Home Learning programs have been in existence for many years. Their use increased as technology became more affordable and available. Uncounted thousands of courses and undergraduate and graduate degrees are now offered by thousands of institutions with students working from their homes. A varied menu of learning methods - interactive computer technology, self-directed learning tools and customized packages of printed material - are available for home use.
Many firms offer computer training programs for use at home. For example, NYNEX provides an entire course (content, syllabus, questions, references, etc.) on an individual database so students can sign in on their own time. Sears Corp. has designed its Sears University Correspondence Program as customized self-study modules; American College of Advisory Service provides a home-study college-prep course to improve reading, writing and comprehension skills.
"Corporate Universities" usually have an active home-study program, which range from skills training and management practices to courses that attempt to change the culture in a community and make learning a way of life. Workers are provided learning material in a variety of ways, when and where they need it.
Used personal computers and other technologies are also helping students, parents and the community become partners in education. It is stated that 30% of U.S. households have a PC today and that percentage is expected to grow. At present, the majority of households buying computers are concerned with their children's education. Voice-mail systems also improve communications between parents and teachers in activities such as reporting absences, homework assignments, general announcements, etc.
Parents Want to Know
Parents want to know how to help. Community workshops and educational seminars for parents to better understand the benefits of computers in the educational process are growing.
Their programs include:
Encouraging parents to take an active part in their children's education;
Making parents more comfortable with computers;
Providing an opportunity for students to show their parents what they are doing in school;
Explaining present and future uses of technology; and
Encouraging life-long learning.
Some examples include:
Microsoft Training, with Gateway 2000 and
Family PC magazine offering free seminars local parent organizations.
These Family Technology Nights are designed to introduce parents, educators and students to new technologies. Community-based programs in Charlotte, NC, Newark, NJ and Salem, Ore. provide access to technology for low-income people who would never be able to get their hands on a PC.
Parents are willing to spend time on home / school activities, but guidance from the teacher is essential. Very few colleges or school systems assist teachers in working with families. Also, little understanding of instructional content exists. Parents do not always know what the schools are teaching and why. Need for content-rich programs that follow school curricula is often stated.
Publishers do recognize this fact and are developing software to follow curricula objectives. According to Dr. Garry McDaniels, president of SkillsBank Corp., "If the home-school connection is made, software developers will be financially able to create excellent school and home products. School sales are not sufficient to attract long-term commitment from software publishers."
Providing Better Connections
Collaborations among the educational community, the working community and the home are well documented. Electronic connections are supporting greater home participation. Learning opportunities are extending beyond the classroom, the work environment and the school. The World Wide Web provides instructional opportunities that make an impact on the entire learning community. However, internal transmission capacity to the home must increase and the time consuming connection process be eliminated or at least reduced. Developers, users and the entire community must all become partners to develop the proper connections.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.