for Distance Education
Online learning has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years. Tightening budgets will likely chip away at both teachers’ and learners’ ability to meet up in the traditional classroom. This shift toward technology is helping adult learners realize the real potential of computer based learning. With the right tools and strategies, the field of adult education is poised to meet the growing demand for education that is flexible in terms of time and place. This implementation guide gives educators a blueprint for meeting the needs of distance learners, and expanding adult education services in exciting new directions.
Basic Implementation Process/Overview
Getting great results with GED Academy really is that simple. If you have questions about getting started, or ideas for keeping learners on task at a distance, your account rep is at your service. This implementation guide has additional strategies to help you focus your distance education services with suggestions for promotion, screening, orientation, motivating your learners, and assessing and reporting gains. If something is missing here, let your state’s account manager know, and we’ll add your contribution at the next update.
How Distance Education Meets Your Needs:
Improve Pass Rate:
Promotion and Targeted Enrollment
The opportunity that online learning presents resonates with motivated adult learners. Barriers of time and place no longer stand in their way. Although many capable learners who could benefit from studying online don’t ask for distance education, the offer to work independently can inspire self-direction in the truly motivated. For adult education programs, the most important job is to spread the word that credible, web-based education programs are within reach. After prominently featuring distance education options, the next step is receiving all of the interested learners, determining who has the ability to be successful studying online, and referring learners to the appropriate service, whether it’s at a distance or in a traditional service.
Marketing online learning needs to be aggressive. Otherwise, the population that wants to study over the Internet may never think twice about setting foot in an adult education program, or worse, they could fall prey to an online scam.
Promoting online adult education services requires a different perspective. Instead of solely marketing the goal of the program, like GED attainment, workforce skills, literacy and basic skills, consider promoting the ways that online learning is different from the learners’ established notion of “going back to school” in the traditional classroom setting.
You can probably come up with better enticements and slogans than these. Remember that the medium represents opportunity, flexibility, and the removal of barriers. Put that together with the skills you have to offer and you’ve got a powerful marketing message.
Use your online services to lower the threshold for your learners’ participation. If they are hesitant to come in for an assessment, but they believe that online learning is the answer for them, create a GED Academy student account for them so they can take our online practice tests and begin their personalized learning plan. According to NRS, a reportable assessment test needs to be administered within the first 6 hours of contact/instruction time, so you can still bring them in for an assessment once your student is committed to his or her new program of study.
Consider the following promotional avenues:
Marketing distance education within the organization can be especially powerful because online learning can make a significant difference in key outcome areas.
Screening and Orientation
GED Academy was built to accommodate all levels of learners, starting with 4th grade reading level and even low computer literacy. With that in mind, with the proper support in place, you should feel free to give any adult education students accounts on the program. However, if seats on your subscription are scarce or if your distance education program has specific requirements, you may want to determine whether each learner has the attributes needed to be successful as a self-directed distance learner. Consider this traffic light rubric:
Whether a student was recruited internally or externally, your organization would be wise to require prospective distance learners to demonstrate their initiative at the start of their online learning endeavor. It is important that the learner has actively chosen to participate, and the start of a program provides several opportunities for the student to make it clear that they are prepared for the responsibility of self-directed learning. In short, keep the ball in their court. Before spending time pursuing and supporting the learner, consider asking new online learners to do any or all of the following as formative assessments of their online learning capability:
Have prospective online learners:
Orientation: An orientation session (or period, multiple sessions) is optional during enrollment in a distance education program. However, learners who are not ideal candidates for DE may benefit greatly from the additional support at the onset, and return an exponentially higher output in terms of hours of online work, and require less contact and support throughout the program.
Characteristics that typically indicate the need for an orientation and/or more support:
Activities that could be included in an orientation:
Support and contact hours
For DE hours to be counted (toward the 60hr minimum for post-testing), the learner must have accumulated a minimum of 12 contact hours (see OVAE/NRS guidelines linked below). Contact time can take place at the beginning, middle, or end of a distance education course and can consist of any or all of the following:
The GED Academy learning management system enables close monitoring and feedback to help keep learners on track toward their stated goal. However, aside from periodic assessment tests, facilitation and management duties are optional once you’ve enrolled a learner in GED Academy. According to the 2010 study of Pennsylvania’s rural GED students, distance learners were most challenged by “lack of support or teacher response.” Although GED Academy takes most of the weight of facilitation off of instructors, because it was designed for pure distance learning by independent learners, ongoing responsive communication with trained educators plays an important role.
Based on your instructional approach, you may choose to support your online learners with a great deal of contact, none at all, or something in between. Because GED Academy progress reports highlights learners’ challenges, instructors should recognize opportunities to offer feedback and strike a balance between frequent encouragement and empowering learners’ self-direction.
