Creative Education
2011. Vol.2, No.4, 346-353
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. DOI:10.4236/ce.2011.24049
Case Studies in U. S. Distance Education: Implications for
Ghana’s Under-Served High Schools
Gabriel Kofi Boahen Nsiah
Department of Education, School of Development Studies, Education and Health Sciences, Valley View
University, Accra, Ghana.
Email: {gabrielnsiah, nsiahgabriel}
Received June 15th, 2011; revised July 18th, 2011; accepted July 31st, 2011.
Ghana, like many other nations in recent years, has made education a top priority for national development. De-
spite newly developed policies, however, there remains a significant quality gap among high schools; due
largely to an inequitable ratio of government’s educational spending by geographic area. While most urban
schools flourish with better funding and more resources, many rural schools are substandard due to funding in-
equity, inadequate infrastructure, and lack of logistical support, material input, and qualified teachers. These
problems call for attention and resolution and distance education is considered a panacea to these problems. To
achieve this objective, three distance education sites/cases—two parochial schools and one large state-supported
public school were studied. Using a variety of data collection interview methods—video conferencing, Skype,
face-to-face conversations, and e-mail—interviews were conducted with individuals representing various roles
at the three case study sites in the United States: teachers, principals, local and district administrators, and tech-
nical and program directors. Effective and ineffective practices at these focus sites provided contextual refer-
encing for future program development/replication in Ghana. Interviews revealed many common issues and
themes for success in facilities/program development, program management, and instructional delivery. Rec-
ommendations and a model for online distributed education emerged to aid in addressing Ghana’s educational
needs. The study findings can inform other systems, nationally and internationally, though the study specifically
emphasized concerns in Ghana—where quality education is needed to better prepare under-served school popu-
lations for higher education and for furthe r contribution to the development and prosperity of that nation.
Keywords: Distance Edu cation, Technology, Privileged, Under-Served, Inter ac t i ve
Today, more than ever before in human history, the wealth—
or poverty—of nations depends on the quality of higher edu-
cation. Those with a larger repertoire of skills and a greater
capacity for learning can look forward to lifetimes of unpre-
cedented economic fulfillment. But in the coming decades the
poorly educated face little better than the dreary prospects of
lives of quiet desperation (Gillis, 1999: p. 18).
Education plays a significant role in shaping a developing
nation, and the proliferation of Internet-based educational op-
portunities has expanded distance learning modalities to all
parts of the globe. This study explores the potential for inter-
active distance educational technology to provide quality edu-
cation that bridges the educational gap between privileged and
under-served high schools in Ghana, West Africa, using three
model programs based in the United States as points of com-
The quality of a nation is judged by the quality of its human
resources, and the quality of human resources is maximized
through education (Harber, 2010). Education provides the kn-
owledge and skills needed to steer the developmental wheels of
a nation to its destination of prosperity by improving the lives
of individuals and enriching the wider society (Harber, 2010;
Phillips & Schweisfurth, 2007; Yusuf, 2006). Educational at-
tainment is positively correlated with increased wages and
productivity, which make both individuals and countries richer.
Beyond the monetary benefits, education also introduces people
to an enhanced “life of the mind,” offering cultural and political
benefits, while encouraging independence and initiative, both
of which are valuable commodities in the knowledge society
(The Task Force, 2000: p. 40).
Education increases employment opportunities and earnings,
and allows even the poor within a society an opportunity to
develop knowledge and skills (The Task Force, 2000; Tomasi,
2002). A well-trained wo rkforce contributes to rising tax streams,
improved institutional capital, and affordability of better health-
care that can prolong lives and encourage sustainable economic
growth (The Task Force, 2000).
Problem Statement
The problem this study seeks to address is to bridge the gap
in educational attainment and opportunity that exists between
privileged secondary education settings and those who come
from under-served systems by considering the role of distance
education in improving the educational status of under-served
students. In so doing, it is hoped that narrowing the gap can
afford more students opportunities for advanced education, and
that both individuals and society as a whole will benefit eco-
nomically and soc ially.
Purpose Statement
The United St ates has more years of experience in the use of
interactive educational technology than does the country of
Ghana (Freed, 2003). Studying successful and unsuccessful in-
teractive distance education technology programs in the United
States can contribute to a model for quality distance education
that can be used to address disparities in Ghanaian education.
