June 13th, 2006



















Mark Karadimos

Capella University



The Illinois Virtual High School is an entity that provides online distance learning to students who are enrolled in Illinois schools. This paper will explore why and how a district such as a certain school can form a cooperative partnership with IVHS. The many potential learning benefits and steps to be taken by the school will be explored.


The processes explained within this paper are not unique to Illinois, a certain school, or IllinoisVirtual High School. Any traditional college or high school may use the information provided within this paper to form similar partnerships, be it with a college, private provider, or other agency that produces online distance education courses.


Table of Contents


I. About IVHS

II. How IVHS Could Benefit the Educational Process

A. How Students Would Benefit

B. How Teachers Would Benefit

C. How the District Would Benefit

III. Reviewing the Planning Process

A. Needs Assessment

B. Outline Instructional Goals and Objectives; Produce Instructional Materials

C. Provide Training and Practice for Instructors and Facilitators

D. Implement the Program

IV. Planning Concerns

A. Instruction

B. Management

C. Assessment

V. Distance Learning Technologies

A. Settling on Technologies

B. Acquiring Technologies

C. Training on Technologies

D. Tech Team Formation

VI. Pilot Program

VII. Integrating IVHS Courses

A. Developing a List of Acceptable Courses

B. Monitoring Student Progress

VIII. Developing Courses for IVHS

A. Forming Teams

B. Determine Process for Course Creation

C. Determine Process for Course Modification

IX. Managing IVHS Integration

A. Determine Critical Indicators

B. Monitor Indicators

C. Adjust IVHS Activities Based Upon Indicators

X. IVHS and Student Achievement on Standardized Tests

A. Literacy

B. Numeracy

XI. Comparing Traditional and Distance Learning

XII. Conclusion

XIII. Resources

XIV. Tables, Charts, and Graphs

I. About IVHS

        The Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS) is a state entity that provides online distance learning to students whom are registered within Illinois schools (IVHS, 2006). This year, IVHS offered 81 courses within 11 different disciplines, from Business to World Languages (see Table 1: IVHS Courses). Currently, there are 385 Illinois schools that participate with IVHS (2006).


II. How IVHS Could Benefit the Educational Process

            Whether or not one is dealing with a rich or poor, large or small, technologically savvy staff or not, or specifically a certain high school or some other school, there are a number of beneficial reasons why online distance education is a necessary ingredient for learning within a school. There are benefits for students, teachers and an entire district.

A. How Students Would Benefit

            Research shows students benefit from learning experiences that make use of important learning considerations. The following two considerations are obtainable via online distance education: exposure to 1) multiple types of learning interactions, and 2) instructional media. These considerations will be explained.

            There are three types of learning interactions. There are learner-content and learner-instructor. There is also learner-learner.

            The research regarding learner interaction diverges. According to Moore (1989), the most important learner interaction is learner-content. However, Gokhale (1995) states learner-learner, otherwise known as cooperative learning, interaction is the most important of the three types.

            It is clear that distance education research is in its fledgling state and that the assumptions and parameters of its studies must themselves be investigated. Until such research is conducted, one must assume the learner-learner interaction must not be overlooked. This would imply all three interactions bear value.

            In addition to learner interactions, educators must also consider the value of instructional media. Learning tools that are accessible via computers and the Internet hold great value to the learning process. Instructional media tools can be used to minimize fatigue, integrate visuals and text, display advance organizers, and offer introductory problems. It can also provide memory support, worked examples, practice exercises, graphics, and evaluate learners against standards (Karadimos, 2004).

            Online distance education is able to balance the three learning interactions and make use of instructional media tools. Through online distance education, instructors have the ability to balance the three learning interactions by building appropriate structures by design and by adjusting learners’ performances unit by unit – typically week by week. Instructors can also build courses around specific learning tools and/or point learners to online content that uses instructional media elements.

B. How Teachers Would Benefit

            Teachers benefit from participating within online distance education for a number of reasons. They will benefit due to the following traits (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 1999: Chapter 2):

  1. Convenience – teachers would be able to perform their duties from their homes, libraries, and technology centers.
  2. Flexibility – teachers would be able to grade papers, make comments to students, and refine curriculum at any time during the day.
  3. Effectiveness – online distance education has been proven to work.
  4. Multi-sensory – the nature of distance education allows teachers to use a myriad of tools to assist the transport of information and skills by matching students with their learning preferences.
  5. Interactivity – distance learning allows shy learners the ability to make contributions and it prevents a person from dominating discussions.
  6. Equity – distance education allows high quality teachers to reach students: (a) who reside in rural areas, and (b) students who are physically challenged.


            It can be seen that these traits benefit students as well as teachers. These facts must then naturally drive effective teachers to accept distance education. Such a view could be used to modify the culture of a school through these exemplary teachers.

C. How the District Would Benefit

            There is another list of advantages that distance education offers. This list applies to schools and districts (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 1999: Chapter 3):

  1. Instruction for Homebound Students – students who cannot attend school need not lose instructional time. Students can either communicate with teachers via Internet technologies or they could be placed within a distance learning courses.
  2. Virtual High Schools – students who are unable to access education because they are jailed, expelled from attending school, or are unable to attend a certain class can benefit from courses offered through distance learning schools. Students could access asynchronous learning within online distance education.
  3. Instruction for Distributed Classes – courses can be formed for students even though student numbers may be low at individual schools. Using a collectivist system, pulling students from multiple schools, classes could be filled. This would allow schools to provide service to more students, allowing more communities to prosper.
  4. Interactions with Outside Experts – distance education technologies make it easier to incorporate outsiders to education.
  5. Collaborative Projects – students from many schools can be pulled together to form project teams that reach issues involving the environment, various communities, or some other data gathering activity.
  6. Access to Remote Resources – Websites offer comprehensive information (text, video, webcams, …) that allow students to easily study locations outside their school districts, states, and countries.
  7. Staff Development Programs – teachers can undertake training programs using an online environment, regardless of the size or location of the teaching staff in a school.