For a facilitation-heavy approach, an online instructor may spend 10 hours per week observing and communicating with 15-20 learners. This will depend on the students’ skill levels, communication needs and styles.
For a hands-off approach, an adult education program staff person could be designated to handle hundreds of enrollments in the online curricula, monitor activity levels, and refer learners to testing or traditional classes, as appropriate, in just the same 10 hours per week.
Most likely, you will want to bring your distance learners back for a post-test after they have reached your state’s required number of reportable contact (and proxy contact) hours. Likewise, when a learner has reached the desired level in each of the five subject areas of the GED, or if they have reached the end of their progress bar, you may want to contact them about taking a GED test. Inactivating their account is one way to get their attention, because they won’t be able to log in.
Food for thought: Consider which mode you prefer with your learners according to this chart on the four stages of self-directed learning. How much is dependent on the learners’ abilities and attitude? Does the context of your own facility and availability of publicly accessible internet play a role?.
Contact hours are accumulated through instruction, tutoring, and counseling delivered on the premises of the adult education program. If GED Academy is used in class, or in a computer lab at the adult education program, then the hours would likely be counted as contact hours.
Proxy hours are accumulated through the learners’ work performed outside the adult education premises. GED Academy uses the ‘clock time model’ to measure proxy hours. If you need further details and documentation to have any of Essential Education’s programs adopted into your state’s list of reportable curricula, please contact us for assistance.
The time on task reporting features of GED Academy’s LMS are designed to make it easy for you to gather reportable data. For the period of time in question, simply set the data parameters and the management system will show you the amount of time your learners have spent studying online. The LMS also shows the total possible time for each lesson and learning plan, so you have an idea of how far your learners have to go.
Training for Teachers
Implementing Fees for Service
It is totally up to the local program, whether or not to charge for services, although some states and localities mandate that adult education services are offered at no charge. Many learners expect GED services to be expensive, especially if the program is individualized and accelerated. Is FREE a selling point for the learner? Or does charging for services help obtain a stronger commitment from the learner to study and follow through on their goal of obtaining a GED?
With distance education services, you will probably have a paid facilitator of online learning to guide learners through the process of goal-setting, studying and testing though it can be much less time-intensive than providing traditional classes. Blended learners, on the other hand, may require more teacher time to ensure that there is synergy between classroom lessons and the learners’ online work. Either way, participation in adult education can help a learner earn $500,000 more over the course of their lifetime if they earn a GED credential. So, it’s reasonable to ask to be compensated, even if the amount is minimal, symbolic, or on a sliding scale.
Partnerships to Expand Enrollment
Once you have a distance education program, your potential partnerships in the community have just multiplied. There are bound to be organizations in your region that would like to add educational services to their list of resources for their clients (think Social Services, unemployment offices, churches, sizeable businesses, etc). Whereas, an agency may not be able to refer their clients for classes (for whatever reason), distance education, especially at their location, may peak their interest.
Start setting up satellites wherever there is internet access. Does an organization have computer labs? Will they let you come do assessment testing there? Maybe they'll contribute to help cover subscription costs to expanded number of seats to include their clients. If you can work out a mutually beneficial arrangement, then your community partners can essentially market your distance ed services, and all you have to do is report the additional students and seat-time.
Writing Winning Grant Proposals
Many funders are especially interested in supporting innovation and new directions in adult education services. Increasingly, adult education administrators at the state and federal levels are requesting that online learning become a significant part of adult ed services.
We can help you describe the need for online learning and how you’re going to meet it, what kinds of results you can reasonably expect, and even how distance learning is likely to change over time. We’ve been providing online learning for more learners each year than most states have served in the past decade. For instance, the “Reasons Why Distance Ed” section of this implementation guide may be useful language to strengthen your needs statement. Other aspects of this document may help you fill out your distance education program design.
More importantly, pilot projects and experiments with documented results will make a strong case to any funder for supporting your future efforts. Working with Essential Education means that you’ve got distance education experts in your corner, and your grant proposals should reflect the potential of that powerful partnership.
Great learning tools don’t help students unless teachers use them. If this Implementation Guide inspires you to do one thing, let it be to follow the Basic Implementation Overview at the start. In other words, create student accounts. You can’t go wrong by putting the tools in your learners’ hands.. The GED Academy system will do the rest. The results you see will have a positive effect on your credentialing and retention rate while generating excitement in the community for your adult education program’s services.
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Overview of OVAE’s outlook on Distance Education:
OVAE on Accountability and Reporting (including a link to the NRS Guidelines for Distance Learners)