What Is Distance Education

This week we are going to start talking about
some laws and policies as they apply to distance education. So, we’re going to talk about the difference,
first and foremost, between a distance course and correspondence course. I bet you haven’t even thought about the
difference between those before, unless you work in distance education already. This distinction is huge in education because
it determines if we can take actual federal dollars for the course. It also determines if, in higher education,
we can put that course on a transcript. Interestingly enough, P12 and higher education
make the same distinction between what is a distance course and what is a course. The difference is that higher education is
actually allowed to offer correspondence courses to students. P12 is not allowed to offer those. Public education through 12th grade, you cannot
even begin to offer a correspondence course to a student. Higher education you can, we just can’t
take any federal funding for that which means that if a student wants to pay for that with
Pell funds, Pell grant funds, federal financial aid, none of that is allowable. The other thing is we can’t put that on
their transcript. So we can offer it, they can say that they’ve
had the training, but we can’t put that on their transcript as a 3-hour course, or
4-hour course, or whatever we said it was. So that’s the difference between correspondence
and distance education. There are a few other things. We’ll discuss that this week and what the
implications of that can be. The other thing we are going to talk about
this week is FERPA. FERPA is something that if you are currently
in education you already know it’s the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act, and it applies
to all our students no matter what their age. But it is different in online education because
of how closely our institutions interact with vendor products. And so, when we interact with those vendors,
we are sharing information about our students. At what point is what we’re sharing with
the vendor an invasion of the student’s right to privacy? So we’re going to talk about some of those
things. You are going to have to do some FERPA training,
but we’re also going to take it a little further and think about, if, in the role of
a distance education leader, what do you need to be able to do to question FERPA laws when
working with technology vendors? I think this will be a good week for us to
get started and I’m excited to see with what you guys come up with.

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