As a Director of IT, I’ve recently spent a good deal of time on launching a distance education initiative in collaboration with others in my office and organization. Over the last several months I’ve learned a few things that would make it easier on me were I to do it all over again and I’m sharing these insights here in hopes that they will make your life easier as you consider starting your own distance education program. I’ve been getting so many phone calls and emails asking for information on this topic I thought it would be a good idea to create a readily available resource on the subject. I would never claim to be the world’s leading expert on distance education, but I do think my experience in the field so far has yielded some valuable knowledge. If you have some experience yourself, please share your insights using the comment form below so as many people as possible can benefit from this post.
In this article I’ll share some advice as well as some technical considerations to mull over to help you as your distance education plans move forward. In reality, this article readily applies to business uses for telepresence as well as church service streaming since the underlying principles are essentially the same.
First, A Little Advice
For what it’s worth, I’d like to offer a bit of advice based on my own personal experience.
- It might take longer than you think. Initially, we thought our program could be setup within a few weeks or maybe a month and a half or so. While it’s certainly not impossible, if you are starting from scratch it would be smart to give yourself a decent buffer. There are so many moving parts: developing a strategy, tweaking that strategy, ordering parts, installation logistics etc. Depending on the brain-trust and manpower, it might be wise to plan for an entire semester of setup/testing before launch. Just be sure to give yourself (and other involved parties) plenty of time to learn and prepare.
- Communication is key. In any distance education initiative there are a lot of players. In our scenario, we have teachers, students, conference workers, volunteers, IT people, principles, proctors, multiple schools, a consultant, and parents all involved. Initially, we didn’t realize that keeping an open line of communication with everyone was paramount. We quickly learned that you can’t assume everyone will