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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Interview with Bryce Bertola, Park City Independent; Innovative Education Providers Series

Welcome to an interview with Bryce Bertola, of Park City Independent, an accredited online high school which provides online courses to students who wish to take courses not offered by their local high school. It also offers middle school courses and courses for adults who would like to complete their high school diploma rather than obtaining a GED. One of the benefits of having a bona fide high school diploma is that it enables individuals to go on for a bachelors and then graduate programs.

1. What is your name and your relation to e-learning?
My name is Bryce Bertola and I'm the webmaster for Park City Independent, an accredited online high school. I'm completing my bachelors degree in Information Systems at the University of Utah with a mix of online and traditional classes. I've used a variety of high school and college level e-learning solutions, and have done very well within the virtual classroom setting.

2. What are the new directions in elearning that interest you most?
What interests me most is the increasing access to specialized topics through e-learning, as well as the convenience of a self-paced course schedule. You don't have to have a topic expert within your school district in order to learn about something, instead you can turn to an online provider and it can then be reflected on your transcripts.

Bryce Bertola, Park City Independent

During high school, I desperately wanted to learn about web publishing and design, but there wasn't a teacher on staff that was qualified to teach such a program. Instead I had to learn things the hard way, by myself, through a variety of web based instructional sites. I'm excited at the prospect of a wide array of specialized courses that high school students could earn credit for taking.

3. What are some of the problems in today's world that e-learning can address?
One of the major problems today is the rising cost of higher education. As tuition rates continue to rise, students are getting priced out of the market: Many of them opting to discontinue their education entirely. In addition to an increasingly expensive education, limited access to advanced courses also creates significant barriers. e-Learning is a much more cost-effective method of delivering course content, and there is no limit to the course material an instructor might choose to provide.

4. How has e-learning changed in the last 5 years? How has it improved and where?
People are waking up to the idea that e-learning is a legitimate source of knowledge. 5 years ago, what I saw as the perception of e-learning really downplayed its effectiveness in favor of a hands-on instruction. Since then the vehicles for delivering quality content have improved, and as people gain more exposure to online learning, and more web based educational services come about, that perception has faded away.

5. How are e-learners changing? What are their emerging needs?
It's a tough economy, and many people have a lot on their plate. Todays e-learners are seeking flexibility above and beyond what the traditional classroom can offer, otherwise they wouldn't be able to fit everything into a normal week. With a years-long recovery ahead of us, I think that funding for public education will remain low, and schools are going to be forced to explore more affordable options.

6. What do you think e-learning will look like in 5 years?
I think that in 5 years, e-learning will be a necessary part of a standard high school curriculum, and that colleges will rely on e-learning tools for much of their standardized courses. Not only that, but individual topic experts will start providing their own specialized courses, either through public or private outlets.

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