Bemidji State University's Distributed Learning in Teacher Education (DLiTE) program infuses Service learning opportunities into its online courses, enabling students to make connections between service and academics.
How this practice supports access: Bemidji State University's Distributed Learning in Teacher Education (DLiTE) program is a WebCT-enhanced bachelor's level teacher education preparation program serving the state of Minnesota. Responding to the nationwide teacher shortage in the U.S., Bemidji State University and the Minnesota Satellite and Technology Center partnered with several arts centers and 12 community colleges to develop a blended-technologies, K-8 elementary education program for rural and urban students who cannot attend a campus-based teacher education program. By using already available courses, professors, organizational structures, and student support services and technology, this program provides a flexible development and delivery system that will accommodate future growth and technology enhancements. The DLiTE cohort program launched in the fall of 2002. Each cohort contains 25-30 students. Features of the program include weekend face-to-face classroom experiences with professors twice a semester, student-selected teacher-mentors who work exclusively in classroom settings with one-on-one time for students and mentors, online learning using WebCT, and faculty E-mentoring via WebCT, e-mail, telephone, and interactive television, as needed. Service learning is a form of experiential education which enables students to engage in structured community-based activities that address human and community needs and provide opportunities to promote student learning and development. Service learning fosters students' critical thinking and interpersonal skills, enabling students to learn about and reflect upon the community context in which the service is provided, in the process developing an understanding of the connection between service and their academic work. Currently, service-learning is infused into DLiTE program courses beginning in the second semester. Students have at least one course with a service-learning experience each concurrent semester thereafter. Pedagogy, Language Arts I, Language Arts III, and Science Methods all infuse e-service in their math methods coursework.
The community organizations undoubtedly benefited by having the students working on their individual needs. For example, one student contacted the local library, did a needs assessment, and determined that the elementary science tradebooks were not being checked out. She then created a system to "introduce" new books to the local children by creating bulletin boards featuring these stories. The librarian then reported that they couldn't keep the books on the shelves. The success of the student's instruction and the bulletin boards increased the use of the science books by 500 percent in two months. This same student then created a guideline handout for parents, helping them assist children in choosing books and determining the appropriate level of the texts. The library staff estimated that the local community's use of the library escalated dramatically, with 45 percent more books being checked out over the two-month span of the project than in the previous six months combined. Reflection is a major component of service-learning. Students engaged in reflection through journals, discussion boards, and group projects. Several students reported through reflection that the e-service component was their most valuable experience working with children and learning how to use community resources. The community partners were enthusiastic because they didn't have to invest additional training in the DLiTE students-students were already receiving that training through coursework. Community partners were so excited to have the extra help (especially with the shrinking budgets) that they have begun sending requests for e-service projects and students to the DLiTE program.
Strait, J., and Sauer, T., "Constructing Experiential Learning for Online Courses: The Birth of E-Service," EDUCAUSE Quarterly, Volume 27, Number 1, 2004. Retrieved March 8, 2004 at http://www.educause.edu/pub/eq/eqm04/eqm04110.asp