Therefore, the purpose of this qualitative case study is to
explore ways and means that interactive distance education in
G. K. B. NSIAH 347
the Unite d States has or ha s not enhanced learning for students,
and to use these experiences as a basis for developing a model
that suits the needs of under-served schools in Ghana. Doing
this will contribute to understanding that can be helpful in deal-
ing with the uneven playing field of education in Ghana.
Research Questions
This study is guided by the following research questions:
1) How is interactive distance educational technology used to
provide education for selected high schools in the United States?
2) What is the perceived level of program effectiveness among
selected U. S. high schools currently using interactive distance
educational technology?
3) What are underlying factors responsible for success in the
use of interactive distance educational technology in selected
high schools in the United States?
4) How can specific principles/themes from this study of
certain U. S. distance education programs inform the develop-
ment of potential similar distributed education in Ghana, Africa?
Study Par tic ipa nts
Participants represented various disciplines within the field
of education. This provided a wide variety in perspective. Par-
ticipants included a superintendent of schools, a technical di-
rector, an environmental science teacher, a math and science
teacher, an administrative supervisor, curriculum developers, a
program developer, a program director, and a vice president for
global services and esolutions manager.
Data Collection
Qualitative research is field focused, and data are collected
by researchers in the field at the site where participants ex-
perience the issue or problem under study (Creswell, 2007: p.
37; see also Eisner, 1991). Data collection occurred at all three
case study sites. This allowed for classroom and facilities ob-
servations. Additionally, follow-up interviews were conducted
by phone and email when clarification was necessary.
Access to Sites and Individuals
Gaining access to sites and individuals involved several steps.
The research plan was submitted to the university human sub-
jects review board (Cresswell, 2007: p. 123), and approval from
the Institutional Review Board (IRB) was acquired prior to
beginning formal data collection. Upon receiving approval from
the IRB, I travelled to a state in the southeastern part of United
States to begin collecting data. This southeastern location be-
came the center point for my data collection because two of the
cases were situated in this area.
Specific arrangements were established with participants prior
to travel to conduct the interviews through an e-mail invitation
to participate in the study. Eight of the thirteen (13) participants
were prompt in responding to invitational e-mails and phone
calls to participate. Of the remaining five individuals, three
were contacted at the initial stages but they failed to respond to
either e-mails or phone calls. However, while onsite in the sou-
theast, the opportunity to interview them materialized. Two
names were added to list of available interviewees while on the
grounds collecting data, thus expanding the participant pool.
Prior to arriving at the schools, documents were sent to each
participant. Letters and copies of the interview questions were
sent electronically and by mail to each participant. This was
done to help each participant better prepare their thoughts for
the interview.
Data collection lasted for eight days at the southeastern
site—February 19-27, 2009. Four of the interviews were con-
ducted via video conferencing, one via Skype, and the rest were
conducted face-to-face. Prior to starting each interview, par-
ticipants were presented with a confidentiality agreement letter,
which each participant read and signed. To establish a com-
fortable atmosphere and to reduce anxiety, each interview started
with a personal question as to what motivated the interviewee
to get involved in distance education. Interviews were recorded
with two digital audio recorders to provide backup if necessary.
A camera and camcorder were also used to collect the data.
Only the researcher has access to these data.
Those interviewed included: program directors, administra-
tors, technical director, curriculum developers, a superintendent
of schools, and distance educators. Thirteen categories of ques-
tions guided the interviews, which addressed the research ques-
tions and theoretical perspective of the research. Interview
questions involved:
1) Initial organization
2) Funding and sustainability
3) Technology of delivery
4) Administration and staffing
5) Program definition
6) Recruitment of students
7) Instructional efficacy
8) Assessment methods
9) Students performance
10) Faculty feedback
11) Constituency response
12) Program marketing
13) Program efficacy
Two weeks after the interviews were concluded, participants
were sent a thank you letter. This letter informed participants
that they would be contacted for clarification should there be
need to do so.
Data Collection Description
The first interview took place on February 20, 2009. After
the interview, the director of PSA (pseudonym) program invited
me to his school office. He provided a tour through the facility,
and we then settled in a room where he holds meetings with his
staff. An informal conversation began at this point as he briefed
me regarding his program. This conversation was not part of
the formal interview, but it provided a general overview as to
how he runs the program. These interactions lasted for almost
three hours. The conversation was helpful, as it allowed me to
reflect on my research process and to make some adjustments
to the interview questions.
