where students work on what they choose at their own pace, a learning plan is less critical. In this situation, the teacher may simply guide the student through the materials in a fashion that best meets his or her individual needs, rather than actively directing the student’s work. When a distance education program is more formal and structured, the teacher needs to have thought out the objectives for the student and the steps a learner needs to take to meet those objectives. Issues to consider in developing learning plans for these students include: • Making use of the existing distance learning curricular materials. Most distance learning programs have extensive support materials for students to facilitate independent learning. These materials can form the basis for a learning plan, often with little other work by the teacher. Supplementing existing curricula materials with other materials. Teachers may use the existing distance learning curricular materials as the foundation for the learning plans and supplement these materials with handouts, practice materials, additional readings and referrals to related websites. This may be useful in providing additional skills practice for students and expanding the lessons beyond what is covered in the curriculum. Planning for individual students vs. planning for a group of students. One of the strengths of distance learning is its individualized nature. However, it is unrealistic to expect teachers to generate a different learning plan for each individual student. One possibility is for the teacher to have a general outline of the 25

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners content, activities and sequence they want students to follow, which they can vary as needed for individual students. All of these require that the teacher have an intimate familiarity with the content and materials in the distance course. Providing Direct Instruction for Learners This is a particularly challenging task for distance teachers. In a classroom, the teacher is often the primary source of information for the student. In distance courses, the primary source of information is more apt to be the curricular materials. This requires a dramatic switch in how teachers view their roles. In many cases, the teacher’s role is less of an “expert” presenting the information, and more of a “guide” leading the student through the content available in the learning materials This does not mean that the teacher is not needed to present, clarify or expand on content. In fact, the teacher is critical in helping the student fully understand and apply the information in the distance learning products. In the Pennsylvania experiment, the teachers used several methods to present the content information covered in WES to students, including: • • • Supplementing the WES content with referrals to other materials Referring students to related websites (for those working online) Using regular mail, email, phone calls and occasional drop-in sessions to provide additional information and clarify areas of confusion for students

The Voice of Experience
…You must provide many more visual/mental examples. An instructor can’t just hold up an example, or show a picture. You must provide these online or through print medium, with accompanying text for explanation. Lessons must include, in writing, each step that you might normally do verbally in a regular classroom setting. But in doing so, instructors need to be careful not to bog down students with a lot of text-heavy material. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

Including as much content as possible when providing feedback on the student’s work.

It is not enough for the student to have access to the distance learning material on their own. They need to interact with a teacher who can reinforce and expand on the content in order to maximize the potential for learning. Thus, although the teacher’s role as the provider of content information may shift, it remains crucial to the learning process. Assign Work to Students The way in which teachers assign work to students will also be influenced by how formal or informal the distance learning program is. In an informal program, a student may select those areas in which he or she wants to work, with the teacher providing feedback and support. This was the approach most often taken in the Pennsylvania experiment, where most teachers indicated that they did not typically “assign” work to their WES students. Instead, they were likely to suggest what materials the student should cover, often providing the students with a recommended sequence and time frame. In a more 26

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners structured distance learning program, however, teachers are likely to make specific assignments to their students. As discussed earlier, these expectations for student work should be clearly defined during the orientation. Teachers will need to determine the appropriate time frame in which to expect students to complete work. They will need to instruct students on how to submit work for evaluation and when and via what mechanism(s) they will receive feedback. In addition, teachers must decide if they expect all students to complete the same assignments, in the same time frame, or if they are going to develop individual learning plans for each of their students. Motivate and Encourage Students A critical issue for any adult education program is the ability to keep students involved. This is difficult in a traditional classroom setting, but becomes even more challenging when dealing with students working at a distance. Students rely on teacher feedback on their work and support from both the teacher and other students to help them succeed in the coursework. In a classroom setting, this is usually accomplished as part of the ongoing face-to-face interaction between teacher and student and between student and student. How can this be accomplished when teaching at a distance? Is it possible to orchestrate online learning in a way that allows students to support each other? Ironically, some of the difficulties in supporting and motivating students in distance education programs may stem from the same attributes of distance learning that are attractive to students. Distance education appeals to many students because it removes some of the barriers that impede their attending a traditional classroom program at a regularly scheduled time. They may lack transportation to the class, have erratic work schedules or problems with childcare that make attendance on a regular basis difficult, if not impossible. Distance education allows them to have a greater degree of control over the time and place in which they can further their education. However, it does so at a cost: it frequently removes many of the social supports that a classroom teacher and other students provide, while simultaneously requiring them to structure their time and work independently. Thus, the teachers need to develop new ways to motivate and support their online students. The Pennsylvania experiment again provides some insight into this issue. Most teachers in that pilot study reported that it was more difficult to support and motivate their students in a distance learning program than in a traditional classroom program, largely due to less frequent contact with the students and their inability to read the student’s nonverbal communications and body language. In addition, many teachers felt it was more difficult to build a personal rapport with a student they rarely, if ever, saw in person; they felt that this lack of a personal relationship made it more challenging for them to find the best ways to motivate and support students. Despite these difficulties, teachers did find effective ways to support their students, including: • • Sending e-cards encouraging students and praising accomplishments Sending individual, rather than group emails to students, to make the messages more personal 27

