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Posts Tagged ‘internet-based learning’

Navigation! Graphics!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012
Navigation! Graphics! Those two things are the name of the game in Internet websites. eTutor is proud of its graphics, which appeal to a diversity of students. We use cartoons, current baseball stars, accurate diagrams of the circulatory system, and photographs of Tasmanian Devils, to name just a few. Photos of the starry night sky show the position of Orion and the Pleiades. In a lesson on comets, there are actual photos of comets. For younger children, we use appealing graphic representation of tomatoes, bunnies, and clowns.

The graphics are important because they must catch — and HOLD — a student’s interest and imagination. We choose graphics that illustrate our lessons — sometimes precisely (as in the graphics of the brain in our science lessons), sometimes whimsically (an octopus to illustrate the eight parts of speech.) Consistently, users tell us that our graphics are one of their favorite features.

Sample pictures from E-Tutor lessons. Clikck here to take a quick tour of E-Tutor.

The second important part of a Website is the navigation. How easy is it? eTutor requires you to know two things to be able to navigate it. First, the “BACK” button does not work. When parents and teachers want their students using eTutor, a prime concern is that students stay within that website. We guarantee our sites are 100% secure. By NOT using the “BACK” button (and instead closing windows by clicking in the top right or left hand corner), students are kept “within”  eTutor. It is easy for teachers and students to learn this and adjust to this in our website. Second, we use the “scroll” feature frequently. We want eTutor to load quickly and accurately. By loading the lesson all at once, and using the scroll feature (or clicking on the Index), students have very little to learn in terms of navigation. Students can click on the area they want to go to —”Study Guide”, for example — or scroll through the whole lesson. Either way,  eTutor provides an illustrative trip through education!



Safety Tips for Parents and Children Using the Internet

Friday, November 30th, 2012
  • Keep the computer in a main area of the home, not in your child’s bedroom. The computer should be set up where it is easy for parents to see the screen and monitor behavior.
  • Spend time with your children while they explore the Internet. Let your child know that you care and that you intend to participate.
  • Keep your children out of unmonitored chat rooms. The best Internet filtering software blocks access to all chat to keep children safe from the threat of dangerous persons, masquerading as kids.
  • Become familiar with the quality family-friendly and kid-friendly sites on the Web. Load your computer with bookmarks to sites, such as www.homeschoolingingcorner.com, www.e-tutor.com and www.knowledgehq.com. These sites offer both great educational and entertaining information for children that allows them to explore safely and will discourage wandering.
  • Know your child’s e-mail password and tell your children to inform you immediately about troubling, unsolicited e-mail. Make sure they understand it is not necessarily their fault if such e-mail arrives.
  • Inform your kids of personal information that should never be given out over the Internet without your consent; telephone numbers, address, credit card numbers, name of school, age, financial information, etc.
  • Stay abreast of technology and regulatory changes regarding Internet safety.
  • Take advantage of the Web filtering software available in the marketplace. These block access to inappropriate sites related to sex, drugs/alcohol, hate and violence and gambling.
  • Let your child know that you are there to talk anytime, about anything they come across that may cause discomfort.
  • It is important to review these tips from time to time to ensure these guidelines are being implemented.

Knowledge is Power

Monday, November 26th, 2012

If you have the information, you can distinguish truth from lies, good from bad, safety from danger plus much, much more.  If you have the knowledge, then the world is at your fingertips.  Computers and the Internet, plus a rich and varied curriculum enable students to gain this power.   Knowledge comes in the form of information. If you can access the appropriate information for learning and solving problems, then you can be freed from dependence on others to give you information.

  • Read books downloaded from The Internet.
  • Seek employment.
  • Research school projects.
  • Take online courses for college credit.
  • Research legal matters..
  • Network with other people.
  • Correspond with family and friends all over the world.
  • Enjoy Internet Radio.
  • Increase your learning efficiency and understanding of skills on concepts needed for success.

High School Students Meet With Success Online

Monday, November 12th, 2012
Choosing a strong online instructional program at the high school level is a challenge. Parents and students need to find a virtual program that offers an accredited diploma and provides academic support for students from a certified staff.

Whether looking to catch up, are unable to attend school for medical reasons, are pursuing a GED or simply want a quality high school education, the combination of an accredited curriculum with online tutors ensures a quality education that is recognized across the nation.

While we believe that this is a winning formula, online instruction is different from traditional schooling in some important ways. There is no driving to campus and fighting for a parking space, because students aren’t meeting in a classroom at a regular time and place. Communication with the tutor will take place online, not in person. Without an instructor reminding the student of what is due in class each week, the student will have more responsibility for their own learning. Students will need basic computing skills and convenient access to the Internet.