            Again, it is evident this list reflects benefits to districts, teachers and students. Where one benefits, it is common that others benefit, too. This provides evidence of mutual benefits for an entire organization.


III. Reviewing the Planning Process

            The Florida Center for Instructional Technology (1999: Chapter 10) offers a step-by-step process for implementing a distance education program. The process involves four steps: needs assessment, outline instructional goals and objectives while producing instructional materials, provide training and practice for instructors and facilitators, and implement the program. Since this stage of the online distance development process requires less theory and more detail, there will be specific information regarding the process as it applies to a certain high school.

A. Needs Assessment

            This step involves determining the content areas that could be enhanced, expanded, or initiated. This means concentrating on the school's interests and strengths. At a course level, due to the school's large Latino population, there may be great interest in dealing with Latin studies courses.

            Possible target populations to consider would be homebound students, expelled students, or students who have been removed from classes. To consider instructors, it must be determined how it is that such a role is handled, including determining interest (buy-in), instructional teams, and content creation possibilities.

            It is also necessary to determine technology needs. Since Cicero’s population is of a low socio-economic status, it cannot be expected that students will necessarily have computers and an online connection at their homes. Instead, library computers, computer laboratories, and other computer areas must be made accessible to students after traditional school hours. They have to be open to the public and monitored. The staff that monitors the computers should be Internet knowledgeable and also be able to handle rudimentary software issues.

B. Outline Instructional Goals and Objectives; Produce Instructional Materials

            It is important to first achieve a culture where vision and goals are shared by those who are acting leaders (Kaester, 2005). Once goals are determined, it is then possible to develop instructional materials. Therefore, the planning process is an important one that involves the creation of a well thought pedagogical skeleton to which the coming instruction systems will be placed. It is expected the technology to be seamless and of no special concern to the learner.

C. Provide Training and Practice for Instructors and Facilitators

            Instructors have to be cognizant of a number of important considerations when dealing with online distance education content. Instructors have to be aware of strategies that invite learner-content, learner-instructor, and learner-learner interaction. They have to know how to motivate distance learners, which may require knowing about learners through an interest survey. Instructors must also need to know the usefulness of instructional media and how to integrate such devices into the curriculum.

            The role of the instructor need not be the same as a course designer, at first. Instructors may initially operate as assistants to student learning and exist as mentors. Once the process is refined, instructors then could be placed into design teams to create their own course content.

D. Implement the Program

            It is suggested that the program include a long test process to ensure all areas of design and manpower have been effectively handled. The process of implementation requires attentiveness to timelines and firm deadlines. To successfully handle the implementation process, there has to be on-going evaluation throughout the entire process – previous steps included – and open communication between all participants.


IV. Planning Concerns

            The act of planning consists of at least forty-four challenges as outlined by Horizon (2006). The concerns are separated into three groups: instruction, management, and assessment. Each of these concerns will be investigated below. The three groups will also be accompanied by another important consideration:

A. Instruction

            Traditional education is much different than online distance education. Consequently, the concerns are different. Online distance learners work with computers to access the educational materials. Instructors must create a learning environment that is challenging and learner-centered. Instructors have to be ready to create mechanisms that take in to account varied learning styles and how instructional media can be effectively used. [See Table 2: Instructional Challenges for a comprehensive list of guiding questions.]

B. Management

            Since online distance learning varies differently than traditional, face-to-face, learning, there are a number of challenges that management must face. There are issues that cover the following as they relate to distance education: teacher-preparedness and training, goals, developing a cost/benefit analysis, and teaming. Administrators must also foresee workloads, incentive programs, and an assessment program. [Table 3: Management Challenges contains a list of questions to assist in the management process.]

C. Assessment

            Administration with instructors must determine a method for assessing the effectiveness of an online distance program. The effectiveness of the program should measure the three learning interactions and the ability to create a seamless technology platform. Surveys could be used to measure the satisfaction of learners and teachers. Educational standards and qualifiers could also be developed so as to compare distance learning with traditional learning. [For a list of questions that pertain to the challenges of assessment, see Table 4.]


V. Distance Learning Technologies

            Part of the planning process must involve careful consideration to technology. Which technologies will be used? How instructors, students, and the technology team are prepared in dealing with them is another concern.

            There are technologies unique to online distance learning. The broader area of distance education invites the use of mail, audioconference, telecourse, videoconference, and print. There is also webcast and webconference (University of Wisconsin, 2006). A brief explanation will follow for each technology.


Mail – communication occurs via mail correspondence.

Audioconference – real-time communication takes place via phone or audio.

Videoconference – image broadcasting and receiving mechanisms allow for real-time communication.

Telecourse – DVD, VHS, or broadcasted media allow learning through this type of programming.

Print – textbooks, manual, articles, and other written materials that allow for learning.

Webcast – this is learning via audio, video or slide productions through the Internet.

Webconference – real-rime video and audio communication via the Internet.

Online – computer management software allow learning via the Internet. There are a number of providers for online learning, such as WebCT, eCollege, D2L, Blackboard, and more.


            Distance learning, including online distance learning, typically incorporates numerous technologies. It is common for online distance education providers to use an online management system, print, webcast, and videoconferencing. By using multiple technologies, the education becomes learner-centered and sensitive to their learning styles.

A. Settling on Technologies

            It is possible to reinvent the wheel for an organization. However, existing virtual schools make this step of the process relatively easy. The virtual schools already provide the online course management portion, which will be discussed in the next section.