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • • • • • • • • • • Emailing encouragement to students on a regular basis Sending emails which asked questions and prompted students to think about their goals Offering assistance to students in finding information or sites on the Internet that could help their studies Telephoning students in order to have a synchronous conversation and learn more about the student’s goals and concerns Telephoning students who had not been active online for a period of time to encourage them to stay with the program Provided certificates upon completion of a pre-determined unit of work Offering drop-in times for students who wanted assistance from a teacher in person Using praise and positive feedback on students’ work Offering constructive criticism Helping students see how the content they were studying could be applied to situations they encounter in their daily lives

All of these were methods of providing support from the teacher to the student. But, student-to-student support is also an important aspect of learning for many adult students. Little is known at this time about the most effective ways to create systems to allow distance students to support one another. Some possibilities you may want to try include: • • • • Encouraging students to meet on a regular basis at a convenient location (e.g., coffee shop) in the community Establishing chat rooms online Establishing asynchronous communication online. Encouraging students to study at a distance with a partner.

Given what is known about the social component of learning, the issue of student-tostudent support for distance learning students is one that needs much more attention in the future. Provide Feedback on Student Work Providing feedback on student work is one of the most important tasks for distance teachers. Commenting and correcting the student’s work not only provides the student with the relevant academic information, but allows the teacher to build a relationship with the student. Methods of providing feedback to distance learning students will vary depending upon the design of the distance learning program (e.g., is it an online program or does it use videos and workbooks?).

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Courses with an Online Component. Students taking online classes will receive most feedback from their teacher online. This may be through a system that is a part of the course (e.g., the online management system that is part of WES and GED Connection) or via a separate email account. While the built-in systems have the advantage of being an integral part of the distance learning program, they often have limitations that prevent the teacher from offering the type of feedback he or she would like to provide. For example, the online management system in WES allows a teacher to indicate if work has been completed (e.g., done to the teacher’s satisfaction) or attempted (e.g., the student has done some work, but there is room for improvement), but does not provide a way for teachers to provide more detailed feedback. Many teachers in the Pennsylvania pilot study felt this was inadequate and created their own ways providing supplemental feedback. Some worked within the LiteracyLink online system and provided feedback by inserting their comments – in all capital letters or italics – within the students’ text in their portfolio entry. Others moved outside of the online management system and sent separate emails in which they responded to the student’s work. It is often useful to set up separate email accounts (using one of the free email services) to provide another way in which to interact with students. The timing of teacher feedback is important for students working online. Once they send their work, they expect rapid turnaround. Most teachers in the Pennsylvania study attempted to respond to students’ work within 48 hours – at least to let the student know that they had received the work and would respond shortly. Receiving prompt response to their online work seemed to help keep students motivated and working online. Because students do not have the ability to immediately question the teacher if they are confused by the feedback they receive, any online feedback on student’s work needs to be concise, clear and easy to understand. As much as possible, teacher comments need to be precise and leave little room for confusion. It is also helpful if the feedback is personalized to the individual student; this may be facilitated by the individualized nature of distance learning. The Voice of Experience
I emailed encouragement, asked questions and prompted goal-setting and feedback. They emailed me their progress in workbooks, or comments about the videos. I corrected the spelling and grammar of only those students who would not be threatened by critique of their work, and sent back to them highlighted or underlined portions of their essays or resumes through the other email systems. If they only had the WES [email] system, then I capitalized what needed to be corrected. --A Pennsylvania Distance Teacher

