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Virtual/Distance Education Task Force Summer 2004 Meeting Notes


July 27, 2004
Washington, DC

Contents

Participants
General Discussion
Pre-Matrix Comments
Additional Information
Next Steps


Participants

Derrick Lindsay (Co-Chair), Mississippi Department of Education
Blair Loudat (Co-Chair), North Clackamas Schools (OR)
Ghedam Bairu (Project Officer), National Center for Education Statistics
Larry Fruth, Schools Interoperability Framework
Marilyn Grunewald, Franklin Central Supervisory Union (VT)
Roy Herrold, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (PA)
Myrna Holgate, Idaho Department of Education
Brad James, Vermont Department of Education
John Kennedy, Maine Department of Education
Mary Ann Wolf, State Educational Technology Directors Association
Roger Young, Manchester Essex Regional School District (MA)
Margarita Ackley, U.S. Department of Education – Office of English Language Acquisition
Fengju Zhang, U.S. Department of Education – Office of English Language Acquisition
Tom Szuba, Quality Information Partners, Charlottesville, Virginia

General Discussion

Chair Blair Loudat opened the meeting with a review of the May 2004 meeting. In a nutshell, the overarching purpose of this project is to align “traditional” education data elements with the needs and circumstances unique to virtual education. We will focus particularly on those elements needed by local and state education agencies for administrative and federal reporting purposes. Other discussion included:

  • Derrick Lindsay accepted Blair’s invitation to serve as co-chair of the task force.
  • John Kennedy shared a study on the latest “macro developments” in virtual education titled The Changing Faces of Virtual Education . It is available online at http://www.col.org/virtualed/.
  • We can’t lose sight of the fact that course entry on student transcripts links our work to higher education.
  • We might want to focus on e-schools rather than e-courses because of the number of exceptions and exceptional circumstances associated with the latter.
  • The revision to the PBDMI table is expected to be released during the late summer, but it is not yet available. Some helpful information about what to expect is presented in the school, district, and state element list at http://espsg.com/pbdmi-reports/state.php.

We discussed the wide range of strategies different states and localities have adopted as they grapple with managing virtual education. The task force decided to send an informal “information request” to Forum representatives to get a better sense of what is happening around the nation. The questions (generated at the meeting but finalized shortly thereafter) can be found in Figure 1. [Note that Blair sent the request over the Forum listserv on August 23. Results will be shared once they have been received and organized.]

Figure 1. Virtual Education Information Request Sent to Forum Members on August 23

Good Morning --

The Virtual/Distance Education Task Force is interested in how states across the country are addressing a number of issues with respect to distance or virtual education. The task force is charged with aligning data elements in regular education with those in virtual or distance education. In order to assist us with our work, we would appreciate your state's response to the following set of questions:

  1. Is there a state set of guidelines or specific policies related to distance or virtual education? Do they include a definition of virtual or distance education? If so, please include them in your response.
  2. Are there reporting requirements or data elements specific to virtual schools in your state? What are they?
  3. School Data:
    • Does your state individually identify virtual courses or schools? For example, is there a flag to indicate courses/schools?
    • How are course credits determined or assigned in the virtual education environment?
    • Can a virtual school issue a diploma in your state?  If yes, how is it done?
  4. What are the "Hot Button" issues with respect to virtual/distance education in your state?
  5. Is there an office, department, or person within your state that monitors/oversees virtual education?

Please respond in whatever way works best for you. We are planning to meet this fall so your timely response will be appreciated. If you are unable to respond or have no information, please let us know that as well.

On behalf of the Task Force, thank you for your help.

