Online Health-Related Fitness Courses: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing or a Solution to Some Common Problems? as the Demand for Online Education Rises, So Does the Need for Innovative Strategies for Delivering Health-Related Fitness Courses

By Ransdell, Lynda B.; Rice, Kerry et al. | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Online Health-Related Fitness Courses: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing or a Solution to Some Common Problems? as the Demand for Online Education Rises, So Does the Need for Innovative Strategies for Delivering Health-Related Fitness Courses


Ransdell, Lynda B., Rice, Kerry, Snelson, Chareen, Decola, Josh, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


As technology's presence increases in today's society, the use of the Internet and distance education is also increasing. Online courses are a form of distance education that has the potential to reach unengaged youths or persons with different educational needs. The purpose of this article is to (1) discuss the growth of distance education and online courses, (2) delineate the pros and cons of online courses, (3) describe how online health-related fitness (HRF) courses can be used in physical education, and (4) provide some suggestions for developing, implementing, and evaluating online HRF courses. The intent of the authors is to stimulate discussion about the potential benefits and challenges associated with using online HRF classes as a part of a high school or college physical education curriculum.

The Popularity of Distance Education

The National Center for Education Statistics (1999) defines distance education as "education or training courses delivered to remote (off campus) location(s) via audio, video (live or prerecorded), or computer technologies, including both synchronous and asynchronous instruction" (p. 2). Technology is infiltrating traditional education at an astounding rate. The increased interest in the capabilities of the Internet as an alternative instruction-delivery mechanism has contributed greatly to this growth (Web-based Education Commission, 2000). Online courses and programs that specifically incorporate web-based or Internet technologies have the potential to change traditional models of teaching and learning through the use of tasks that are project-based, relevant, and collaborative, and that give some control to the learner (Partlow & Gibbs, 2003). Online courses can also serve large populations of students that traditional classrooms cannot, by providing learning opportunities for students who lack access to highly qualified teachers or courses, or for students who are unsuccessful in traditional learning environments (Chaney, 2001; Setzer & Lewis, 2005). Finally, there are potential benefits associated with using distance technologies like the Internet to help students develop technological and cognitive skills for the 21st century and the personal skills of independence and autonomy (North American Council for Online Learning & Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2006).

Distance education programs continue to develop in all curricular areas and have been used and accepted in higher education for some time. There were 1.9 million students enrolled in online courses in the fall of 2003, 2.3 million in fall 2004, and 3.2 million in fall 2005, indicating continued accelerating growth (Allen & Seaman, 2006). A large majority of higher education institutions using distance education have reported that improving access to courses and reducing time constraints were very important goals in their decision to use distance education.

The increased use of distance education among K-12 educational institutions is just as dramatic. In 1999, Congress established the Web-based Education Commission, designed to explore and maximize online educational opportunities. As a result, public schools were provided with federal funding to support online learning. In 2001 an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 students participated in some form of distance program or course (Clark, 2001). By 2003, that number had doubled to an estimated 100,000 students (National Association of State Boards of Education [NASBE], 2002) with 36 percent of public school districts enrolling students in distance education courses (Setzer & Lewis, 2003). Currently, every state has some form of virtual or cyber-school operating within its boundaries (Long, 2004), and an estimated one million high school students are enrolled in an online course (O'Gorman, 2005).

Online Courses as Distance Education

One of the most prevalent forms of technology used to deliver instruction at a distance is the Internet, followed closely by two-way interactive video (Rural School and Community Trust & State Technology Directors Association, 2003). …

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