The Non-Technical Aspects of Distance Learning Often Prove Most Difficult To Manage

American School Board Journal, July 1998, p. 30

An education research consultant writes in American School Board Journal that setting up the hardware, software, and wiring for distance learning is probably the smallest barrier to managing an effective distance learning program. Several “intangible” problems almost always crop up, which include contract disputes, conflicting schedules among participating schools and instructors, inter-district rivalries, competition for limited funding and training resources, cost overruns, and curriculum disagreements.

In fact, many school administrators are finding that distance learning often doesn’t live up to the promises, and there is little concrete evidence on distance learning’s effectiveness in the classroom.

The author’s attempt to find serious documentation that validated distance learning’s promises usually resulted in reports that merely described programs, not their efficacy—documentation of equipment preferences and numbers of students abounded, but there was barely anything with comparative data on student achievement.

What the author did find was plenty of first-hand evidence that distance learning has a long way to go: from a school where technology glitches and busy signals interrupted class, to students who spent most of their time vandalizing the distance-learning hardware, to teachers who simply aren’t trained to teach effectively in front of a camera.

The author also includes the web site address ( of a report by a University of Wisconsin distance education specialist who gives suggestions and a list of resources for those trying to implement distance learning programs.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at