the advancement of technology, distance education
has experienced a renaissance in delivering
curriculum via videoconferencing and the Web. Virtual classrooms
have popped up at educational institutions across the U.S. and
around the world. The concept of a virtual learning space allows
the individual the flexibility to take a course anytime, anywhere;
to interact with professors and other students in small learning
communities; and to choose from a wide range of course offerings.
This trend is now filtering down to K-12 schools. This idea is
particularly attractive to students in remote areas who would
not otherwise be able to take certain courses because there are
enough students or a qualified teacher is unavailable. It is
also an innovative way to provide professional development or continuing
education to K-12 teachers.
To be instructional,
a site needs to have all of the components that are found in any
standard learning environment, including rich content and management.
Content needs to include more than posting a lesson and having an
assignment e-mailed to the teacher. It requires careful planning
with objectives, outcomes, organization, appropriate material, and
a delivery system that is effective and easy to use. System management
includes all of the design elements combined with the delivery system.
In most cases content, assignments, discussion, communication, and
administration are delivered over the Web. Learners are expected
to be self-motivated and share a responsibility for their learning.
When this type of organizational structure is followed, the Web
can be transformed into a bona fide interactive learning environment.
To this end there are several Web sites that can serve as models
when designing Web-based learning spaces.
University offers a teacher certification program to applicants
who have a bachelor's degree and have passed the
California Basic Education Skills Test (CBEST). The program is
specifically beneficial to those who have emergency teaching
certificates and want to gain full certification. With that in
is designed around classroom experiences. Participants use web,
print and CD-ROM materials. They share ideas through web-based “class
discussions,” and get professional feedback through on-site
PBS TeacherLine's high quality, standards-based graduate-level courses
offer teachers the professional development opportunities they need
in an accessible online format that makes learning fun, flexible
and collaborative. You can earn graduate credit, PDPs, or CEUs while
gaining strategies and resources to bring directly to your classroom.
are a variety of content management systems available for school
districts. In 1998, I cobbled together open source software to
create a virtual learning environment for a consortium that include
the Columbus Education Association, Ohio Education Association,
and The Ohio State University. In 2003, I became system administrator
for Blackboard at Columbus
In addition, I had the opportunity to use Moodle. During this same
time, I completed three facilitation courses, developed content,
taught classes for 1) PBS Teacherline
2) eTech Ohio, and 3) Educational Development Center. So, I know
both the technical and the educational content side of virtual
classrooms. Content management systems are great tools, but without
content, they are useless. Think about how you plan to add content
to your management system. You can create the content or purchase
modules from third party vendors. At Columbus City Schools, we
had an EETT grant that gave us the flexibility to have math content
custom made. We also created our own content to supplement the
virtual high school and elementary math. Creating content required
lots of people resources and some understanding of curriculum design.
If you can type you can use this tool. Simply fill in some preliminary
information about your course and select a color scheme. Then,
work through all of the control panel selections to set up announcements,
discussion boards, course content, assignments, registration features,
and more. This is a very slick and easy-to-use interface.
Brightspace By Desire2Learn™ (Sparks)
is a suite of products and services developed to meet the specific
Sparks brings eLearning opportunities to all sizes of schools and
ages of students. They also have a team to create customized content.
you are on a budget and your district has a server, then Moodle
is the way
to go. It is open source software and it's free. It took me about
a half hour to set it up with a connection to a Mysql database.
There are loads of plugins for adding additional features to your
site. It's also easy for teachers to use once you have provided
them with some professional development.
Nicenet's Internet Classroom Assistant
Nicenet is an organization of Internet professionals who donate
their time to provide services for the Internet community. Internet
Assistant offers conferencing, personal messaging, document sharing,
scheduling, and resource linking to the learning environment.
Teachers can set up a class in minutes. Although there are not
as many features
in this program as there are in Blackboard, it is very easy to
of a Web-Based Professional Development Course
Depending on how you set up your Web-based class, you may or may
not be able to offer online registration. This requires a database
and programming script that is part of content management systems.
The syllabus includes information about the instructor, the description
of the course or workshop, the objectives, grading scale, and materials.
Schedule or Calendar
The schedule is the timeline for when each lesson should begin and
end and when the assignment is due.
Sessions or Modules of Course Material
The sessions or modules include the content that is being taught.
It may be a reading supported by multimedia components such as
Assignments can be posted on the Web using a content management
system. They can also be emailed as an attachment.
Resources are links to Websites and other materials that are referenced
in the lessons.
Board, Chat, Whiteboard
This area is the communication command center. Students
can introduce themselves, topics can be discussed, and collaboration
on group projects can take shape in real time.
Instructor Contact (Email)
Email is an ideal way to privately communicate with the instructor.
Surveys, evaluations, and grades can be posted in this area.
Information about the kind of computer and software that are needed
is generally posted in this area along with any step-by-step instructions.