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
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. …