Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 30, 2008


Host: Ted Simons

e-Learning


  • Because of the Internet, students don�t have to sit in a traditional classroom to get an education. We examine the variety of e-Learning opportunities that exist in Arizona.
Guests:
  • Cathy Poplin - Chair, State's E-Learning Task Force
Category: Education

View Transcript
>>Ted Simons:
Lake Havasu City is a long way from Scottsdale, but in cyberspace it can be as close as your fingertips. That may explain why the Lake Havasu Unified School District was in Scottsdale this past weekend recruiting students for its first online high school. David Majure reports.

>>Dodie Gildea:
What you see here basically is the Havasu online home room.

>>David Majure:
Dodie Gildea works for the Havasu online. It's a tuition-free online high school offered by the Lake Havasu Unified School District.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It's a fun experience. Engaging, interactive. I'm going to show you some of that as we go along.

>>David Majure:
On this day she was promoting the program in Scottsdale at one of several open houses taking place across the state.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Something to address a lot of different interests is the key here.

>>David Majure:
Programs like Havasu online were authorized by state lawmakers back in 1998 when they passed TAPI legislation.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It is a TAPI legislation.

>>David Majure:
Now that we're clear about that, what does TAPI stand for?

>>Dodie Gildea:
I know technology assisted something.

>>David Majure:
Technology assisted project-based instruction. It's an acronym only a bureaucrat could love. There are currently seven charter schools and seven school districts that offer TAPI programs. Lake Havasu unified has had its for about four years. This year Havasu online is expanding. It's offering more than 80 courses, about 20 of them are advanced placement.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Having 20 of those gives a range of opportunities for students who maybe are in their current high school and that high school doesn't offer that. So now they can take it online and complement what they're doing at their current high school.

>>David Majure:
Full-time or part-time with Havasu online, students get a resource-rich, interactive environment.

>>Dodie Gildea:
Our teachers also are Arizona certified, highly-qualified. Their interaction is also key.
You'll research and submit all your assignments online. If a student does not have a computer we will loan them one during the course time.

>>David Majure:
There are some safeguards to make sure students are doing the work.

>>Dodie Gildea:
We not only look at when they log in so we can kind of have an idea of when they may be online, but we also have them report their time.

>>David Majure:
And final exam must be taken in the presence of a Havasu online representative. The overall goal of Havasu online is to address the many different needs of different types of students.

>>Dodie Gildea:
It just gives students the ability to get what they need and get what they want.

>>Ted Simons:
Joining me now to talk about online learning is Cathy Poplin, chair of the state's E-Learning tasks force; also the state department of education's she's also the state department of education's deputy associate superintendent for educational technology.
Let's get a definition of E-Learning.

>>Cathy Poplin:
That is something we are grappling with as a task force. It's very broad. The definition we've been using encompasses any type of digital media, whether it's served up through the internet or on a computer from a CD Rom. So it's quite a wide range of definitions.

>>Ted Simons:
The E-Learning task force, when did it get started, and what were the goals when it started and how have those goals changed?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Okay. It was put into legislation in 2006. We had our first meeting in December of 2006. And I really represent Superintendent Horne as his designee on the task force. It's made up of appointees from the House of Representatives, from the president of the senate and from the governor's office.

>>Ted Simons:
A lot of folks who try to get on the same page, isn't it?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Yes, exactly. And we have three really goals, and one is to look at how other states are implementing E-Learning, looking at ways we can implement E-Learning programs within Arizona and then develop and implement innovative E-Learning programs in Arizona.

>>Ted Simons:
You look at different states. Which states seem to be getting it right and were states that you can learn from?

>>Cathy Poplin:
Florida has one of the largest online schools, Florida virtual high school. They've been doing it for nearly 10 years and have a good track record and a very extensive teacher training program which I think is one of their highlights of their program. Michigan is starting a program with online learning, and they did something very innovative. They required all of their high school students to take one online learning class in high school to prepare them for going to college. So there's many models that we looked at. And we've used the information from the North American council on online learning called NACOL that keeps a handle on what's going on with E-Learning in the United States.

>>Ted Simons:
When anyone talks about using the internet for educational purposes or for other wide reaching purposes, accessibility always becomes an issue. How difficult is that in Arizona?

>>Cathy Poplin:
It's still a challenge. If you look at our national -- there's a technology counts report each year. And Arizona has scored lower than the national average on access to technology. That has many facets. One is funding. Well, that's probably the number one is funding. And understanding the value of technology. It's not just an extra but really it's a mainstay in education today. Access is big.

>>Ted Simons:
I would guess another concern with E-Learning when you're not there with the kid all the time is how do you make sure the kid's doing all the work?

>>Cathy Poplin:
That's been the age-long dilemma with online learning or even the old what did you used to do, the correspondence courses. Somebody else could be doing it. Some of the solutions are making sure you test in person, that you're there so you can -- if someone else is doing your coursework you still need to show up to take the test. So that's one measure. Students are held accountable in our TAPI schools by self-reporting. You can also track how long they've stayed online. Some of the new software actually will test key strokes and so you know if they're just left or if they're actually online. So that is an issue that I think with the testing and person and some of the other measures that they're coming up with, you can be pretty much for sure that you have a student.

>>Ted Simons:
And talk about funding issues, if you could, especially with the idea of counting students and how that place into this dynamic.

>>Cathy Poplin:
One of the things you learn in task force, one of their new tasks is to look at funding for this type of learning. And I know that TAPI schools have had some issues with over funding students because they often have dual concurrent enrollment in the regular high school as well as one of the online programs. And the funding issue coming with see the time and all those. And I'm not 100\% sure what's there. But I know that we need to look at the funding issue. And that's why the task force was enlarged, their responsibilities, to look at the funding issue as it pertains to E-Learning.

>>Ted Simons:
Okay. And as far as teachers are concerned, they've got something called ideal. What is that?

>> Cathy Poplin:
Yes. Well, that was one of Superintendent Horne's major initiatives in 2005. It's an online web portal, educational portal. Right now it's focused on teachers and administrators. They can go online and take professional development; they can find resources for their classroom aligned with our Arizona state standards. There's online collaborative areas, there's access to many of our Google docs, and we do all this in partnership with Arizona State University.

>>Ted Simons:
Sounds like something that might be good for students, too.

>>Cathy Poplin:
We focused on teachers initially to make sure they were served and then we're bringing students on. And we're doing it in a methodic, systematic way to make sure when they're online there will be something very valuable for them. And it's a perfect platform for E-Learning. So we will look at how we can either supplement what a teacher is doing in the classroom with some online activities, or AP online courses. And there's many things we're looking at.

>>Ted Simons:
Very good. Thank you so much for joining us to talk about this. We appreciate it.

>>Cathy Poplin:
You're welcome.

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