            The next step involves determining which supplementary materials are necessary for running specific courses. An instructor or instructional team will have to decide which supplementary materials are best for their courses. Print is a staple for each course, but other media must be chosen to be sensitive to learning styles.

B. Acquiring Technologies

            A logical step for most schools at the high school level will be to locate an existing distance education provider. This eliminates numerous technology issues, because the granting distance education body already has a time-tested program that is up and running.

            IVHS, for example, uses eCollege (2006). The system that eCollege offers includes a gradebook, document sharing, and search capabilities. It also includes an ability to e-mail other learners in a course, document sharing, a journal, and a helpful webliography.

            Once online course management software has been obtained, supplementary materials will have to be obtained. Relevant books and articles and print materials will be ordered. Software tools to generate audio, visual, graphic organizers and other devices may have to be purchased. To determine the tools that are necessary to form an effective program, it is suggested that research be done to determine which tools are obtainable and reasonable choices.

C. Training on Technologies

            There will be a need to conduct two different types of training programs. There will be a need to familiarize students with the technology. Teachers will also have to be trained to work with technology.

            Student training can take place in many forms. Students can be trained by an initial face-to-face program. A trainer could actually take students through the course management system and show how everything works. Another way to instruct learners would be to have learners go through a self-guided program, as is offered by some institutions (Capella, 2006).

            The provider of the course management system should be able to inform instructors how to use the system. Instructors will have to learn how to place unit goals, instructional media, and other content on these systems. The provider can train the instructors or, in the case of eCollege (2005), course designers can relay their intentions to eCollege staff who can in turn create the final product.

D. Tech Team Formation

            Schools already have technologists on staff to handle computer-related issues. These people can be used to make the process of running and maintaining online learning environments, too. Since it is likely that such a team will only serve to provide a seamless operation by maintaining communication with online educators and students, their duties need not be significantly altered.


VI. Pilot Program

            Even though The Florida Center for Instructional Technology does not call for a pilot group in its process, such a consideration is worthy of investigation. A pilot program would force the guiding teams to monitor and adjust processes. Doing as such before allowing online distance education to be offered to the entire population may be necessary for fine-tuning the process and avoiding potential pitfalls.

            Such a pilot program would allow instructors, learners, administrators, and the technology team to work through the forty-four challenges (Horizon, 2006). Consequently, this stage is crucial for making a viable, long-lasting program.


VII. Integrating IVHS Courses

            In order to start an online distance education program, there is a considerable amount of planning involved. An organization has to consider numerous factors to determine a list of acceptable courses to offer to a population. In an effort to monitor learners through their courses, an effective instructional management system has to be established. Those two facets of the online distance learning development process are the topics to be addressed below.

A. Developing a List of Acceptable Courses

            Developing a list of acceptable courses for learners requires educators to reflect on the strengths and interests of an institution’s learning and teaching population. The school is approximately 95% Hispanic (IES, 2004). This would suggest courses such as Latin-American History, Spanish, Mexican Art, and Mexican Dance may fair best in an online distance education system that students would like to enroll. Or, because numeracy and literacy are important considerations to acknowledge (see part X, sections A and B by the same titles), English, math and other academic courses may pose a greater priority.

            However, there may be educators who would one-day like to make contributions to virtual education. They may like to create their own courses, some of which may stray from the above list of courses. These educators may hold particular knowledge or ability that would make these courses valuable to an online learning community. These interests would have to be taken in to account when such a staff is ready to create and instruct their own courses.

B. Monitoring Student Progress

            Once instructional concerns are addressed, there is a strong need to address student progress. Doing so requires building a learning structure that also reflects the needs of a learning population. The three models below will represent ideas for meeting the needs of a high school’s learning population in an effort to provide a safety net for learners.

1. Mentor Model

            The mentor model is one that places students in close contact with an educator, possibly in a computer laboratory setting. The educator could be the course instructor, but the educator could be an aid whom is knowledgeable with the course management system. This educator would have to know how to access online information via search engines and be able to indicate which sources were of value.

            A mentor model could be used for many other purposes. A mentor could be used for students to demonstrate their abilities within the framework of authentic assessment exercises designed by the instructor. Mentors could provide meaningful feedback on course projects. A mentor could also be used to manage student project teams.

2. Coordinator Model

            Within a coordinator model, students would be monitored by an educator. This educator may provide information related to course tasks, but need not do so in a face-to-face fashion. This model would place learners in intermediate contact with an educator. The educator could check in with students at the beginning, middle, and end of a course. The instructor could contact the coordinator if the learner manifests a learning problem.

3. Independent Study Model

            This model is the model that is standard with most online distance learning programs. This model often times offers no direct assistance, save for phone numbers and e-mail address of technical staff and an instructor. This model can be used if there are certain assumptions that are valid. These assumptions are:

a.       Learners are knowledgeable with computer use and software

b.      Technology is seamless and time-tested

c.       Learners are independent

4. Deciding on a Model

            As it can be seen, the three models exist on a spectrum. On one extreme, students are closely monitored as they progress through a course. On the other extreme, there is no special monitoring for online learners, save for the instructor. Choosing a model, like many of the other options within this developmental process, depends upon the characteristics of the learners who will use the system. This makes each model hold merit for certain types of schools.

            When considering the school, it would appear that the mentor model or the coordinator model would be the best models. If students have no experience with computer use or have limited online access where they dwell, the mentor model would be preferred over the coordinator model.


