Demand for online distance-learning classes in Nebraska could grow beyond what officials anticipate as more schools turn to technology to help students, a state education official said.
Brian Halstead of the Nebraska Department of Education testified Monday that a distance-learning incentive program launched in 2006 has worked well. Halstead told the Legislature's Education Committee that the program will require continued partnership among educational service units, school districts, teachers and higher education officials.
Several distance-learning experts told the Legislature's Education Committee that the program has especially helped high-achieving students and those who struggle in a traditional learning environment. Officials say small, rural districts have turned to distance learning as well when they lack the resources.
"You've gone from virtually no course-sharing to what you've got now," Halstead said. "And what you're learning is the demand may be greater in the next five years than what is anticipated."
Halstead pointed to two aspects of Nebraska's program that he said have helped it succeed: quality-control and accreditation requirements, and the use of certified teachers.
Lawmakers approved a bill in 2005 that was designed to create a task force to look at the technology needs of schools to provide distant education.