Spring-Summer 2005

Media Bridges Helps Bring E4Me Distance Education to Cincinnati

When Tom Bishop, Executive Director of Media Bridges in Cincinnati, was presented with the opportunity to offer a free introductory course to online distance learning at the annual OCCN Conference last year, he jumped at the opportunity. “It just sounded like a great way to provide additional services at your CTC with low impact on your staff and financial resources,” says Bishop. “I'm really surprised other centers haven't taken advantage of this program.”

This is shocking indeed, considering the Ohio Learning Network's E4Me program is offering up to $1,000 a month to computer centers who agree to promote and facilitate the course as a gateway to gauge interest and acuity in distance learning. By the end of the month-long course, participants should be able to understand how to be successful in an e-learning course, assess their technical skill level, define how their interests are linked to education choices and career paths, and plan their future steps with e-learning.

In addition to providing Media Bridges with the supplementary income for a facilitator, E4Me also conducts a savvy media campaign in the Cincinnati area, which includes several spots on local radio. In return, Media Bridges promotes the program on its website and on its local cable access stations.

“I heard the ads on the radio and decided to sign up,” says E4Me student Marsha Smith. “Being 50 years old, I've been wanting to go back to school and get a new job, but I don't have time to do anything but work.”

More and more Americans are catching on, too. A U.S. Department of Education study released in 2003 found enrollment in college-level distance learning more than doubling (2.9 million) in 2001 since 1998. Without a proper follow-up study, it's anyone's guess as to how popular eLearning options are becoming.

“It's advantageous for those who are time and distance-challenged,” explains Bishop. “But it shouldn't be considered an equal substitute for a classroom experience.” That's why E4Me's introductory course has become so popular. For some, distance learning may not be the right educational choice. This course encourages prospective distance learning students to discover a potentially viable, virtual alternative to traditional education.

Over the course of the past three months, Media Bridges has seen its enrollment in the online intro course shoot from one to 26, with 17 of those participants poised to complete the course. Many of these students will go on to take the accredited courses offered through a large variety of Ohio colleges and universities.

Although Media Bridges offers its open computer lab to participants, it has yet to see “anyone come through the door” to take the course in person. With the proliferation of high-speed home connections, E4Me enables Community Technology Centers to expand their services beyond their physical space by providing facilitation and technical support to off-site students.

Gabe Gloden Gabe Gloden serves as OCCN's VISTA Leader, currently in his third year of service. He also serves on the board of The Neighborhood Network, working to bring media production skills and access to the residents of Columbus.


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