VIII. Developing Courses for IVHS

            After the initial phase of running through a number of cycles is complete and students have had an opportunity to take online distance education courses, the faculty may consider building its own online distance education courses. The luxury of having run through online courses will enable the administration to consider a number of factors, such as student and faculty needs, technology issues, and management indicators. To address these concerns, the school will have to form teams, determine a process for course creation, and determine a process for course modification.

A. Forming Teams

            There are three distinct areas for team-building. Technology, instruction, and management teams must be created to handle the online distance education demands that will naturally materialize. The paragraphs that follow will focus on personnel to include a need for goals and open communication.

1. Technologist Component

            Technology specialists will be called upon to investigate, install, and monitor software and hardware devices. Instructors will have to rely upon the knowledge of technologists to investigate the available software tools that can be used to create organizational aids, audio and video tools, and other media (University of Wisconsin, 2006). Technologists will also have to install and monitor their usage.

            The process of investigation includes a need to communicate information to other teams. Technologists have to learn which products are most needed and affordable, which requires the team to speak with instructors. Technologists can question instructors to learn if there are software preferences and can then determine which of those preferences lead to affordable choices.

            The technology team will also have to instruct teachers of online courses. Besides teaching them how to use course construction items, like audio, video, and still-picture media, they will also have to show instructors how to use the full functionality of the courseware product being used for online distance education.

            It can be seen this team has to perform many important duties that require many talents. Therefore, the team will have to consist of individuals who are knowledgeable and able to communicate their knowledge. A willingness to create an online distance education program would also be an added benefit.

            Due to the many demands that would be placed on such a team, it is suggested current technologists who run the school's informational systems must not be the default technology team. Team members can be pulled from faculty who are already familiar with online distance education or technology used to create online distance education products. These potential members could be found by the use of a faculty survey.

2. Instructor Component

            Instructors who would teach online students would have to perform many tasks. Instructors would have to learn how to develop online distance education curricula. They would have to find and create supplemental materials, too.

            Table 2: Instructional Challenges outlines a number of concerns that instructors have to face when creating and dealing with online distance education courses. These concerns cover a number of important areas that requires intimate knowledge of the school's technology capabilities. It would also be beneficial to instructors if they had knowledge of various characteristics of its students.

            The knowledge base necessary for building an effective program is such that it would be helpful for instructors to have gone through an online distance education course or at least receive a training program. Since Illinois teachers are required to gain professional development credits, instructors could be persuaded to take online courses as a means for preparing their own courses. If it is determined that a training program is needed, which is likely the case, then a trainer would have to inform these instructors on the many dimensions of online distance education.

3. Management Component

            The management team would be faced with a multitude of duties. Coordinating efforts between the technology and instructor teams would involve a systems approach. This would include setting up goals, instituting a timeline, and communicating with teams. It would also require great reflection on items mentioned in Table 3: Management Challenges.

            The management team would have to determine the goals of the distance education program. The goals of the program would likely be dependant upon the following factors: costs, budget allowance, and faculty involvement. Student involvement and success of a pilot program would be two other factors that would weigh heavily on goals.

            A timeline would drive the pace. This makes the accuracy of the timeline dependant upon the management team’s ability to communicate with other teams. The better the communication, the better the timeline as it applies to its ability to drive the development of the online program toward realistic progress.

            The management team, like the technology team, need not be one entirely consisting of administrators. Since the school's history is rich with faculty involvement within committees, a team consisting of administration and faculty would best suit the development of an online program. Such a model would automatically build in communication to the system. A default team of administrators would not be necessary to create and respond to critical indicators (see section C: Determine Process for Course Modification and part IX, section A: Determine Critical Indicators).

B. Determine Process for Course Creation

            To determine a process for course, it would have to be known which courses would best be created. This means understanding the knowledge base of instructors and the willingness of those instructors to create online courses. Also, the learning population’s demand for certain classes would be another consideration.

            To determine these considerations, a survey would need to be carefully drafted and executed. The survey would have to ask respondents to list their willingness to teach online courses and their knowledge concerning courses. A 5-point Likert scale (Trochim, 2002) could be used to rate the replies.

C. Determine Process for Course Modification

            There comes a time within the life of a course to modify it. Course modification can be based on numerous items that include changes in the following: learner population, state standards, and technology. Other items include changes in instructional staff, budget, and course emphasis.

            Changes in many of the aforementioned items are not foreseeable. As learning institutions change, the curriculum in combination with other aspects of the institution also changes. However, critical indicators can be used to determine a need to modify courses. Critical indicators will be discussed in part IX, section A: Determine Critical Indicators.

            The process for modifying change is one that is also not foreseeable. Either an existing committee, such as the School Improvement Planning Committee could be used or a special online distance learning committee could be formed. In either case, such a committee would analyze changes that occur at the school and within the critical indicator data set.

IX. Managing IVHS Integration

            The school is a traditional school. It may already implore a number of dynamic strategies, such as writing projects, cooperative learning strategies, and technology integration programs; but, it does not yet utilize distance education. Creating a distance education program would require it to be a hybrid institution.

            There are two ways for instituting distance education in a hybrid fashion at the school. One way would be to allow IVHS to handle all courseroom related items. Another way would be to have the school house all courseroom related items on its own server.

            There are benefits and disadvantages to both possibilities. If IVHS were serve the courses on its servers, then it would be responsible for a majority of the technology issues; but the school's educators would lose curricular autonomy. The opposite would be true if the school ran its courses on its own servers.

            The largest area of concern could be jobs. There are faculty members who could become concerned that an online distance education program could jeopardize the existing number of jobs. This concern is important. Addressing it incorrectly could run a risk of affecting faculty interest and the final success of an online distance education program.

            It must be known to all faculty members that building an online program will not run a risk of costing anyone a teaching position. To guarantee no loss of positions, limitations on the types of courses could be instituted. Online courses could be limited to homebound, night school, and summer school students.