Four interviews were conducted via synchronous video
conferencing technology with two participants in Tennessee,
one in Washington state and the other participant living in
Florida. PSA teachers instruct through this medium and broad-
cast from their homes, which serve as their offices. They have
students who sit in regular classrooms and ho me school- st udent s.
All tu ne in d u ri ng th e c la ss pe ri od a nd a re ab le to se e each other
on their computer screen/monitor. The teacher appears large on
the television screen, while images of the students in the
participating schools appear in smaller frames on the screen
through videoconferencing technology. If a student wants to
answer or ask a question, he or she does so by pushing a button
on a controller connected to the video camera. The student’s
image then appears large on the screen, and the student can
speak to the other participants.
Nine of the participants were also interviewed on a one-on-
one basis in offices and on school premises. One participant
was interviewed at her apartment. The last interview was con-
ducted via Skype (a software application with capability for
allowing users to make calls over the Internet along with the
feature of two-way video imaging).
Data Analysis
Essentially, qualitative data analysis involves defining,
categorizing, theorizing, explaining, exploring and mapping
vast quantities of data (Huberman & Miles, 2002). As a re-
searcher, I listened to the audio recordings of the interviews
several times to gain an indepth comprehension of the data. The
interviews were transcribed verbatim. These transcribed data
were studied meticulously along with other documents obtained
from the field, such as school records, brochures, field notes,
etc. Data analysis strategies such as sketching ideas, taking
notes, writing margin notes, highlighting certain information,
identifying codes, and reducing code s to categories, were applied
in analysis of the contents of the data (Creswell, 2007; Davies,
Categories emerged through the use of a data analysis matrix
listing the research questions and interview questions. These
categories came forward from the interview questions as a
result of building a logical chain of evidence through identi-
fication of patterns of uniformities in line with the research
questions that framed the study (Creswell, 2007; Davies, 2007).
Thus, categories were organized to coincide with the research
questions, the literature review, and the overall purpose of the
research (Charmaz, 2003; Flick, 2007; Giorgi & Giorgi, 2003;
Maso, 2001).
A second matrix was developed to organize interview ques-
tion responses from each of the three case studies. After each
category, interview questions were listed and data from the
three cases were identified and aligned. This matrix allowed
corresponding evidence to be seen.
Research Que s tion 1
Research question 1 asked, How is interactive distance edu-
cational technology used to provide education for selected high
schools in the United States? The purpose of this research
question was to study distance education programs in the U.S.
as potential models for such programs in Ghana, Africa. In
view of this, how the studied cases use technology to provide
education was of interest. The technologies employed by the
studied cases in their program delivery program provide ex-
amples of strategies, successes and failures. From this question,
four related categories of information were seminal: Technol-
ogy of delivery, program development, technology reliability,
and teacher-media relations.
Technology of delivery. The study findings indicated that
distance education is about technology. All three schools lev-
erage interactive technologies to reach students and facilitate
interactions between teachers and students. Examples of deliv-
ery media used in the case schools were: Real-time interactive
videoconferences, two-way desktop video-conferencing that
delivered lessons via the Internet, and asynchronous Web-based
courses, which require the use of computers with Internet ac-
The use of different delivery technologies underscores that
distance education can be offered through a variety of media.
The choice of an appropriate medium will be informed by the
availability of technology and finances.
Program development. Program development must start with
an assessment of individual needs. As with the three schools
studied, the type of distance education program developed will
be based on the identified needs of the targeted area. Another
important aspect of program development is administration. In
the schools studied, several different roles emerged. Adminis-
trators were responsible for sustainability and online program-
ming. Schools also followed different models of administration,
with some following a business-oriented model and others fol-
lowing a more traditional academic model.
Notably, the three programs studied were started by indi-
viduals with little or no background in technology—just pas-
sion for innovation. To address this, all new hires were required
to have strong technological backgrounds. All programs also
emphasized the importance of providing professional develop-
ment for teachers.
Technology reliability. Technology reliability is crucial to
operating distance education programs. Each school studied dis-
cussed the preventive and back-up measures they have in place
to deal with the inevitable failures of technology, whether they
are temporary or permanent failures. Schools had systems in
place to repair their technology and provide students with al-
ternative services when regular systems were down.
