The 2009 Higher Education Opportunities Act (HEOA) recently separated Distance Education from Correspondence Education by defining it as:
Definition of Distance Education
“Distance Education is defined, for the purpose of accreditation review as a formal interaction which uses one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are separated from the instructor and which supports regular and substantive interaction between the students and instructor, either synchronously or asynchronously. Distance Education often incorporates technologies such as the internet; one-way and two-way transmissions through open broadcast, closed circuit, cable, microwave, broadband lines, fiber optics, satellite, or wireless communications devices; audio conferencing; or video cassettes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs, in conjunction with any of the other technologies."
Distance Education Mission
“To support online success and retention by ensuring uniformity in terms of Learning Management System (LMS) and online instructor responsibility and accountability, according to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Contract (Article 40). Also, the purpose of this document is to provide clear expectations, guidelines, and policies for instructors teaching online in order to adhere to the requirements of ACCJC.”
Distance Education History
Los Angeles Southwest College (LASC) began offering online classes in 2007, at the same time many other colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) started their programs.
LASC faculty, staff, and administrations firmly believe that it's the college's responsibility to serve, reach out to, and educate the community-at-large in traditional and non-traditional forums. Because of this, LASC's Distance Education (DE) program was launched. The college shared in the purchase of a Learning Management System (LMS) called MOODLE with other district colleges to begin the process of training instructors on the system, and providing pedagogy consultation through the 2007-2011 CAOT 134 class (Computer Assisted Office Technology), “How to Teach an Online Course.” This course was also available to students who wanted to take courses online to better understand the LMS and become familiar with the DE methodology.
This process prepared students and faculty to successfully transition into an unfamiliar learning environment to achieve a common goal; a goal that proved to meet the demands of our local community who were unable to take part in a traditional learning environment due to work, transportation, or accessibility issues. LASC created a very structured, stable, and accomplished online learning environment that has now been sustained into its second decade.
To help maintain our online program, the Curriculum Committee has been charged with reviewing and approving all online courses prior to being released. Meanwhile, the Distance Education Committee (DEC) was formed to ensure all DE courses met the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) section 508 Standards which “...address access for people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities.” The committee was tasked to address faculty and student concerns, implement policies and regulations per ACCJC guidelines, and regulate the effectiveness of the LMS.
More than a decade later, LASC's DE program has become a successful tool to uniquely educate our community of learners where students have capitalized on the variety of online courses we offer.
In 2011, the Distance Education Committee created the Distance Education Guidelines, Policies, and Procedures Manual (see Appendix A), which provides checklists, guidance, and standards that meet ACCJC’s DE compliances.
DEC members regularly meet the third Monday of the month. The goal now is to properly maintain our mandatory on-campus orientation and to continue conducting certification training for new online faculty that focuses on pedagogy and DE methodologies to ensure DE students receive the same educational experience as students in a traditional setting.
From the United States Access Board, www.access-board.gov