            Courses could also be made available in such a way as to pull from teachers who retire. Retiring teachers need not be replaced in the traditional sense. Instead, a distance education instructor could be used to offer some of the courses the retiring teacher used to teach. Another option would be to have the administration insist that no one will lose a position with School Board approval.

            As part of the online distance education program, like all other educational programs, it needs to be evaluated. School Board officials and educational leaders must determine which factors to determine and monitor for the purpose of evaluation. The next three sections will address this area.

A. Determine Critical Indicators

            Like every educational program, online distance education must invite analysis. Analysis of performance indicators helps educators adjust programs and activities to ensure quality. Possible performance indicators can include but are not limited to learner completion rates, grades, and achievement. There is also learner and instructor satisfaction to consider.

            The management team would have to determine a set of indicators to study. This list could be small and consider only a few factors. The list could be inclusive and study all factors. The number of indicators should be determined by the management team in conjunction with other teams, the faculty, and the Board of Education.

B. Monitor Indicators

            To benefit from an analysis of indicators, sampling needs to be done on an on-going basis. Surveys could be used at numerous stages to gain feedback regarding learner and instructor satisfaction. Grades, completion rates, and course interaction could easily be gained from the capabilities of courseroom software.

            Determining indicators and monitoring data based on the indicators is the beginning of the improvement process. The remainder and most challenging part of the process is adjusting the distance learning based upon the indicators, which will be addressed within the next section.

C. Adjust IVHS Activities Based Upon Indicators

            Adjusting online distance learning is the next step of the process. This process must involve a committee. The committee could be the management team or the existing School Improvement Planning Committee. Whichever team is used, the optimum team will be the team that is comprised of online instructors, traditional instructors, technologists, and administrators who already have involvement with the online learning.

            Requiring a team to be comprised as defined above would allow for numerous advantages. The advantages include an ability to relay information, participants would have a stake in the process, and the change process could take place in a timely manner. To facilitate the operation of such a committee, the committee should require Robert’s Rules of Order (Robert's Rules Association, 2000), which offers a set of procedures for handling committees.


X. IVHS and Student Achievement on Standardized Tests

            The school is located near Chicago’s West side and sits adjacent to it. The population is roughly 95% Hispanic and 80% of its students have free or reduced lunch (IES, 2004). It is a school that has problems associated with inner-city schools.

            Consequently, numeracy and literacy have become the curricular focus for the school. If online distance learning is to provide a legitimate direction for the school to follow, it stands to reason that such a program should address literacy and numeracy concerns. The next two sections will explain how online distance learning can improve literacy and numeracy.

A. Literacy

            The Association of College Research and Libraries (2003) has made available a number of characteristics of programs that reflect best practices for literacy programs. Table 6: Literacy Guidelines reflects those characteristics. Many of the characteristics have been previously addressed in this paper, like the need for collaboration, consistency, and assessment strategies that invite the educational community to achieve a state of constant improvement. Tables 2, 3, and 4 invite such an educational state.

B. Numeracy

        The National Council for the Teachers of Mathematics (2006) has outlined a number of principles for creating the proper foundations for mathematics education. The outline includes six principles. They include equity, curriculum, teaching, learning, assessment, and technology.

            Each principle can be addressed via online distance education. The principles call for high expectations, coherent curriculum, and teachers who understand. Principles also call for information that builds, gathering information that leads to improvement, and the use of technology in education.

            Online distance education can emulate all of the principles. Tables 2, 3, and 4 list a number of concerns that already have been discussed. The reflective criteria imposed on a properly developed and executed online distance education program clearly match the demands placed by NCTM, especially since online distance education requires the use of instructional media and software that reflects the technological needs of a modern society.


XI. Comparing Traditional and Distance Learning

            Once an online distance education program has been executed, determining its efficacy and pushing for improvement will demand analysis. A distance education program could be analyzed on its own merits by reflecting on gains and losses over time, but the pre-existence of a traditional program invites comparison between the two programs. This hybrid system of both traditional and online distance education can be compared.

            A suggestion for managing analysis and the change process can be maintained by following the seven-step procedure below:

  1. Form Sample Populations Within Each Learning Mode
  2. Determine Critical Indicators for Comparisons
  3. Gather Data on Indicators
  4. Share Raw Data with Governing Team
  5. Assess Learning Against Data
  6. Share Final Analysis with Staff, School Board, and Community
  7. Adjust Learning Modes

            The steps above represent a linear model for engaging in quality analysis and pushing for change. Other less linear models may exist, but the seven-step system could be beneficial for schools that have a relatively inexperienced teaching staff and administration. The linearity may allow it to be easily followed and understood.


XII. Conclusion

            There are numerous reasons why online distance education should be pursued by schools. It has been demonstrated that online distance education is on par with traditional education and it may even surpass it (Tucker, 2001). Trend forecasters predict a research-justified rise in education via technology (see Table 7: Trends in Education). Also, online distance education helps with keeping students engaged (Florida Center for Instructional Technology, 1999).

            A key reason for moving a learning organization like the school to adopt online distance education relates to a basis for engaging in school improvement. Online distance education, by necessity, requires the learner be central to the learning process. This need forces schools that use online distance education to reflect accordingly and adjust its pedagogy.

            Moving toward online distance education is a decision that does not depend on socio-economics. Schools residing in high socio-economic areas may have different goals and course offerings than schools residing in low socio-economic areas. Schools may also have varying concerns based upon a community’s knowledge-base and technology presence. Yet, use of technology as a central element within education has been shown to be beneficial to the development of all students, including those at the high school age or younger.