Each site employed preventative measures to ensure reliable
and consistent technological performance. These included backup
systems and servers, procedures to ensure proper configuration
of their technology, vendor contracts to address any technical
challenges, a separate technology department which included a
proprietary management system, help desk, recovery center,
and scheduled maintenance. When technological failures affect
student communication, schools provided prerecorded classes,
offered toll-free numbers for technical support, and allowed
students to reset exams in the wake of any technical problem.
Given the critical nature of such planning, it will be important
for Ghana to establish similar precautionary measures to handle
technical issu es.
Teacher-media relations. Interviews revealed mixed reac-
tions among teachers regarding media and its role in teaching.
Teachers expressed excitement about the numerous opportuni-
ties technology offers in this kind of educational environment.
They also admitted some apprehension about the use of tech-
nology, particularly among older teachers. Technical support
and sharing of ideas among teachers were used as ways to ease
tension in online instructors.
While most teachers tend to fall back on instructional meth-
ods used in traditional classrooms, interviewees also expressed
the belief that open-mindedness and willingness drive interest
for teaching in this kind of environment. Further, once teachers
begin to master technology, they tend to prefer this instructional
medium. Thus, falling back on old instructional methods is seen
as a call for training in teaching in an education environment.
No matter how experienced one may be, training is vital when
implementing a new program such as distance learning.
Research Que s tion 2
The second research question that guided this study asked,
G. K. B. NSIAH 349
What is the perceived level of program effectiveness among
selected U.S. high schools currently using interactive distance
educational technology? As the purpose of this research is to
make recommendations for the introduction of similar pro-
gramming in Ghana, the effectiveness of programs delivered
through a medium similar to what is proposed is pertinent.
Therefore, the perceived level of program effectiveness among
selected U.S. high schools currently using interactive distance
educational technology, as explored by the three cases that
comprise this study, became one of the focus questions of this
In line with the above question, categories related to pro-
gram effectiveness, student/parental satisfaction, importance of
interaction, class size, and student assessment were identified
through the data analysis and are discussed below:
Program effectiveness. Program effectiveness is discussed in
three separate themes: Overall effectiveness, cost effectiveness,
and level of funding. Each program had different standards by
which it measured its own overall effectiveness. For one school,
effectiveness was measured by profitability and student enroll-
ment. Another measured effectiveness by college acceptance
rates. The final school used growth in student enrollment, aca-
demic performance, and receipt of awards to gauge effective-
Programs are also concerned with their degree of cost effec-
tiveness. This, again, is a subjective measure. In this study, cost
effectiveness was measured in terms of technology costs, the
ability to cover operation costs with tuition revenue, and the
financial advantages of running a virtual program compared
with a brick-and-mortar campus.
Sources of funding are an important consideration for set-up
costs and sustainability. In this study, initial funding was pro-
vided through individual and organizational gifts and grant
monies. Two of the schools sustain their financial effectiveness
through tuition, state funding, organizational support, and product
licensing. One school was unable to secure sustained funding
and is no longer operational.
Student/parental satisfaction. Student/parental satisfaction wa s
another important variable identified through the study. Suc-
cessful distance learning education requires high levels of sat-
isfaction among students and their parents. While satisfaction is
individually determined by each program, some common fac-
tors included students’ performance and their ability to attend
Interaction. The interaction between students and teachers is
critical to success in the distance environment. Tools com-
monly used to facilitate interaction include: e-mail, text mes-
saging, instant messaging, telephone, scanner, Webinar, and
Elluminate. Each of these tools provides students and teachers
with flexible approaches to interaction as they address instruct-
tional and interpersonal needs. The importance of interaction is
recognized in both traditional and online education.
All three institutions acknowledge the importance of service
learning, and each made provisions for socialization and service
learning in their various programs. Service learning provides
students an opportunity to socialize within a semi-structured
environment and work toward a common goal. This serves the
dual purpose of both socializing and educating the students,
while giving students an opportunity to donate their time to
beneficial causes and learn about citizenship and personal re-
Our world is a world of connection. Encouraging socializa-
tion will help students broaden their social network. With broad
social networks, students stand to benefit from one another.
Their future success may depend on the social connections they
make in school.
Class size. Class size is a matter of considerable importance
in distance education—in either synchronous or asynchronous
programs—as determined by the participants of this study.
