As the world of work and changing education environments adapt, many education and training programs may continue to utilize alternative strategies to temporarily substitute or replace in-person service delivery. This Workforce System Strategies announcement highlights two evaluation implementation studies from education centers in rural communities that used online and virtual learning.  Read on for lessons on the implementation, outcomes, and value of online services.

Mitchell Technical Institute’s Technical Education at a Distance Program Final Evaluation

This evaluation report presents the implementation and outcome studies of the Mitchell Technical Institute’s (MTI’s) Technical Education at a Distance (TED) program. The program—designed for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)-eligible and low-skilled workers in South Dakota—implemented distance-learning models for a speech-language pathology assistant degree program and a geospatial technologies certification program. The program featured a hybrid learning model that mixed online instruction through a virtual classroom with face-to-face opportunities in regional labs. The evaluation indicates the grantee implemented the planned instructional, curriculum, and training activities for both occupations. The authors note that the model is an important resource that can address the needs in rural communities and that application of this model warrants further research and funding.

Online and Distance Learning in Southwest Tennessee: Implementation and Challenges
This report analyzes the findings from an online questionnaire disseminated in 2013 to 21 high schools from 12 districts in the Southwest Tennessee Rural Education Cooperative area near Memphis. The questionnaire sought to understand the use of online and distance learning by students in the perceived need for such courses, and the potential areas for expansion and collaboration across districts. Findings from the online survey indicate that schools primarily used online and distance learning to offer dual-enrollment courses that provide students opportunities to accelerate credit accumulation. Implications from this study suggest that online and distance learning expose and provide access to a diversity of courses for students in rural districts. While the availability of technology may present barriers, the survey findings may help other rural districts plan for anticipated challenges and opportunities.