Tuning in for an Education Students Can Earn Degrees in Front of TVs

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- After an eight-hour workday caring for sick

people, Tonya Hayes goes home, curls up with a cup of tea and

settles down in front of her TV set to earn her college degree.

In the past two years, Hayes, 23, an honor student at Florida

Community College at Jacksonville, has earned two credits in

history, and is now studying English composition and humanities,

all without setting a foot on campus.

"It was the only way I could go to school full time," Hayes

said.

Educators call this type of education distance learning.

Enthusiasts call it a revolution.

"We've got to prepare to seize the moment," said state Sen. Jim

Horne, R-Orange Park. "This train is leaving at the station."

electronic universities are developed around the globe. But they

still have to figure out who will teach what to whom, how to

charge and how to pay for courses, how much money the state will

contribute and how to compete with the rest of the world.

Those questions are slated to be addressed during the

legislative session beginning in March. At stake are billions of

dollars in earnings and spending, as well as deciding what's

best for students, taxpayers and Florida, Horne said.

Through rapidly changing technology, students at home in the

city or living in rural areas are beginning to take advantage of

distance learning classes offered by colleges and universities

all over the world. Besides being on cable TV, they're available

in county libraries via the Internet or in community classrooms

by satellite transmission.

This year, students in Florida are taking engineering classes

offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and

courses from colleges in Georgia, Alabama, even England.

The Western Governors University, a cyberspace initiative of 13

western states, will offer degrees to accommodate fast-growing

numbers of students.

And tossed into the mix is the possibility of developing a

College of the Americas, a virtual university run by a union of

Latin American countries and nearby states like Florida.

"Electrons know no boundaries," said Linda Rackleff, the

distance learning coordinator for the Florida Board of Regents.

"You can cherry-pick the best the whole world has to offer."

This year, Florida's universities and community colleges offer

more than 2,000 distance learning courses. Community colleges

have full associate of arts degree programs available, and by

next year, universities will offer bachelor's degrees.

shy of offering a basic associate's degree by cable television.

The college also produces an English composition course being

distributed throughout the United States and in Canada. …

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