Interviewees admitted that teaching online is different from
teaching in traditional classroom. With distance learning, there
is a great deal of after-classroom work. Teachers respond to
students’ e-mails to answer questions or clarify understanding
on issues, and students have more access to instructors via this
medium. In view of this, the amount of time necessary to ad-
dress the needs of each student rises in significance, and with
this, class size also becomes a matter of significance.
The question as to what constitutes an ideal class size
brought forward various answers across the three cases, though
there was general agreement between two schools. One case
suggested an optimal class size of 15 - 30; another case sug-
gested a class size of 18 - 30, while the third case suggested a
class size between 125 - 150. These very different answers
indicated that in the distance learning environment, one size
does not fit all. Class size depends on the nature of the class and
program. All cases used different technology and ran synchro-
nous and/or asynchronous programs with differing numbers in
class size.
Assessment of student learning. The three cases involved in
this study made assessment a vital part of their programs. A
variety of assessments methods were used at the various sites in
this study, but the most common means, as con- firmed by this
research were through portfolio, true or false questions, multi-
ple choice questions and projects.
All three sites acknowledged plagiarism and cheating as is-
sues. For combating plagiarism and cheating, the three sites
highlighted the need for teacher to know each student’s level of
writing against commonly available papers on the Internet.
They suggested the use of online services such as “www.tur-” as way of handling the practice. Additional strate-
gies to prevent and address academic dishonesty also emerged
from the interviews, such as knowing students level of writing
and conducting oral interviews on a student’s work. Given the
substantial effort schools put into dealing with issues of aca-
demic dishonesty, it is evident that including this consideration
in the plan for the Ghana model of distance education will be
Research Que s tion 3
Research Question 3 asked, What are the underlying is- sues
responsible for success in the use of interactive distance educa-
tional technology in three selected high schools in the United
States? The purpose of this research is to help Ghana improve
its educational system by establishing a plan to deliver secon-
dary education at a distance using interactive technologies. To
assure that planning for a distance education program in Ghana
is optimized for success, identifying issues that have supported
success in other programs is useful exercise. This research
question seeks to gather such information for consideration in
the creation of plan for Ghana.
From the above question, three major categories of issues
emerged during the interviews. The following sections ad-
dress those three main issues involved in this research ques-
tion: success issues, failure issues, and sustainability.
Success issues. Success, according to the study data, is a
combination of human and capital resources working together
to best serve the student. Participants offered the following as
necessary for success: Reliable technology, quality instructors,
qualified site facilitators, effective and collaborative support
staff, and positive character traits shared among all staff, such
as patience, graciousness, tenaciousness, resilience, flexibility
and creativity.
Failure issues. The studied cases expressed several factors
that put their programs at risk for failure. These included: Pro-
viding instruction at the appropriate level, the lack of skillful
ways to address student needs, lack of good site facilitators,
conflicting mindsets among teachers, lack of good communica-
tion, unmotivated students, lack of parental involvement and
support, misconceptions about distance education, and tech-
nology failures.
Sustainability. Sustainability requires sound budgeting, mak-
ing data-driven decisions, maximizing productivity, and con-
tinuous quality improvement in the educational product. An-
other issue of sustainability highlighted by participants is mak-
ing data-driven decisions. Continuous quality improvement was
another theme highlighted in this study.
All three groups highlighted the importance of flexibility in
maintaining the success of their programs. As student needs
change and technology evolves, it is incumbent on distance
education programs to remain responsive to these changes.
Failure to do so will likely leave a program behind.
Sustainability, according to the data analysis, stems from
maximizing the identified issues for success and avoiding the
pitfalls of failure. Maximizing productivity, improving program
quality and maintaining flexibility are requisite to program
Research Que s tion 4
The previous sections focused on the results of research
questions one through three and investigated the use of te-
chnology, program effectiveness, and issues of success. This
section examines the results from research question 4: How can
specific principles/themes from this study of certain U.S.
distance education programs inform the development of po-
tential similar distributed education in Ghana, Africa? The
purpose of this research question, and the purpose of the study
as a whole, was to identify strategies for using best practices
established in U.S.-based distance education pro- grams as a
basis for developing a model for Ghana. This section therefore
focuses on the salient administrative issues that have to be con-
sidered in creating a distance education program in Ghana, as
informed by the interviews that comprised this study and the
themes that evolved from those interviews.
The themes and principles identified in the previous section
provide a framework for developing a distance learning pro-
gram for Ghana. This framework must be considered in concert
with Ghana’s readiness and ability to embrace distance learning.