XIII. Resources

ACRL (2003) Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline. Online Resource Accessed on June 11th, 2006 at:


ADL (2006) About the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative. Online Resource Accessed on June 4th, 2006 at:


ADL (2006) Introduction to the SCORM for Instructional Designers. Online Resource Accessed on June 4th, 2006 at:


Brown (2001) Handhelds in the Classroom. Education World. Online Resource Accessed on June 4th, 2006 at:


Capella University (2006) Courseroom Tour. Online Resource Accessed on May 28th, 2006 at:


eCollege (2006) Official Website, Online Resource Accessed on May 28th, 2006 at:


eCollege (2005) Training, Online Resource Accessed on May 28th, 2006 at:


Florida Center for Instructional Technology (1999) A Teacher's Guide to Distance Learning: Applications in K-12 Education, Chapter2, Online Resource Accessed on May 27th, 2006 at:


Florida Center for Instructional Technology (1999) A Teacher's Guide to Distance Learning: Benefits of Distance Education, Chapter3, Online Resource Accessed on May 27th, 2006 at:


Florida Center for Instructional Technology (1999) A Teacher's Guide to Distance Learning: Implementing Distance Education, Chapter10, Online Resource Accessed on May 27th, 2006 at:


Gokhale (1995) Collaborative Learning Enhances Critical Thinking. Online Resource Accessed on May 14th, 2006 at:


Horizon (2006) Challenges in Implementing Distance Learning Programs, Online Resource Accessed on May 14th, 2006 at:


Howell, Williams, & Lindsey (2003) Thirty-two Trends Affecting Distance Education: An Informed Foundation for Strategic Planning. Online Resource Accessed on June 4th, 2006 at:


IES (2004) School Data. Online Resource Accessed on June 11th, 2006 at:


IVHS (2006) Illinois Virtual High School Website, Online Resource Accessed on May 10th, 2006 at:


IVHS (2006) Getting Started: Participating Schools, Online Resource Accessed on May 20th, 2006 at:


IVHS (2004) Illinois Virtual High School Participating Schools Handbook, Online Resource Accessed on May 13th, 2006 at:


Karadimos (2004) Assessing the Cognitive Basis of Instructional Media. Online Resource Accessed on January 12th, 2006 at:


Kaester (2005) Distance Education and the Academic Department: The Change Process. Online Resource Accessed on June 12th, 2006 at:


Moore (1989) Three Types of Interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2). Online Resource Accessed on May 11th, 2006 at:


NCTM (2006) Overview of Principles and Standards for School Mathematics: Principles for School Mathematics. Online Resource Accessed on May 11th, 2006 at:


Robert's Rules Association (2000) Robert's Rules of Order Website. Online Resource Accessed on June 11th, 2006 at:


Trochim (2002) Likert Scaling. Online Resource Accessed on May 13th, 2006 at:


Tucker (2001) Distance Education: Better, Worse, Or As Good As Traditional Education? Online Resource Accessed on May 13th, 2006 at:


University of Wisconsin (2006) Distance Learning Technologies, Online Resource Accessed on May 28th, 2006 at:


XIV. Tables, Charts, and Graphs


TABLE 1: IVHS Courses

Course Types

# Courses

Business and Economy


Career Planning


Computer Science and Information Technology


Fine Arts




Language Arts






Social Studies


Study Skills


Word Languages






TABLE 2: Instructional Challenges

What topics lend themselves to distance education?

How can we create a community of online learners?

How do we maximize student-teacher, student-student interaction online?

How can we select and use synchronous and asynchronous tools to facilitate the interaction essential for learning?

How do we prepare students to get technologically prepared for distance training?

How do we accommodate different learning styles and age ranges?

How does the choice of technology affect learning? Does it affect the distant student's sense of satisfaction with the course?

How do we avoid not letting the technology interfere with quality education?

What training do students/instructors need to implement distance education effectively?

What credentials do distance learning instructors need?

What are appropriate training models for distance learning?

Does technology help move us from a teacher-centered model to a learner-centered model of education?

How will changes in our on-campus learning environments impact upon our distance education delivery systems and methods?

What assumptions do we make vis-a-vis traditional education? What should be questioned?

How do we set appropriate expectations for student work?

How do we adapt in a new environment (beyond training issues)?

© Horizon (2006)



TABLE 3: Management Challenges

What training do faculty members need to be successful in online teaching?

How do we provide equal access to distance learning?

How do we address the technological haves and have-nots issue?

How do we successfully implement a fee model for distance education?

What funding models should we adapt to support distance learning course development (cost-benefit analysis)?

How do we determine when to initiate distance education programs?

How do we educate the decision makers on technology support?

How do we ascertain the goals of distance learning (efficiency, broad standards, access to quality education, reaching broader group of learners)?

How can we support the delivery of online education (e.g., registration, advising, library and laboratory facilities)?

What intellectual properties/copyright issues must be addressed?

How do we deal with the system when it fails?

How do we address privacy issues?

How do we keep from replicating other institutions or publishers distance learning efforts?

How do we address the respectability/image of distance education issue?

How do we address working across other departments in distance education programs?

How do we develop balance in distance learning workloads compared to traditional workloads in clinical settings?

What is the relationship of online education to residential campus education?

What is the relationship between publicly funded and privately funded distance education?

How do we market distance education in a changing marketplace?

How do faculty attitudes towards distance learning impact developing distance education programs?

What incentives do faculty members need in order to commit to teaching online courses?

© Horizon (2006)



TABLE 4: Assessment Challenges

How do we monitor/authenticate student performance in distance learning?

How do we assess effectiveness of online learning?

What are the decision criteria for selecting appropriate distance learning technology?

How do we assure that distance learning tools are interoperable?

