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eLearning Broward
A Program within the Sheridan Technical Center of the Broward County Public Schools

About Sponsoring Agency/Organization:

The Broward County Public Schools offer services to adult students who need to learn to read or build their basic skills in reading, writing, language (ESL), and mathematics.  These programs help students prepare to transition into the labor market or higher academic or  career/technical training. They can also earn a high school diploma through the General Educational Development (GED) program.
 

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Classes are offered on-line and at more than 60 locations throughout Broward County. There are morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend classes available at different locations to meet the needs of adult students’ schedules.

In 2002 Broward County  launched a successful initiative to offer GED instruction on-line. This effort led to the establishment of eLearning Broward which now offers a wide range of distance learning opportunities including adult education courses (such as ABE, GED, and ESL) and career/technical education courses (such as automotive certification, web design and child care operations).

These interactive courses provide students with the opportunity to read through tutorials, answer questions, and receive instantaneous feedback from the program and instructor.  Access to the program is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

eLearning Broward is a department within Sheridan Technical Center of the Broward County Public Schools.  Initial registration for the program, along with pre and post testing can be done at any one of Broward’s Community Schools, Technical Centers or Adult Learning Centers.

Description of Project:

This profile focuses on one unique component of eLearning Broward – the series of on-line, subject specific adult education workshops that compliment and reinforce the content provided through the district’s  adult education on-line courses and traditional classes.

These workshops are real-time stand alone sessions that cover subjects such as the metric system, geometry, reading, essay writing, social studies, GED test review, and time management strategies. The workshops are typically offered 4 to 6 times a week averaging 1 hr per session by teachers from Broward and Pinellas County.

The Elluminate web conferencing system is used to offer the sessions.  Elluminate has the reputation of being a fairly user friendly system offering a range of communication tools such as online polling, slides, white board, real-time audio and desktop sharing.  eLearning Broward has experienced few technical or other connectivity issues by either the teachers or students accessing the system from their home computers.  Recognizing that students may not have microphones at home, the workshops are set up with one way audio from the teachers to the students.  Students can submit real-time written questions at any time.

Teacher preparation in how to use Elluminate is provided through the web conferencing tool’s website.  eLearning Broward  has occasionally sponsored an Elluminate “Boot Camp” for teachers to help them understand how they can best utilize the program.  Teachers new to Elluminate and/or distance education can also call upon experienced teachers to ask questions as well as audit workshops and review on-line slide presentations. 

One benefit of the program is that it is not limited by geography.  It has created an opportunity for teachers in different counties to collaborate and adult learners from around the state are welcome to take advantage of the free sessions.

Project Rationale and Background:

Online workshops were originally launched because attendance at a series of similar face-to-face workshops was not well attended, regardless of location or the time they were offered. While many students expressed interest in attending these sessions, they often couldn’t because of issues involving child care, transportation, or scheduling conflicts.  Being that workshop locations and times had to be planned around existing school locations and their hours, the flexibility in workshop scheduling was also limited.

The district decided to try offering the same sessions on-line to broaden their reach.  Sessions were originally offered once per month (for each ABE and GED), and taught by 1 instructor.  Initially, only Broward County online students were invited to attend. 

Challenges:

Some teachers don’t feel comfortable enough with Elluminate to serve as a session moderator/teacher.  Likewise, there are students that are unsure about what to expect when attending a workshop.  However, once they do attend a session the return rate is quite high. 

Other challenges have included the selection of the days & times for sessions, as well as Internet connectivity. While Elluminate’s web conferencing system is set up for users of all Internet connection speeds, if a student’s Internet service goes out (due to weather or other technical issues), he or she will be unable to participate in the session.  The online workshops are available to students as a recording or via the workshop review area; enabling everyone to have access to the workshops, whether “live” or as a pre-recorded session.

Evidence of Impact and Effectiveness:

In 2008, 101 live online workshops were presented and attended by approximately 2,100 participants. Forty-eight new session presentations were created and recorded so that they could be viewed via the archives. More than 2,300 visitors took advantage of this offering.

From 2007 to 2008, online workshop offerings increased by 50% while student participation in the sessions increased by 75%. In a typical week, there are generally 25-35 students attending each daytime session and up to 60 students attending evening sessions.

To date, the program’s success has been primarily measured by the attendance data and (largely positive) anecdotal feedback provided by students and teachers.  In 2009, the program plans to do an analysis comparing the GED pass rates for workshop attendees versus those who do not attend the sessions.

Cost and Funding:

Most program related costs (including personnel and administration) are on par with offering traditional face-to-face classes.  The school district has a license to use Elluminate, so there were no additional costs for the use of this system. There are a number of commercially available web conferencing tools that could also be used.  Some cost savings are also realized by not having to provide hardcopy workbooks or other printed materials.

Note: Elluminate is freely available to members of Florida Adult & Technical Distance Education Consortium (FATDEC).  Florida TechNet may also be able to provide access to similar software.

Words of Advice:
  • The key is to start slowly.  While the eventual goal may be to offer multiple online workshops each week with sessions having 25 or more students, that’s not something that needs to happen from the beginning.  In fact, that can be intimidating for a new Elluminate moderator. 
  • Begin by attending some trainings to become familiar with the particular web conferencing system that you’ll be using.  Sit in on a few different online workshops to see how they’re run.  Recruit some other teachers to be your “students” for a practice session or two. 
  • Plan to have another person be a co-moderator for your first few sessions so that he or she can jump in if you run into any problems.  (The eLearning Broward teachers are willing to do this for any teacher, whether they’re Broward instructors, FATDEC instructors, or anyone else!)
  • Start by offering a topic that you’re 100% comfortable teaching & discussing.  It’s always easier to use a topic that you know inside & out! 
  • Lastly, remember that this format for workshops can take some getting used to, both by instructors & students.  Seek feedback from student participants & other instructors.  Each session will get easier and, just like in the traditional classroom, you’ll be tweaking your presentations to make them better & better!
Additional Resources:

Workshop Review Area (Slides Only)

Workshop Review Area (Slides and Audio)

Contact Information:

Kimberly Gates
GED Online Instructor
Kimberly.Gates@browardschools.com
954-235-7387 (cell)
772-336-2647 (fax)
http://www.elearningbroward.com

eLearning Broward extends an  invitation to any Florida teacher, tutor or student who would like to attend sessions.  Just contact Kimberly Gates to make arrangements and obtain the schedule of upcoming sessions.

 

 

 

 

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The Florida Literacy Coalition thanks the Florida
Department of Education, Division of Career and Adult Education
for making this site possible.
 

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