The skills the high school student needs most to be a successful online learner are the same ones needed in traditional schooling: preparation, organization and self-discipline. The difference is in how these are applied.  The best programs are designed to help students get the most out of their online instructional program.

As an online learner, there are things the student can do to make their learning a successful, rewarding experience. Some are common sense, like being prepared and getting work done on time, while others are less intuitive but important. The following may help the student get the most out of an online learning experience.

Get Comfortable

Spend time at the computer and on the Internet everyday, getting comfortable with the equipment and surroundings. Practice computing skills until confident the online instruction can be fully completed.

Be Prepared

Read instructional material carefully. What activities need to be completed? When are assignments due? How can the student contact the tutor? How can the student get help if needed? Mark important dates on a calendar.

Plan Ahead

Read the instructional guides and handbooks before starting the program. Practice using the online program.  Find out if the computer, to be used, has a firewall. Will it prevent the student from accessing particular web sites or using browser plug-ins to view resources included in the instructional program? Learn how to get around before starting, so that connecting to learning is easy and ready for the learner.

Get Organized

Set aside a significant amount of time each week for online learning. We recommend at least twenty hours. Online learning requires as much time and effort as regular schooling. Develop a schedule and stick to it. Without the structure of weekly class meetings, the student may be tempted to put off assignments and instruction until the last minute. Instead, the student should give himself extra time to do the work, because technology can slow down the process.

Be Dependable

Without an instructor and fellow students nearby to offer help and support, the student will be relying on himself more than ever. One way, is to use the resources that are available in most programs, including online help, tutorials, handbooks and the Internet. Another is to monitor progress by knowing where the student is in each subject; which assignments have been completed? Which lay ahead?

Develop Good Habits

One way to be a successful online learner is to develop good habits early. Email will be the main form of communication in most programs. Get into the habit of checking email at least once a day.

Importance of Accrediting Online Learning Programs

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Accreditation comes from the Latin word credito–meaning to trust since the late 1800’s. American schools and colleges have had their trustworthiness and quality validated through accreditation.  Recently some online educational programs have sought accreditation.  The value of being accredited is that the quality of the online instructional program  is validated through Self-Study and on-site evaluation by educational professionals.

˜Benefits to Students

  • Increased performance. Accreditation focuses the program on improving learning for all students. A six-year study of schools actively engaged in the accreditation process revealed that 79% made verifiable gains in student achievement.
  • Transfer of credits. In addition to raising student achievement, accreditation eases the transition of students as they move from an online program to another accredited school. The regional nature of accreditation allows a receiving school in the same or another state to assess the quality of the online learning program and accept the incoming student’s credits and academic record. This ease of transfer applies across the nation through reciprocal agreements between the regional accrediting agencies.
  • Access to programs and scholarships. Accreditation can also benefit web-based students as they participate in specific sports programs, apply for federal grants or scholarships, or pursue admission to colleges, technical schools, or military programs that require students to come from accredited schools.

˜Benefits to Parents and the General Public

Accreditation assures parents and the public that the program is focused on raising student achievement, providing a safe and enriching learning environment, and maintaining an efficient and effective operation. Accreditation extends across state lines, assuring parents and the public that the online learning adheres to high quality standards based on the latest research and successful professional practice.

˜Benefits to Educators

Accreditation provides the online instructional staff with a proven process for raising student achievement.  Educators benefit from multiple resources (publications, manuals, software, professional development, and conferences), all of which assist in educational improvement. In addition, educators gain access to a network of schools to share best practices and professional knowledge.  Educators gain valuable information about effective practices in other programs through participation on peer review teams. Through the accreditation process and resources, the online program improves its ability to analyze data and make sound educational decisions based on that data. Finally, accreditation provides program administrators with deserved recognition for going above and beyond the minimum to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to quality and to success for all

Online Instructional Framework

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Online instruction should  focus on relevant and interesting topics emphasizing basic skills with content that applies to real-life situations which students can relate to, such as creating a budget or reviewing a movie.
The e-Tutor lesson modules, consist of nine parts followed by an assessment section, which contains quizzes and an exam.
  1. Introduction – a brief statement explaining the topic of the lesson.
  2. Grade Level – e-Tutor lessons are cross-aged at Primary, Intermediate, Middle/Jr. High, and High School.
  3. Lesson Goals – goals and objectives are modeled after national and state learning standards in the major subject areas.
  4. Resources – links to quality education web sites where students can find information to reinforce or expand upon the information given in the Study Guide.
  5. Lesson Problem – setting the stage for learning by posing a question(s) to be answered in completing the lesson.
  6. Vocabulary – enriched vocabulary words new to students are hyper-linked to dictionaries on the Internet.
  7. Study Guide – the main body of each lesson contains information on basic skills and concepts that students need to be successful learners.
  8. Activities – worksheets, experiments, projects that give the student practice in what s/he has learned.
  9. Extended Learning – additional thought provoking activities that stimulate logical thinking, creative reasoning and critical thinking.

