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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Expanding education: Why distance learning is called Alaska’s wave of the future | Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium

"Educational institutions statewide are embracing technology to help students achieve their higher education goals." according to Alaska Dispatch News.

In Alaska, post-secondary education can come at a higher-than-usual price especially for people hailing from rural parts of the state. Besides the usual expenses, students face the steep cost of travel: Flying from a remote West Coast or Bristol Bay community to a university in Anchorage or a training center in Bethel or Fairbanks can be costly. 

Which is why educational institutions around Alaska are turning to technology to make education accessible for students from every corner of the Last Frontier.

At the University of Alaska, Anchorage, students have access to web-based courses in a variety of subjects, at a variety of educational levels. Utqiagvik's IỊisaġvik College offers distance learning classes to students in remote villages across the North Slope.
At Alaska Pacific University, it all started with the Rural Alaska Native Adult Distance Education Program (RANA). At the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, there's an ongoing, newly expanded effort to use distance learning to educate future community health aides and other medical professionals. The concept is simple: deliver high-quality instruction via the internet.
"It is sort of the wave of education of the future," said Shane Southwick, ANTHC's director of distance education. "It's already here. Universities are doing it, students want to do it and research shows it's just as effective."

Southwick came to ANTHC in 2016 to lead the consortium's newly established distance education department, where he works alongside seven instructional designers. Their first task? Bringing a large portion of the Alaska Community Health Aide Program online.

"They knew there was a need, they knew they needed to get on it," said Tim Jeter, one of the department's  seven instructional  designers. "I give big kudos to ANTHC for committing to this."

The health aide program, which prepares Alaskans to provide vital medical services in more than 170 communities statewide, involves four training sessions that traditionally take place at one of several training centers around Alaska. For the last eight years, Jeter said, students have been able to take some of those classes online, using videoconference technology to meet with teachers in real time.