Courses with Workbook Components. Providing feedback on work done in workbooks is challenging, because of the difficulties involved in providing the teacher with access to the student’s workbook. Expectations for how often work will be turned in, where it will be turned in and how it will be returned all need to be established during orientation. Without these expectations, it becomes very difficult for teachers to have access to completed student work. Some possible ways to accomplish this include: • Establishing central drop-off points at which students can leave workbooks (or workbook pages) for teacher review and at which they can pick up their corrected workbooks 29

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners • Cutting the bindings off of the workbooks, punching the pages with a 3-hole punch and placing them in a 3-ring binder. This will allow the student continue working in the workbook and simply send completed pages to the teacher. Providing the student with stamped, self-addressed envelopes in which to return workbooks or workbook pages to the teacher. Scheduling on-site review or practice sessions to which students bring their workbooks for teacher feedback.

• •

Providing feedback to students working at a distance in programs that do not have an online component is quite challenging. It will take a concerted effort by the teacher to implement a program in which students regularly receive feedback on work completed in workbooks. As more programs implement distance learning programs, it is expected that knowledge about the most effective ways to accomplish this will grow. CAI programs. CAI programs such as Skills Tutor and PLATO provide their own feedback on student performance. But this may not be sufficient to keep a student motivated to persist at completing the assigned lessons, whether the assignments come from the program itself or from a plan worked out during orientation. Some form of ongoing support using an independent communication system (email or phone) will probably be required to help learners stay focused on their goal. Both of these programs can provide teachers with statistics on usage and performance that can be included in the communication. Online Communication with Students Communicating with students online is different from communicating with them in a face-to-face situation. Neither you, nor they, have the advantages of eye contact, body language or tone of voice to help clarify what is said. As a result, it is imperative that online communications be clear, concise and not open to misinterpretation. In the Appendix, Deb Walker—an experienced online teacher in Pennsylvania—provides some useful tips Thinking About Teaching At a Distance Activity 3.1 asks you to think about how you will handle these teaching tasks when teaching at a distance. For each task, describe how you plan to do this with your distance learning students.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 3.1: Teaching Tasks and Activities
Teaching Task or Activity Develop study plans How you will do this with your distance learning students?

Present content knowledge to students

Assign work to students

Motivate and encourage students

Provide feedback on student work

Program-Specific Strategies There are common principles that are useful to any distance teacher. However, since each distance learning program is unique, each also makes certain demands upon the teacher. At this time, not enough research has been done with different distance learning products to propose program-specific strategies. However, the next version of this Handbook will draw on the experience of the states involved in Project IDEAL and will explore specific teaching strategies for use with several of the key distance leaning programs.

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Chapter 4: Assessment of Distance Learning Students
The issue of assessing distance learners is fraught with difficulties. In addition to the logistics, there are serious questions about how and why they should be assessed. If distance learning is seen as parallel to a classroom-based program, then comparable assessments seem appropriate. However, if distance learning is seen as a less formal educational experience, it may not be necessary to have as structured an assessment process. In addition, some early experience suggests that distance learners may spend considerably less time involved with the learning materials than classroom students. If this is the case, the expectations for progress would be different for the two groups. However, given the current climate of accountability, assessment is a concern for distance learning programs. Several types of assessment can be distinguished: (1) assessment for placement purposes, (2) assessment to gauge student progress, and (3) assessment for accountability purposes. In addition, measuring learner participation (“seat time”) is important to classify the learner in several ways. The issue of assessing students to determine if they have the requisite skills to participate in a distance learning class was discussed in the chapter on orientation. Assessing student progress is of tantamount importance to teachers: it allows them to determine what a student has learned and helps them plan an appropriate educational program for the student. In addition, student progress can be used as one measure for accountability purposes. Assessment for accountability is focused on what the information programs need to report to their state, and the state to the Federal government. To a large extent, this is driven by the demands of the National Reporting Standards (NRS). Issues related to accountability are beyond the scope of the first edition of the Handbook, but they are addressed in a separate working paper from Project IDEAL. In addition, some states make a distinction between traditional assessments using standardized tests for pre- and posttesting and assessing student work using checklists, inventories, etc. Activity 4.1 asks you to think about the importance of assessment for the various constituencies in adult education (students, teachers, programs, and states). In Column A, describe, for all adult education programs (classroom and distance), why assessment is important for each of the groups named. In Column B, identify special issues for distance education programs. This exercise will help you broaden your understanding of the role that assessment can play in using distance learning with adult basic learners.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 4.1: Importance of Assessment
Constituency Students Column A Importance in General Column B Specific Issues for Distance Students