© Horizon (2006)



TABLE 5: Illinois Virtual High School (IVHS)



Web Address

Number of
Courses Offered

After viewing the course selection page, I counted a course availability number of 87. [Resource]

Course Selection

Courses are offered in the following areas: business and economics, career planning, computer science and information technology, fine arts, health, language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, study skills, and world languages. [Resource]

Future Courses

It may be safe to theorize that as online distance education takes hold in the United States as it has in the U.K., course selection will increase. Local schools can produce specialized courses that reflect their specific strengths. Such an increase will be best for the consumer (student), in that they will have access to more electives and be offered curriculum that is sensitive to modern theories of learning, namely The Multiple Intelligence Model.

Technology Hardware

800x600 screen resolution, 64 MB RAM, 28.8 kbs Internet connection, soundcard, speakers. [Resource]

Technology Software

IE 6.0 (Microsoft) or 5.2x (Mac), Java 1.3.1, Windows Media Player 9, and assorted other software products. [Resource]

Technology Rationale

It appears the technology above is a relatively basic model that also supports the minimum requirements to provide functionality to an online course. Since older computers have access to 32 MB of RAM with a 28.8 kbps modem, the tech requirements offers availability to most potential users.

Course Tools

Tools include an online syllabus, calendar, and the following:

  • Gradebook - allows instructors to divulge grades to students and provide them with a mathematical rubric for their progress through courses.
  • E-Mail - an internal device that allows students to send information to each other as well as the instructor.
  • Chat - this includes areas that act like real-time rooms for text messaging.
  • Search - a complex interface that allows students to search the chat areas and the Internet.
  • Document Sharing - a tool that allows students to upload and download course-related materials for peer review.
  • Journal - this is a space where students reflect on questions and comments for the purposes of group learning and communication with the instructor.
  • Webliography - a list of sites and references that are relevant to a course. Students and instructors can place references here.

[Resource1, Resource2]

Course Delivery

The following delivery systems are utilized:

  • Text - readings, assignments, text "lectures," study tips, a glossary, handouts, or other text-based information.
  • Multimedia - audio or video segments, images, computer simulations, or slideshow presentations.
  • Threaded Discussions - asynchronous discussions are logged and used for cooperative learning strategies. Unlike the traditional classroom, this mode allows for deep reflection and places emphasis on reading and writing (literacy).
  • Online Assessment - assessment tools include the following elements: true/false, multiple choice, many multiple choice ("choose all that apply"), matching, short answer, essay, and fill in the blank. The testing instruments incorporate graphics.

[ Resource1, Resource2, Resource3]

Delivery System

The delivery systems that are used are standard for online distance education. However, there appears to be an effort to use a great deal of traditional delivery methods, namely text-based. The theory may be to focus on Illinois State Standards, which emphasis literacy, and also offer consistency with traditional modalities. The later part is especially true concerning the online assessment tools, which are a staple in every traditional course. The online assessment may also be appropriate for an online medium, due to the natural ease in grading such material, save for the essay portions.

for Assistance

There is a help desk that offers a comprehensive online tutorial to students. [Resource]

Further Contact

The site offers further information to include a mailing address and specific individuals to call or e-mail regarding technical assistance, registration, general questions, and program support. There is also an open ended web-mail form that can be used to send questions/comments. [Resource]


A list of teachers is offered. The site provides e-mail addresses of instructors and exactly which teachers are teaching a particular course. [Resource]

Concept Engineers

This site also provides a list of contacts of those who are key members in managing the site, maintaining the courses, and administering the operations. [Resource]


There is an eleven step process used for registering students. At this time, the IVHS does not issue high school credit. However, a local school may grant credit for IVHS courses. To be admitted for course enrollment, students must be registered through their local Illinois public high school (even if they do not attend a public school). [Resource]


TABLE 6: Literacy Guidelines




includes a definition of information literacy;

is consistent with the “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education” [ ];

corresponds with the mission statements of the institution;

corresponds with the format of related institutional documents;

clearly reflects the contributions of and expected benefits to all institutional constituencies;

appears in appropriate institutional documents;

assumes the availability of and participation in relevant lifelong learning options for all —faculty, staff, and administration; and

is reviewed periodically and, if necessary, revised.

Goals and Objectives

are consistent with the mission, goals, and objectives of programs, departments, and the institution;

establish measurable outcomes for evaluation for the program;

reflect sound pedagogical practice;

accommodate input from various constituencies;

articulate the integration of information literacy across the curriculum;

accommodate student growth in skills and understanding throughout the college years;

apply to all learners, regardless of delivery system or location;

reflect the desired outcomes of preparing students for their academic pursuits and for effective lifelong learning; and

are evaluated and reviewed periodically.


articulates its mission, goals, objectives, and pedagogical foundation;

anticipates and addresses current and future opportunities and challenges;

is tied to library and institutional information technology planning and budgeting cycles;

incorporates findings from environmental scans;

accommodates program, department, and institutional levels;

involves students, faculty, librarians, administrators, and other constituencies as appropriate to the institution;

establishes formal and informal mechanisms for communication and ongoing dialogue across the academic community;

establishes the means for implementation and adaptation;

addresses, with clear priorities, human, technological and financial resources, current and projected, including administrative and institutional support;

includes mechanisms for articulation with the curriculum;

includes a program for professional, faculty, and staff development; and

establishes a process for assessment at the outset, including periodic review of the plan to ensure flexibility.

Administrative and Institutional Support

identifies or assigns information literacy leadership and responsibilities;

plants information literacy in the institution’s mission, strategic plan, policies, and procedures;

provides funding to establish and ensure ongoing support for

-- formal and informal teaching facilities and resources
-- appropriate staffing levels
-- professional development opportunities for librarians, faculty, staff, and administrators; and

recognizes and encourages collaboration among disciplinary faculty, librarians, and other program staff and among institutional units;

communicates support for the program;

rewards achievement and participation in the information literacy program within the institution’s system.

