John Tracy Clinic/University of San Diego Graduate Program: A Distance Learning Model

Article excerpt

The History of Distance Learning at John Tracy Clinic

The John Tracy Clinic (JTC) has a long history in the development and implementation of distance education courses for parents. It began with the founder of JTC, Louise Tracy, who personally corresponded with parents of young children with hearing loss around the globe to provide them hope, guidance, and encouragement. Mrs. Tracy's correspondence with parents was formalized into a course format in 1943 after Mrs. Tracy and her husband, Spencer Tracy, founded JTC in 1942 in honor of their son, John, who was diagnosed with a hearing loss at age 10 months.

In 1946, JTC began offering professional development courses to professionals, which were formalized as a master's degree and credential program in 1954 in partnership with the University of Southern California School of Education. Fifty years later, in 1996, JTC began offering a series of six online courses for professional development leading to a certificate in early childhood deaf education through the JTC Academy, an in-house professional development academy at JTC.

The initial series of professional development courses continued to grow as more and more courses were added to the program offered through the JTC Academy. Pushing the development of new courses was the extraordinary demand from educators around the country who were enrolling in the courses. These educators were spurred to update their knowledge and skills by families who were demanding a listening and spoken language outcome for their babies with hearing loss identified by newborn hearing screening programs and using digital hearing aids or cochlear implants.

In California, pressure to develop an alternate route for teacher credentialing arose from the severe shortage of teachers of the deaf in the state: a shortage that continues to this day. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CCTC) sought to create teacher internships to prepare professionals in the field who were already teaching chUdren with hearing loss in public school classrooms, but who were doing so without appropriate teaching credentials.

To address the state's needs, and to address the urgent calls from teachers in other states who were confronted with children and families desiring listening and spoken language communication, JTC created its online master's program in deaf education in 2002. In the same year, JTC received federal funding to offer the Distance Learning master's degree program with JTCs university partner, the University of Southern California. The program was accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2002.

Between 2003 and 2005, the JTC Teacher Education Department made major revisions to the program so that the Distance Learning Program paraUeled the onsite program in content and quaUty, and met the standards of CCTC. During the same period, both programs were re-designed to meet the competencies established by Auditory- Verbal International for auditory-verbal therapists, and subsequently for the nine domains of listening and spoken language estabUshed by the AG Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language for Listening and Spoken Language SpeciaUsts (LSLS) (in both auditory-verbal therapy and auditory-verbal education) (see Monograph Appendix A). The redesigned onsite and distance learning master degree and credential programs were accredited by the CCTC and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). Beginning in 2005, the programs were offered in conjunction with the University of San Diego (USD) School of Leadership and Education Sciences.

Best Practices in Distance Learning

Though most accredited universities now offer legitimate online courses and degree programs, the spectre of "diploma mills" still colors the public's perception of distance education. Accreditation is a critically important element in distance education, since the program is then required to meet established standards at regular review dates to maintain its accreditation. …