Teachers

Adult Education Programs

Your State

Assessment to Gauge Student Progress It is important for teachers and their adult education agencies to have a way to determine if an individual student is making progress in a course. This is true for distance learning students as much as it is for students in classroom programs. The logistics of doing this at a distance, however, are more challenging to teachers. What is used as the basis for assessment? Can this be based solely on students’ work in the course, or are more formal means of gauging progress (i.e., teacher evaluations, tests, quizzes, etc.) needed? These are decisions that will need to be made on a state-by-state basis, reflecting each state’s requirements for adult education programs. Assessing student work on an on-going basis has already been discussed in the previous chapter (Providing Feedback on Students’ Work). This provides both the teacher and the student with a sense of the student’s progress, points out both strengths and weaknesses and helps the teacher plan appropriately to meet the student’s needs. If a more formal 34

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners record of student work is desired, it may be useful to develop a portfolio in which to capture examples of work demonstrating growth. The State of Ohio is using portfoliobased assessment for all of their adult basic learners and has developed a standardized portfolio format. (For more information visit www.literacy.kent.edu/opas/ portfoliomodel.html) Depending upon the structure of adult education programs in a particular state, using tests and quizzes to assess distance students may make distance learning more parallel to classroom-based assessment. Thus, it may be most appropriate for more formal or structured distance learning classes as opposed to those programs that aim to provide informal educational opportunities. There are many issues involved in administering tests and quizzes at a distance, particularly concerning the security of the testing situation; these same concerns apply to assessing distance students using standardized tests. Thus, many programs that require testing as part of their distance learning courses (e.g., Maryland’s online high school completion program) require students to come to a secure location for pre- and post-testing. Coming to a center or agency for testing may be difficult for those students who opt for distance learning because of the difficulty of getting to an adult education center. If testing at a secure location is required, it may be useful to think about community-based locations (e.g., local schools, local libraries), close to students’ homes, that might be recruited to act as testing centers. Additionally, it may possible to create for a network of local proctors who can give exams to students. Accessibility of adult education centers is a reason some students opt for distance education; the easier it is for students to get to a specified location for testing, the more likely it is that they will comply. Some online programs, such as PLATO and SkillsTutor have assessment components as an integral part of their design. Teachers using these programs therefore have an advantage in having built-in assessment tools that are designed to fit with the curriculum they are teaching. For other programs, it is important to make sure that the tests being used assess what is being taught. The match between existing assessment tools and several distance learning programs are discussed in depth in the Project IDEAL assessment working paper. Measuring Learner Participation One measure often used in classroom-based programs is that of “seat time,” the amount of time a student spends in orientation, the classroom, the lab, etc. This figure determines when a learner becomes an official student (12 hours), whether they can be considered a Project-Based Learner (30 hours of instruction maximum), and when assessment of educational functioning levels should be administered (frequently at 40 or 50 hours). How do you measure “seat time” for distance learners working independently? One possibility is to develop standards for a minimum amount of time a student would need to spend to complete a particular segment of a distance learning course. Any student who completed that segment (based on an examination of their work) would be credited with that number of hours, regardless of the actual time it took him or her to complete the work. (An Excel template that can be used for this purpose is available from Project 35

Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners IDEAL). But what figures do you use as a time estimate? It is hoped that as more states explore this issue, a consensus can be reached for several of the distance curricula. What Are Reasonable Expectations for Assessing Distance Learners? Administrators participating in the Pennsylvania experiments were asked to indicate how reasonable or realistic a variety of assessment options were, both from the perspective of their agency and from the perspective of a distance learner. Administrators reported that the following options were reasonable from both an agency and student perspective: • • • • Teachers keep a portfolio of each student’s work Teachers maintain a log of student contacts, noting time of contact and topics covered Students in online programs are required to complete a specified number of online assignments Students working in workbooks are required to submit workbooks to teachers on a regular basis and are required to complete a specified number of assignments The Voice of Experience
Tying in the students’ online presence with the [Pennsylvania Department of Education] requirements of assessment and hours presents a challenge… The real challenge, if we are working with ‘real’ distance learners in a nontraditional manner, is not to create barriers that discourage those we are trying to reach. -- Administrator of a Pennsylvania literacy center that experimented with offering “WES at a Distance”

