Katrina and Distance Education

Article excerpt

Schools as buildings are a legacy of history. Schools as places to learn are the promise of the future.

It would be impossible for any teacher not to think about the tens of thousands of school children displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Buildings were destroyed, infrastructure disrupted, children made homeless, and teachers displaced. The sad events are still being reported by the media.

One story, not as widely read, was reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Jeffrey Young. Under the title, "Displaced Students Receive Offer of Online Courses," Young wrote about the offer of free online courses made by a group of universities to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Only time will tell if the offer was successful-the major problem reported in the article was contacting potential students-but certainly the concept of schools as places where teaching and learning occur, and not just physical locations, was behind the generous offer of the universities reported on in Young's article.

"If 'ifs' and 'buts' were candy and nuts, we would all have a Happy Holiday," the old line goes. And, if all schools had vibrant and active online virtual classes, then the school could actually be an idea more than a building.

Here is way to make it happen:

1. Establish distance education as a critical component for educating in the community, college, or organization.

2. Identify and empower a planning group that includes managers and leaders from the constituencies to be affected by distance education

3. Create a clear and mutually shared vision for distance education in the schools, in the college, or in the training organization. …