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New Distance Education Opportunity for VI Professionals

by KC Dignan, Ph.D., Professional Preparation Coordinator, TSBVI Outreach

There are many changes in the preparation of VI professionals (O & M specialists and VI teachers) in Texas. Recent articles have described the new Collaborative Professional Preparation Project (Spring, 97 and Fall, 97) and university-based training options (Spring, 98). This article will provide preliminary information about a new distance learning opportunity currently being developed.

What is distance learning and TETN?

Basically, distance learning is when the instructor and the learners are not in the same room. There are many kinds of distance learning opportunities. Correspondence and video tape exchange are two examples. Using an interactive audio and video system is another. In Texas, each of the regional education service centers (ESCs) have an interactive audio/video system which is known as the Texas Educational Telecommunication Network or TETN. On this system, participants travel to the nearest ESC and are able to see and talk with each other over special television sets.

What classes will be taught and when?

The sequence of courses will lead to a certification as an O & M specialist or a VI teacher . The initial courses will be Foundations in Visual Impairments and braille. Future O & M specialists will need to enroll in the Foundations course; VI teachers in both classes.

Courses will be taught on Friday evenings and Saturdays, spaced throughout the semester. Some courses will be taught during five Friday/Saturday combinations. Others, such as braille, will be taught over seven Saturdays. The courses will begin mid-September.

The program will take approximately four semesters over two academic years, plus completion of a practicum. Courses are not currently scheduled to be offered over the summer.

Will stipends be available?

Due to the high costs of providing distance education, it will not be possible to reimburse participants for their tuition. Districts and regions who choose to do so, may reimburse the participants. Books and other materials will be provided at no cost.

Who will participate?

Each ESC has been invited to participate. However, each region will determine regional needs and resources. Contact your ESC to find out if your region is participating.

Limitations exist on how many people may participate. Participants will be required to sign a contract stating their intention to seek a position as a VI professional. Participants who have a letter from a school district stating their intention to hire that person upon completion will receive first priority for admission.

What is the deadline for enrollment?

Applications must be received at TSBVI by August 3, 1998. Applications were sent to the ESCs and can be obtained by contacting your ESC, or calling KC Dignan at (512) 206-9156, Bill Bryan at (409) 468-1036, or Nora Griffin-Shirley at (806) 742-2345. Participants who have been accepted will be notified by August 17, 1998.

How can I get more information?

Contact the ESC to find out if it is participating. They will also have information brochures and applications. The brochures will have more information, including the schedule for the courses, enrollment information, and other pertinent information. The brochure and application will also be posted on the TSBVI web site <www.tsbvi.edu>.

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