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Wednesday, August 04, 2010


REL-Midwest - Rural Distance Learning Project: Overview of Research And Findings

The second session at the REL-Midwest: Online Learning Opportunities For Rural Schools event was a keynote presentation by Matt Irvin of the National Research Center on Rural Education Support on "Rural Distance Learning Project: Overview of Research And Findings".

He began with some of the same rural issues that Doris had mentioned, although with a focus on the small student populations limiting funding and course selection, along with the inability to attract and retain high quality teachers. While distance education can be used as a way to address some of these issues, there are some challenges for the use of distance education in the K-12 environment (including isolationism, lack of interaction, high drop-out rate).

He then moved to a discussion of the rural education education survey that they conducted in 2005-06. The survey included 400 randomly selected school districts, including 10% that qualified for the Small Rural School Achievement program and 10% that qualified for the Rural Low Income School program, and had a 95% participation rate. Some of the results included:
Matt then moved on to a discussion of the Enhancing Rural Online Learning project and the actual intervention or training that was created for the school-based facilitator. The study itself was a 2 year cluster randomized controlled trial that included:
The study thus far has found that the program reduced drop-out rate (i.e., student in an individual course and schools leaving the distance program), but did not appear to affect student learning. Based on the qualitative data, the teachers felt that the presence of a facilitator was crucial. The facilitators reported that the main challenges were with the students enrolled in AP courses (e.g., rigor of the course and grading, lack of face-to-face communication, and lack of immediate feedback from online instruction). Finally, the facilitators were positive towards the Facilitator Preparation Program, indicating that they were very, very helpful - as it clarified their role and need to actively support students.

This entry is re-posted at REL-Midwest - Rural Distance Learning Project: Overview of Research And Findings on Virtual School Meanderings.

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