The Challengers

Administrative Issues

Assuring the success of each distance learning student rests predominantly with the principal of the high school; although the roles of the district supervisor and teacher are very pivotal. In a study where research about school leadership was reviewed, Davis, Darling-Hammond, LaPointe, & Meyerson, (2005) point out that “evidence suggests that principals’ attitudes and behaviors play a large role in shap­ing how schools create a context in which students can effectively learn.” So first and foremost, a fundamental requirement to a successful distance education program is a principal who possesses effective leadership skills.

Creating a comprehensive framework that addresses key administrative policies adds definition, structure, and support to the institution. The first course of action is developing a policy that declares the philosophical approach of the institution. McNeal (1998) stresses that “principals need to define a technological mission” for their school and confidently publicize this philosophy to the faculty, students, and parents. Defining a vision for the organization confirms a direction and purpose for the project, invites participation from the faculty, and reduces resistance to change. This policy addresses the acceptance of distance education based on a clear understanding of the approach, organizational values and mission, and visions statements.

According to Kirby, (1998) a sound education plan demands serious consideration of the course and curriculum, project planning and execution, faculty and student needs. Magjuka, Shi, & Bonk (2005) insist that additional contemplation should be given to “the importance of conveying a sense of class”, “approaches to pedagogy, synchronous versus asynchronous methods, administrative and technical support, and faculty issues.” Course design, according to Kirby (1998) “should clearly explain the course purpose and objectives, how the course will be delivered technologically, and how the course should be implemented”. An academic policy concentrates on the previously mentioned issues as well as the evaluation process, grading, course pre-requisites, and curriculum review and approval processes.

The next barriers to address are the fiscal requirements to initiate and support an on-going distance education program. In a Southern Regional Education Board report, Thomas (2008), implies that the Florida Virtual School (FLVS), “created by an act of the Florida Legislature in 2000 to provide online and distance learning education to students statewide, has a funding model that other SREB states should consider.” They use the same formula based as traditional schools, however, “a FLVS FTE is based on successful completion of semester-long instruction” versus a “per seat” funding. (Thomas, 2008)  Additional savings created by resource sharing, accelerated graduation programs, and decreasing drop-out rates should be calculated in the financial figures. “Monies designated for textbooks could be used to purchase online course materials, and Title I funds at low-performing schools could be used to provide online courses as “supplemental educational services” as mandated by No Child Left Behind” (Aronson & Timms, N.D.). It is clear from a K-12 distance education study examining perspectives on policy, practice and research (Rice, 2009) “that panel members who responded with additional comments were less inclined to support policies that attempted to take funding from traditional brick-and-mortar schools.”

In a 2009 SREB publication, E. Glowa emphasizes “that a teacher’s skill in face-to-face teaching does not necessarily transfer to an online classroom.” Therefore, it is imperative to provide financial resources for extensive introductory and on-going training of teachers. In a study of professional development of K-12 teachers, Rice & Dawley (2007), provide a unique discrepancy between teachers and administrators regarding receipt of professional development training prior to teaching online courses. Data indicated that “administrators report that 74% of the teachers under their supervision” received training while only “38% of teachers” reported the same. Rice & Dawley, (2007) are quick to point out “that state agencies and other education providers have been slow to meet the professional development needs of K–12 online teachers.” As a result, the schools, programs, or organizations with which the teacher is affiliated have provided the majority of training. Once online courses start, Kirby (1998) cautions administrators to recognize and support the crucial role of the teacher in their execution of distance education. He stresses administrators must resist the temptation to assign additional responsibilities to distance education teachers to prevent delays and distractions in the distance education process. It is imperative that distance education teachers stay present to participate in class activities, monitoring and encouragement of the students. 

Aronson & Timms, (n.d.) claim that “course completion rates, which historically have tended to be somewhat lower for online than for traditional high school courses, improve considerably when students receive adequate preparation and support for online study.” This statement reinforces the fact that key foundational and supportive activities must be in place to ensure success of the student. “Effective online learning programs ensure that students receive support at multiple levels, minimally, from the online instructor, from the program itself, and from family and peers.” (Aronson & Timms, n.d.) Thought must be given to the availability of online instructors via email and the telephone during routine and after school hours. A defined response time from instructors should be communicated to the students setting guidelines and expectations. Services such as academic advising, counseling, library, financial aid, equipment are made available.

Last but not least, the distance education program requires a reliable technical system with secure and stable connectivity. Resources that provide technical support, hardware and software are essential to the success of the program. Aronson & Timms (n.d.), emphasize that “the online learning program’s Web site and gateway should be user-friendly, able to maintain reasonable speed with many concurrent users, accessible via slower internet connections, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Aronson, J. Z. & Timms, M. J. (N.D.). Net choices, net gains: Supplementing high school curriculum with online courses. Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from http://

Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., & Meyerson, D. (2005). School leadership study: Developing successful principals (Review of Research). Stanford, CA: Stanford University, Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.

Kirby, E. (1998). Administrative issues for high school distance education. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, I(2). Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from http://

Magjuka, R., Shi, M., & Bonk, C. (2005). Critical design and administrative issues in online education. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, VIII(IV). Retrieved November 10, 2009 from magjuka84.htm

McNeal, J. P. (1998). Site facilitation of distance education via compressed video in rural schools: A case study. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg.

Rice, K., & Dawley, L. (2007). Going virtual! The status of professional development for K–12 online teachers. Retrieved November 12, 2009 from goingvirtual/goingvirtual1.pdf.

Thomas, W. (2008). Making the critical transition to stable funding for state virtual schools. Southern Regional Education Board. Atlanta, Ga. Retrieved on November 10, 2009 from

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