Each section of the learning modules (Resources, Vocabulary, Study Guide, Activities, and Extended Learning) contributes to the learning process in a unique way.  These modules, interesting topics and colorful graphics, make the online instructional program effective and inviting to the student.  With the use of many valuable online educational resources, no place in the world is more than a few mouse clicks away.

For example, in a lesson module that investigates the giant pandas, the student learns about the pressing problem of saving the endangered animal by connecting to the World Wildlife Funds where the giant panda is one of the top ten most endangered species.  The student is later linked to a map of China to study the native terrain of the pandas and to the San Diego Zoo for information about panda research.  In this engaged learning environment, the students routinely take virtual field trips to every corner of the earth from the computer.

Online students are not time-stressed.   A well-developed online instructional program can help students focus on learning, instead of time, by assisting the learner to manage information, by providing resources, and by being “open” 24 hours a day.   This method of learning encourages students to learn by doing, simulating the real world situation.

Tech Savvy Students Ready for Online Learning

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

According to research eighty-seven percent of all youth between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet.  This is a familiar medium for young learners today, one which has already captured students’ interest. Students enter an online program with a sense of confidence with the medium. Outdated technology programs and tools will turn these techno-savvy students away from online learning, so online programs need to be on the cutting edge.

Online instruction for k-12 students is still in its infancy and educators are just beginning to recognize its value. America’s young people have embraced the computer and the Internet as their own. Half of all students age eight or older use the computer every day and nearly seventy-five percent have a computer at home. Students use the Internet for information gathering, email, and chat. Internet-based learning is a natural extension of their use of the Internet and online learning programs can provide focus and guidance to increase students’ natural need to learn (Angulo, 2001).  Quality programs provide all instructional material, give immediate feedback, facilitate use of email, and monitor programs like Twitter and Facebook to create forums for online communities.

Web-based instruction encourages students to share their work, providing a safe and familiar environment to do so. Students’ familiarity with the medium fosters feelings of competence and self-confidence.  Online learning additionally provides educators the opportunity to guide students to quality information on the Internet. Students learn how to use critical thinking skills to become even more skilled in navigating the wealth of information available on the Internet.

Assuring Quality Online Programs through Accreditation

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Online instructional programs should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as CITA, NCA, or SAS.  Since the late 1800’s, American schools and colleges have had their trustworthiness and quality validated through accreditation.  The value of being accredited is that the quality of online education is validated through independent, self-study and on-site evaluation by educational professionals. As a result of the accreditation, the online program is more focused on improving student achievement.

Accreditation assures parents and the public that the online program is focused on raising student achievement, providing a safe and enriching online learning environment, adhering to high quality standards based on the latest research and successful professional practice, and maintaining an efficient and effective operation. Accreditation also extends across state lines, thus facilitating a consistent program for all U. S. students.

Accreditation provides the instructional staff with a proven process for raising student achievement. Online learning programs benefit from multiple resources including publications, current research, manuals, software, professional development, and conferences.  Through the accreditation process and resources, online programs improve their ability to analyze data and make sound educational decisions based on that data.

In addition to raising student achievement, accreditation eases the transition of students as they move from one online program to another accredited online program or into a traditional school program.  The regional nature of accreditation allows a receiving program in the same or another state to assess the quality of the online program and accept the incoming student’s credits and academic record. This ease of transfer applies across the nation through reciprocal agreements among the regional accrediting agencies.

Seven Governing Goals for Online Learning

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Online education powerfully combines aspects of distance learning and open learning with the expertise of an experienced online instructor who guides the learning process.  Distance learning is generally defined as any mode of learning where the study takes place wholly at home but the materials are still “physical,” like computer programs, books, cassettes, CD-ROMs, and videos. Open learning is where study takes place off site the majority of the time, but requires some infrequent attendance at a center. It includes mediums that are both physical and electronic. Online learning is where the study takes place over the Internet, either live or via email lessons sent to the student’s inbox.