The administrators appeared had some concern about assessment options that required the students to come to a central location for a pre- and/or posttest. They saw the posttest as the most challenging requirement. In addition, they did not think it was realistic to require students to track the time they spent working on assignments. These administrators appeared to have concerns about imposing requirements that may diminish the appeal of distance learning to students who either cannot, or chose not to, come to adult education centers. However, these concerns may be less of an issue if these requirements are communicated to the student up front. Identifying Assessment Strategies

Activity 4.2 asks you to think about how you will handle assessment for your distance learning students. First, you need to determine if your state and/or local program have an assessment policy or plan and describe what it is. That information should be used as a basis for completing the rest of the activity; in other words, your decisions must be in line with any existing policies. For each item listed, decide if you will require this for your distance learning students. Then, for each item you will require, describe your plans for implementing this assessment strategy.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners Activity 4.2: Identifying Assessment Strategies
Strategy Require students to come to a central location to take a pretest prior to taking a distance learning class Require students to come to a central location to take a posttest in order to get credit for completing distance learning class Teacher maintains a portfolio of each distance student’s work to use in assessing progress For programs with an online or CD component: require students to successfully complete a specified number of assignments to get class credit For distance programs with a workbook component: require that students submit work to teacher on a regular basis For programs with a workbook component: require that students successfully complete a specified number of workbook pages to get class credit For programs with a video component, require students to view a specified amount of the videos to get class credit Estimate “seat time” using Project IDEAL template Will You Require? ❑ Yes ❑ No Description of implementation plan

❑ Yes ❑ No

❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant

❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No

Require students to track the amount of time they spend working on assignments and use this as a basis for estimating “seat time.” Maintain a log of student contacts, noting time and topic of contact

❑ Yes ❑ No

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
Will You Require? ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant ❑ Yes ❑ No ❑ Not relevant Other assessment activity (Specify)

Strategy For programs with a “built–in” evaluation component: require students to complete all evaluation activities Require student to take teacher designed and administered tests and quizzes

Description of implementation plan

Other assessment activity (Specify)

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Appendix
On the following pages are a number of resources to assist you in developing your plans for recruiting and teaching adults at a distance. • • • • Is Distance for Me? Computer Skills Assessment Tips for Teaching at a Distance Examples of Recruitment Materials

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Is Online Learning for Me?
This quiz appears on the Kentucky Virtual High School website (www.kvhs.org). Students interested in studying online can fill it out to assess whether they are good candidates for distance learning.
1. My need to take this course is ❑ high- I need it immediately to graduate, to fulfill a credit requirement, or other important reason. ❑ moderate- I could take it at my local high school later or substitute another course. ❑ low- it is a personal interest that could be postponed. 2. Having face-to-face interaction is ❑ not particularly important to me. ❑ somewhat important to me. ❑ very important to me. 3. I would classify myself as someone who ❑ often gets things done ahead of time. ❑ needs reminding to get things done on time. ❑ puts things off until the last minute. 4. Classroom discussion is ❑ rarely helpful to me. ❑ sometimes helpful to me. ❑ almost always helpful to me. 5. When an instructor hands out directions for an assignment, I prefer ❑ figuring out the instructions myself. ❑ trying to follow the directions on my own, then asking for help as needed. ❑ having the instructions explained to me 6. I need my teachers to constantly remind me of due dates and assignments ❑ rarely. ❑ sometimes. ❑ often. 7. Considering my academic, extracurricular, family and personal schedule, the amount of time I have to work on an online course is ❑ more than for my high school face-to-face course. ❑ the same as for a class at school. ❑ less than for a class at school. 8. When I am asked to use email, computers, or other new technologies presented to me ❑ I look forward to learning new skills. ❑ I feel scared, but try anyway. ❑ I put it off or try to avoid it. 9. As a reader, I would classify myself as ❑ good- I usually understand the text without help. ❑ average- I sometimes need help to understand the text. ❑ below average- I often need help to understand the text. 10. If I have to go to a school to take exams or complete work ❑ I have difficulty getting to school, even in the evenings and on weekends. ❑ I may miss some lab assignments or exam deadlines if school is not open evenings and weekends. ❑ I can go to school anytime.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Computer Skills Assessment
Kimberly McCoy (Technology Projects Coordinator, Ohio Literacy Resource Center, Kent State University) developed this computer skills self-rating form. It is very comprehensive, and suitable for use to help teachers determine their own computer competencies as well as the skills of their students. It includes skills that students may not need to use online distance education programs; you may want to use the items here as a guide to develop your own checklist that focuses on the skills required by the particular distance education program you are offering.