Articulation with Curriculum

is formalized and widely disseminated;

emphasizes student-centered learning;

uses local governance structures to ensure institution-wide integration into academic or vocational programs;

identifies the scope (i.e., depth and complexity) of competencies to be acquired on a disciplinary level as well as at the course level;

sequences and integrates competencies throughout a student’s academic career, progressing in sophistication; and

specifies programs and courses charged with implementation.


centers around enhanced student learning and the development of lifelong learning skills;

engenders communication within the academic community to garner support for the program;

results in a fusion of information literacy concepts and disciplinary content;

identifies opportunities for achieving information literacy outcomes through course content and other learning experiences; and

takes place at the planning stages, delivery, assessment of student learning, and evaluation and refinement of the program.


supports diverse approaches to teaching;

incorporates appropriate information technology and other media resources;

includes active and collaborative activities;

encompasses critical thinking and reflection;

responds to multiple learning styles;

supports student-centered learning;

builds on students’ existing knowledge; and

links information literacy to ongoing coursework and real-life experiences appropriate to program and course level.


include librarians, disciplinary faculty, administrators, program coordinators, graphic designers, teaching/learning specialists, and others as needed;

serve as role models, exemplifying and advocating information literacy and lifelong learning;

are adequate in number and skills to support the program’s mission;

develop experience in instruction/teaching and assessment of student learning;

develop experience in curriculum development and expertise to develop, coordinate, implement, maintain, and evaluate information literacy programs;

employ a collaborative approach to working with others;

receive and actively engage in systematic and continual professional development and training;

receive regular evaluations about the quality of their contribution to the program.


communicate a clear message defining and describing the program and its value to targeted audiences;

provide targeted marketing and publicity to stakeholders, support groups and media channels;

target a wide variety of groups;

use a variety of outreach channels and media, both formal and informal;

include participation in campus professional development training by offering or co-sponsoring workshops and programs that relate to information literacy for faculty and staff;

advance information literacy by sharing information, methods and plans with peers from other institutions; and

are the responsibility of all members of the institution, not simply the librarians.


for program evaluation:

establishes the process of ongoing planning/improvement of the program;

measures directly progress toward meeting the goals and objectives of the program;

integrates with course and curriculum assessment as well as institutional evaluations and regional/professional accreditation initiatives; and

assumes multiple methods and purposes for assessment/evaluation
-- formative and summative
-- short term and longitudinal;

for student outcomes:

acknowledges differences in learning and teaching styles by using a variety of appropriate outcome measures, such as portfolio assessment, oral defense, quizzes, essays, direct observation, anecdotal, peer and self review, and experience;

focuses on student performance, knowledge acquisition, and attitude appraisal;

assesses both process and product;

includes student-, peer-, and self-evaluation;

for all:

includes periodic review of assessment/evaluation methods.



TABLE 7: Trends in Education



Continued Growth of Unifying Distance Education Entities

Online materials are being created at a quick pace. These materials would prove to be beneficial to distance learning either purposefully or not. There is also a need to unify operability of these materials. The Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative (ADL, 2006) organized this effort toward creating compatibility within online content. ADL gave birth to Sharable Content Object Reference Model, called SCORM, which specifies the standards by which electronic media are created (ADL, 2006).

Consequently, instructional designers will be able to use technologies for the purposes of integrating them within courses. This may offer less of a reliance upon textbooks and the publishing companies that produce them. More companies that help PDAs gain information via the Internet, like AvantGo (iSolutions Anywhere, 2003), will emerge.

Production and Proliferation of Handheld Technologies for Use in the Classroom

Portable Digital Assistants (PDAs) have become very popular among professionals. They enable professionals to gain organization, useful information, and materials from the Internet. PDAs are also becoming integral parts of classrooms (Brown, 2001).

PDA technology will grow, allowing it to become an integral part of classroom use. I predict they will also allow for the integration of distance education elements within a traditional classroom or at least the ease of use for complete distance education instruction.

Globalization: The Politics of Education will be Influenced by Macroeconomic Forces

As globalization impacts the economy, services and products will compete on a grand scale. This force within economies will produce a global economy. This global economy will place less emphasis on local providers of services and products and more on global providers. Educational services will also be included within this dynamic (Moore & Kearsley, 2003).

This movement will drive U.S. education to adopt competitive strategies. Distance education will be one such strategy. To have U.S. education use distance education competitively, standards for distance education will have to remain high.

The Changing Role of Instructors

There are a number of changing elements within the role of being an instructor (Howell, Williams, & Lindsey, 2003).

  1. Many universities have been specifically hiring professionals as distance learning instructors and/or instructional designers.
  2. As a means to move educational systems forward, it has been proposed that faculty tenure be eliminated. Doing so will force instructors to adopt competitive methodologies, strategies, and tools.
  3. The movement of instructors toward distance education and technologies that broaden education will force changes in workload and also re-emphasize the importance of instructor teaming to prevent isolationism.

The Changing Role of Academics

Similar to instruction, there will be changes to academics. Here are the anticipated changes (Howell, Williams, & Lindsey, 2003).

  1. There will be a shift toward learner-centered courses. Concentrating on modes of interaction, which include learner-content, learner-instructor, and learner-learner, will allow educators to focus on learning, not simply teaching.
  2. As a means for ensuring quality of learning, accountability will be a firm factor within education.
  3. Courses will focus on competency and obtaining standards. Where course completion may now be the standard, students will be made to obtain and surpass specified standards.