The online instructional program should include seven governing goals:

1. An online community is established and interaction is monitored by an educator.  An online community of learners increases the likelihood of success for students.   Without a social or emotional connection, technology further distances the learner from the desire to connect with the content (Palloff & Pratt, 1999).

2.   Online instruction should follow a set format and needs to be consistent according to preset specifications across all programs, while adhering to core standards for learning.

3. Assessment that includes immediate feedback should be customized to align with student progress through smart software which monitors results of student-self assessment, parent assessment and  program/educator assessment.

4. Parents need to be part of the teaching-learning process.  Online learning lends itself well to parental involvement.  The flexible nature of online learning is ideal for parents who don’t have time to meet with educators.  Parental resources should be available for parents to review 24/7.   Programs need to be simple and easy to use so that parents have equal access to the important information available to them.  Children may be able to help their parents, but this should not be an expected part of the program.

5. Age appropriate Internet links need to be a part of each online lesson module, with smart programs checking for dead links. The links should support the concept or skill being taught in the instructional program.

6. Instructional material should be available for a broad cross-section of students from grades K-12.

7. While completing instructional material, students will learn that the Internet is a tool that can enhance learning, independence, self direction and can provide for the efficient use and validation of reliable information.

Misconceptions About Online Learning

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Current data is misleading, referring to any and all instruction that occurs via the Internet as “online learning” when much of the instruction is nothing more than scanned copies of materials used in the traditional classroom.  The term “online learning” has been muddied as those claiming to use the medium either do not understand the qualitative difference between traditional classroom instruction and online instruction, or they claim use of technology in order to fulfill administrative requirements for such, without providing authentic online instruction. Lack of  training for innovative, thoughtful, and creative use of technology often stymies effective teaching online.

Online education powerfully combines aspects of distance learning and open learning with the expertise of an experienced online instructor who guides the learning process. Distance learning is generally defined as any mode of learning where the study takes place wholly at home but the materials are still “physical,”  like books, cassettes, CD-ROMs, and videos.  Open learning takes place off site the majority of the time, but requires some infrequent attendance at a center. It includes mediums that are both physical and electronic. Online learning study takes place over the Internet, either live or via email lessons sent to the student’s inbox.

Current research would have us believe that the need for online learning is already being met, that K – 12 online learning is the direction education is already headed. Research states that seven hundred thousand students across the U. S. in grades K – 12 were enrolled in online learning in 2006, and 2007-2008 enrollment estimates were at 1,030,000 (Picciano & Seaman, 2009) and that K – 12 Internet-based education is growing by 30 to 47 percent each year (Newman, Stein, & Trask, 2003; Picciano & Seaman, 2007). “Forty four states have significant supplemental online learning programs, or significant full-time programs” (Watson, et al., 2008, p. 8). Other states are in the planning stages for online learning programs. Seventy one percent of school districts that currently offer distance education programs are planning to grow their programs in the next year (NCES, 2008).

While these statistics may be accurate, what is lacking is a clear definition of what online learning looks like in practice.  Defining online courses, as those that rely on eighty percent of instruction online is merely the first step in defining online education. We propose a definition that clarifies some of the misconceptions teachers, administrators, and students may have about online education. These include concerns that online instruction leaves the  teacher out of the educational process, that average or below-average performing students in traditional classrooms fare even more poorly in online courses, and that online courses are inferior to traditional classroom settings (Picciano & Seaman, 2009).

The model online instructional program provides the following:

  • The program meets National Goals for Learning in the areas of Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Science and is designed for students from kindergarten through grade twelve.
  • Each lesson module has several parts including an introduction, vocabulary, a lesson problem, statement of curricular standards, resources, study guide, activities, extended learning, and quizzes and exams.
  • An adequate number of lesson modules are provided to fulfill the instructional requirement for students.  These modules include a wide range of topics, informational web sites and interesting activities that help to create a unique learning experience.
  • The program provides immediate feedback to students and parents. Multiple choice questions follow each study guide to check for comprehension and understanding of concepts learned.
  • The program includes student and teacher/parent resources, discussion area, homework help, and unique email features.
  • Lesson modules are written by educators in multiple subject areas. Students can work at their own ability level and at their own pace. The lesson modules emphasize achievement in basic skills for learning.
  • The most important key to online learning is student success and students are more likely to succeed if the information is interesting and relevant for them.
  • The original content of the lesson modules apply to real life situations that students can relate to, such as, creating a budget or reviewing a movie.
  • The program is fully accessible through the Internet. There should be no plug-ins, or additional software with the program.
  • The depth of content, use of graphics, activities and inclusion of web sites make the typical online instructional program unique when compared to other educational programs and sites on the Internet.