Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

AEC Takes Online Plunge

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

AEC Takes Online Plunge

Article excerpt

After spending years establishing a foothold in the computer curriculum market, the American Education Corp. is now shifting gears, moving from the production of computer software curriculum to the provision of online educational content.

It's a challenging and potentially costly transition, but the tactical decision to enter the Internet business zone was driven by steady changes in the education market, said Jeffrey E. Butler, chief executive officer of American Education.

"We see the (online) marketplace gathering momentum but changing slowly over the next three to five years," he said.

Butler noted that most schools are now hooked up to the Internet with T1 lines, although most schools need T3 lines or better to provide the necessary bandwidth. Once those schools have the bandwidth to handle online curriculum content for the entire student population, he believes the demand for such content will steadily increase.

Butler said the advantages of Internet delivery would lead most schools to use that system sooner rather than later, largely because the perceived benefits outweigh the short-range costs. For example, he noted that AEC's new online service allows teachers to extend their reach beyond the physical classroom and directly into students' homes.

And the company's management system provides a faster assessment of student achievement than traditional, paper-and-pencil models allow. Once a student has completed his or her homework, the material can be graded electronically within minutes of completion, reducing time-on-task for the teacher.

As a result, teachers "don't have to lug home a briefcase full of homework papers," Butler said. "There's an efficiency process here that we bring to the process of education."

The company is a provider of online curriculum for six sites nationally. The disadvantage youth program of a school in Mesa, Ariz., which joined that number Oct. 2, will be supported "right out of the server unit down the hall" in Oklahoma City.

The Mesa project marks the first time the company has hosted and supported an out-of-state school district entirely from its Oklahoma City offices, managing student information and compiling performance data for that school. But Butler hopes that will be the first of many schools served by the company in that capacity.

"That's what we're driving for long term as an organization," he said.

The business world has long embraced computer tools due to the increased efficiency and productivity that those tools provide. Butler said the same thing is true when computers are used in the classroom setting. He said American Education's products can increase productivity in the classroom because those tools allow teachers to tailor lessons to specific student needs -- while still meeting all applicable state and federal standards. He noted that with traditional textbooks, teachers seldom work by teaching the every chapter of the book in chronological order. Instead, he said teachers often skip around from one chapter to the another, picking and choosing what material they will cover from the book.

"What they're doing there is they're teaching to what the state or district standards are in terms of learner objectives," Butler said.

AEC has reviewed the standards of about 110 state-level correlations and developed a matrix of those learner objectives for all 50 states. The company then uses that matrix to design curriculum that uniformly meets those objectives. All content is developed in the company's Oklahoma City offices. Teachers are often hired as consultants to edit, write, review and oversee the development of lesson content.

American Education's subject content is designed for specific grade levels. For example, a Reading 1 program is intended for first- grade level readers. The program is comparable to a first-grade reading textbook. …

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