Technology Assessment
To be completed by each designated Project Ideal instructor 1. Do you have a computer at your local program? ❑ Yes ❑ No 2. Does the computer at your program have Internet access? ❑ Yes ❑ No 3. Please indicate your knowledge level of each of the computer skills/tasks listed below. If additional training is needed, indicate that as well.

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners
Self Sufficient ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ Limited Knowledge ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ No Knowledge ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ Need raining ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑ ❑

Computer Skill Open & close Windows (Minimize & Maximize) Work with the Taskbar Save a file to disk Create new folders Cut/copy and paste Insert clipart Create tables and graphs Create or format a document Create a spreadsheet Send and receive email messages Use Electronic list/Mailing list Downloading items from the Internet Attach documents to an email message Create an email address book Create an MS Power-point presentation Managing Bookmarks and/or Favorites Creating a Website/page Search the Web using directories & engines Chat rooms Instant Messenger (AOL, ICQ, Yahoo, etc.) Start up and shut down a computer Navigation on the Internet Microsoft Internet Explorer Browser Netscape Communicator/Navigator Keyboarding Basic mouse navigation (clicking, right clicking & dragging etc.)

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Tips for Teaching at A Distance
Deb Walker (spearmint100@yahoo.com) is an experienced distance education teacher in Pennsylvania. Below she offers some tips on working at a distance with adult learners.
Online Comfort Zone

1. Preparation • Know your materials • Study the online procedures as a student – register and learn! • Prepare a method of recording information 2. Be patient, firm, and forgiving. Students will need to learn the following things, all at once, all on-line!

· Typing · Navigating · Internet

· Math · Reading · Grammar

· Spelling · Testing · Email

· History · Websites · Science

· Communicating · Organization · Self-motivation

3. Try to really understand the reasons why the learner is studying online 4. Don’t judge a person by his [email] paragraph 5. Online persona • Personality: matching their speed, expectations and rhythm • Sense of Humor: You say tomãto…I say tomâto • Sixth Sense : What do they mean by that? • Educational Presence: You get what you pay for 6. Respond quickly and frequently • Response time: 3-Day Rule • Form letters • Form answers to frequent questions, site problems 7. Respond appropriately • Watch terms and expressions • Never promise something you cannot deliver • Protect anonymity • Don’t take it personal • Keep responses non-political, non-religious, and non-judgmental

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners 8. Collecting Necessary Information • Send a warm welcome letter immediately, asking about their current situation, educational background, goals, email address, and computer experience. • Friday Progress Reports that they can just check and email back. • Use the multiple mail system with discretion. Students prefer their anonymity. Send each email separately unless they know they are part of a class. • Keep a file of individual email correspondence for quick reference 9. Motivation and Encouragement • Offer certificates for completed sections • Praise, e-cards, congratulations • Ask opinions • Ask for help • Stay on top of regional happenings for correspondence 10. Handling duplicate responses • Create a website, community or Word/e-mail document for posting/sending websites, references, duplicate questions, problems on site affecting everyone 11. Educational Expectations • Response Time: 3 Day Rule • Work in grammar and spelling gradually • Continually challenge • Take them to other sites • Ask about classes in their area and offer to find an agency near them • Remind them often why they are doing this 12. Keeping yourself motivated, energized and enthused!

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Handbook of Distance Education for Adult Learners

Recruiting Materials
The following pages show examples of recruiting materials developed by some of the agencies participating in the Pennsylvania distance experiments. They are intended to provide you with some ideas for designing recruiting materials for your program.

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