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Alabama Distance Learning Rolls Out Statewide for 2009-2010

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Alabama is aiming for a first. All high schools in the state will have distance learning programs beginning in the 2009-2010 school year, including videoconferencing and Web-based learning tools, according to information released this week by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton.

Alabama began rolling out distance learning programs to high schools in 2006 through an initiative called Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators, and Students Statewide, otherwise known as ACCESS, which was first announced in 2005. The plan had originally called for full statewide deployment in 2010-2011, but, as it turns out, the program is ahead of schedule by a year.

"No other state in America has videoconferencing and web-based learning in all its high schools. Alabama will," Riley said in a statement released by the state's press office. "This is an investment not only in technology, this is an investment in our children."

So what sort of investment is it, and what does it entail?

Funding for the program is happening in three waves, with the first wave kicking off immediately. Each school in the first wave will receive $50,000 in funding to go toward achieving ACCESS standards. There are 63 schools in the first wave. In the second wave, another $85,000 will be given to schools to establish ACCESS labs. This second wave begins in fall 2008. The third and final wave begins in spring 2009.

At present, there are 181 schools that have received this sort of funding. Through these new waves of funding, another 190 schools will be brought up to speed, for a total of 371 high schools--100 percent of the schools in Alabama that serve grades 10 through 12.

School funding is used to create ACCESS labs, which provide "online and interactive video conferencing technology to link classrooms and offer coursework, including Advanced Placement and languages, to students in schools where those courses may not be available," according to the state. "ACCESS allows students from any part of the state to learn in a virtual classroom environment."

In addition, ACCESS funding for the Alabama Supercomputer Authority will provide each school with 10 megabits of bandwidth for Internet connectivity.

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Executive Producer David Nagel heads up the editorial department for 1105 Media's education publications — which include two daily sites, a variety of newsletters and two monthly digital magazines covering technology in both K-12 and higher education.

A 21-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192 or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education). A selection of David Nagel's articles can be found on this site.


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