Distance Learning - A Time of Transition  

September 26, 2014
“Transition- The process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.” 

With the realignment of staff which includes distance learning within ESU 10 to form the Teaching and Learning division of services, it is obvious that transition is in the works. Transition in distance learning includes the following:

In 2008, LB 1208 realigned distance learning as a role of the ESUs. This legislation led to 31 schools in ESU 10 and 9 schools in ESU 11 being supported by ESU 10.

LB 1208 also provided state funding that allowed for schools to update their video conferencing tech­nology and for the past 7 years has provided incentive dollars from lottery funds to schools who sent or received classes over video conferencing. Annually that has amounted to between $400,000 and $500,000 to ESU 10 and 11schools.

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, LB 1208 legislation ends and incentive funding will go away. As we transition away from incentive dollars, schools will be reviewing their needs for sending and/or receiving classes over video conferencing and the funding related to sharing courses.

Blended Learning
The Nebraska Department of Education and the ESUs Coordinating Council (ESUCC) have put forth the concept of Blended Learning. Blended Learning is an educational model that combines traditional face-to­ face/distance classroom methods with online delivery and participation and includes an ele­ment of student control over time, place, path, and pace.

As the idea of Blended Learning extends the reach of distance learning beyond video conferenc­ing to include online learning, there will be additional need to increase the opportunity to all K- 12 students to increase their global outreach.

Virtual Field Trips for Curriculum Enrichment
Over the years ESU 10 has provided both resources and opportunities encouraging schools to make global connections in support of curriculum enrichment. During the upcoming year, we will be reaching out to Nebraska educational providers such as MONA, Willa Cather Foundation, Durham Museum, etc., and seek to imbed lessons through remote conferencing into their curriculum.

Desktop application software will be available to schools which will allow them to use their computer or smart tablets to participate in these conferences . In July ESU 10 submitted a USDA grant on behalf of our schools which if awarded would provide a long term solution for desktop application software.

Teaching and Learning Team
In looking at the changes and possible impact that LB1208 will have on video conferencing; the fu­ture role that Blended Learning could provide as more students become remote learners through both video conferencing and online learning; and there is additional global outreach for K-12 through vir­tual enrichment and collaboration conferencing;  the importance of the T&L Team to first understand these possibilities and then jointly support schools in these endeavors is of great importance.

For the past thirteen years, I have served as the distance learning coordinator for ESU10. During the upcoming year, I will not only be working with our schools to assist in meeting their distance learning needs but more importantly, I hope to involve the T&L team in their understanding and support of these services.

-by John Stritt, Distance Learning Coordinator