The growth in distance learning and Internet based education is changing the face of traditional education (Jones, 2002. Nationally, traditional instructional delivery is changing from being teacher centered to student centered. The student-centered instructional approach provides an environment that is conducive to Distance Education. Instructional approaches are becoming more learner-centered: 'recursive and non-linear, engaging, self-directed, and meaningful from the learner's perspective' (McCombs, 2000. One of the principles of student-centered instruction is to provide learning opportunities on demand, which are meaningful to the students (Yelon, 1996). Distance Education provides on-demand instruction. Research studies have been quite consistent finding that distance learning classrooms report similar effectiveness results as reported under traditional instruction methods. In addition, research studies often point out that student attitudes about distance learning are generally positive (USDLA, 2004).
To meet the needs of America's growing student population, we need to build new schools and modernize existing one (Clinton, 2000). As student enrollment increases and class sizes grow it becomes increasingly difficult for teachers to engage in student centered teaching. Traditional local classroom instruction provides customized, flexible content to a relatively low number of students. Distance learning courses can reach a very large audience while offering students a flexible schedule (Jones, 1999). Over the last 10 years, our public schools have grown by 6.6 million students, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and strained school facilities. Multiple modes of enabling interaction among students and teachers will be critical to the success of schools (Hanna, 2003).
The demand for teachers has indeed grown. Since 1984, both student enrollments and teacher retirements have increased (Snyder, Hoffman, & Geddes, 1997). Substantial numbers of schools with teaching openings have experienced difficulties finding qualified candidates to fill their positions (Ingersoll, 1999). While teacher shortages are easing in some areas, they remain a problem elsewhere, especially in the Sun Belt. Texas, for instance, needs 45,000 new teachers annually, more than double the 20,000 new certifications it issued last year, according to the State Board of Educator Certification (Axtman, 2004. The Vocational Education Journal cites increased student enrollment as a factor in lack of qualified educators.(1999) Now, in the wake of such reports as America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages and The Forgotten Half, public school educators face the Herculean task of improving instruction for all students and helping to prepare a world-class workforce while their state and local education funding decreases (USDOE, 2004. Distance Education allow certified teacher to transmit classes to many places reaching many students at one time.
An analysis of the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) budget over the past 3 years shows no significant increase in the amount of funds available to states and Local Education Agencies (LEA). The small increase that was scene was utilized by the DOE in developing and monitoring the No Child Left Behind Act. In 1995 the DOE budget was 71 billion in comparison the 2003 budget was 85 billion (USDOE, 2004). Currently, many states and LEA's rely heavily on grant funds to implement and sustain targeted instruction and special programs. Stakeholders are relying heavily on these innovative programs to narrow the achievement gap. However, further analysis of the budget shows that in 2003 the LEA's formula grants budget was approximately 71 billion. In 2004 and 2005 the budgeted amount is 70 billion. A decrease of 1 billion is present for each year after 2003. A vivid example of how constricting state budgets have come to bear on major reorganization is when the Texas Education Agency (TEA), long considered a national leader for school technology planning and programs, announced in September 2003 the elimination of at least 200 jobs and the liquidation of its educational technology division.