-- Blair

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Pre-Matrix Comments

Numerous comments were shared about the first draft of our Pre-Matrix. They will be incorporated into the second draft of the file. Some of the major suggestions included:

  • The PBDMI table element “school type” could include a “virtual/distance” option in its code list. One concern about doing so, however, is that options are supposed to be mutually exclusive. In order to maintain the logic, we may want to suggest a separate flag.
  • The “class” element might benefit from a definition that includes language like “a unit of instruction within a course” rather than a definition that relies upon time and space as the primary characteristics.
  • We want to walk a fine line between revising data elements and giving policy advice to 17,000 school districts with unique needs and circumstances. For example, ways to translate virtual courses (or classes) into tangible credits it is probably a policy decision. We will not want to determine the solution to such policy questions (which may vary by organization). Rather, we will want to raise those questions policy makers will want to consider when determining local or state policy on virtual/distance education issues.
  • We’ll need to establish criteria for clarifying the differences between an e-learning course and an e-learning school. For example, is there a threshold for the ratio of “regular” courses to e-courses that suggests when a school that offers e-courses becomes an e-school?
  • Dealing with “virtual education” data elements is a data quality issue. When some education agencies separate e-course and e-schools in their data collections, but others do not, it decreases the quality of the data.
  • We should consider adding separate columns to our pre-matrix table for each category of virtual/distance education setting/mechanism (see Table 1).

Table 1. Suggested additions to the Pre-Matrix Table

Proposed
Row Heading
Virtual Education Type I Virtual Education Type II Virtual Education Type III
Proposed modification to definition [insert info] [insert info] [insert info]
Associated issues to consider [insert info] [insert info] [insert info]
Related policy questions [insert info] [insert info] [insert info]

Additional Information

  • The working group completed a Product Development & Dissemination Plan that described our proposed scope of work for the Forum’s Policies, Programs, and Implementation Committee (PPI) as a condition for establishment as a task force (see the attached Product Development & Dissemination Plan). The document, and co-chair Blair Loudat’s presentation of our vision, led to the formal establishment of our group as the “Virtual/Distance Education Task Force” at the Summer 2004 Forum Meeting.
  • Upon designation as an official Forum task force, a web page was created to share information about our work. It can be viewed at http://nces.ed.gov/forum/virtual_ed.asp. Visit it to view reports on project progress, task force membership, our meeting schedule, and past meeting notes.
  • A listserv address also has been established to facilitate communications within the group. Task force members can use the address to send a message to all members of the group. Note, however, that only registered task force members can send messages via the listserv. Moreover, even registered task force members must send the message from the e-mail address that is registered in the listserv for them. Our listserv address is virtualeducation@edgrplist.westat.com.
  • Task force membership has been finalized:

Derrick Lindsay (Co-Chair), Mississippi Department of Education
Blair Loudat (Co-Chair), North Clackamas Schools (OR)
Ghedam Bairu (Project Officer), National Center for Education Statistics
Larry Fruth, Schools Interoperability Framework
Marilyn Grunewald, Franklin Central Supervisory Union (VT)
Roy Herrold, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit (PA)
Myrna Holgate, Idaho Department of Education
Brad James, Vermont Department of Education
John Kennedy, Maine Department of Education
Stephen Sanders, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
Dennis Small, Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Mary Ann Wolf, State Educational Technology Directors Association
Tom Szuba (Consultant Support), Charlottesville, Virginia

Next Steps

  • Derrick Lindsay and Tom Szuba will represent the task force at the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) National Leadership Institute (NLI) in November 2004. SETDA has chosen "Virtual Learning" as an overarching theme for the event. The NLI will be comprised of six “work groups” made up of state participants, resource specialists, and representatives from the Regional Technology in Education Consortia (RTECs).  The six eLearning working groups include: Leadership & Policies, Evaluation of Student Achievement, Professional Development, Program Evaluation, Curriculum Development, and Infrastructure & Technology. Derrick and Tom expect to both contribute to the work of the NLI and gather information about the issues to inform the Virtual/Distance Education Task Force’s work.
  • Tom will revise our Pre-Matrix based on feedback provided at the meeting. Expect to receive the next draft in late September/early October. We will review it electronically so that we can work with a more mature version during our December meeting.
  • We hope to hold our next task force meeting on Thursday (all day) and Friday (half day), December 2-3 in the Washington, DC. Details about meeting logistics will be shared.
  • The task force will meet again in New Orleans, LA prior to the Winter 2005 Forum Meeting on Monday, February 21.
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Publications of the National Forum on Education Statistics do not undergo the formal review required for products of the National Center for Education Statistics. The information and opinions published here are the product of the National Forum on Education Statistics and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the U.S. Department of Education or the National Center for Education Statistics.


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