The following section outlines the existing technological infra-
structure and proposed changes.
Proposed Model for Ghana
The interviews that provided the data for this study offered
rich insight into issues that promote success in secondary dis-
tance education, as well as issues that can threaten the expan-
sion and sustainability of programs. This model is grounded in
the findings of this research. It applies the derived principles/
themes to the practical realities of infrastructure, funding, and
politics in Ghana today. The proposed model serves as a basis
for future educational planning with the hope that it can con-
tribute to bridging the educational gap between privileged and
under-served high schools in Ghana.
Despite Ghana’s efforts to establish a competitive advantage
in information technology, Internet accessibility is not a reality
everywhere in Ghana. In light of this, the model proposed re-
flects the reality on the ground. A basic model for discussing
development of a limited distance learning program is offered.
At this time, Ghana does not have adequate technologies avail-
able outside of large metropolitan areas. Therefore, it is worth
mentioning that some of the principles and themes applied in
the development of this model are based on issues pertinent to
the Ghanaian system while some are not.
The proposed model is a centralized high-school curriculum
delivered on televisions or computers screens through DVDs
and/or flash drives and distributed to under-served schools
around the country. The curriculum will be delivered by out-
standing Ghanaian teachers, following the core curriculum
mandated by the Ghanaian government. On-site facilitators will
be present in the classroom as lessons are delivered on the tele-
vision or computer screen, depending on available resources.
The government of Ghana, Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs), and philanthropic organizations and individuals are
expected to fund the program. This model is an exciting step
forward in the effort to provide consistent, quality education for
all Ghanaian children, providing a more level playing field for
access to higher education and economic security.
What follows is an outline of the proposed distance educa-
tion model for Ghana developed around the principles and
themes derived from the current study. The model is described
in six core topic areas: Program development, delivery medium,
funding, instructional personnel, site facilitator and evaluation.
Program Development
Program development must start with a need assessment. The
identified needs are lack of infrastructures, lack of logistics, and
lack of qualified teachers. As resources are limited and this is
only the first step toward educational reform, this model will
focus primarily on the lack of qualified teachers in many un-
der-served areas of the country. Many secondary students in
Ghana face considerable disparity in educational resources.
Those students living in under-served areas do not have ade-
quate resources needed to achieve academic success and go on
to college. The provision of centralized educational curriculums,
designed and taught by Ghana’s brightest and best educators,
represents significant progress toward the goal of equitable and
quality education.
A team of well-qualified educators, administrators, instruct-
tors, superintendents of schools, and the Ghana government
will be the stakeholders in the program development and opera-
tion. The Ghana Education Service (GES) operates under the
Minister of Education, Science and Sports and provides over-
sight for elementary and high school education. Well-qualified
teachers in individual subject areas would be contacted and
contracted through GES to build curricula that best leverages
the affordances of interactive distance education. These tea-
chers would present lessons in their subject areas in line with
the approved syllabi of the GES. The lessons would be video-
taped and burned onto DVDs and/or flash drives for distribu-
tion to schools in under-served environments. Students in these
schools would have the ability to watch the lessons in class
using a DVD player and television screen. The availability of
electricity supply in cities and towns where high schools are
located would make the viewing of the lessons through video
G. K. B. NSIAH 351
player and television screens possible. This would give un-
der-served schools the opportunity to enjoy quality lessons
from well-qualified teachers.
The curricula would need to be in accordance with the
approved syllabi of the Ghana Education Service. Collaboration
with GES will help ensure that curricula meet the government
content and quality standards for secondar y education.
The results of this study reinforce the importance of in-
teraction. For interaction such as questions and answers after
watching the lesson or pre sentation, under-served schools would
have on-site facilitators to help answer questions for students
on-site, and challenging questions beyond the facilitator’s kn-
owledge would be referred to the educator or curriculum author
through e-mail, text, telephone, or other available communica-
tion technology.
Another important consideration in any distance education
program is the role of community and service learning. Forma-
tion of knowledge, according to social constructivist theory,
depends on one’s social environment and service learning. Ac-
cording to Caviness (2007: p. 27) the social dimension of edu-
cation “is a valuable part of holistic education”. The proposed
model will provide social opportunities for students by going
on retreats and using electronic features such as chat, e-mail,
blogs, wiki and students clubs. They will render services to the
community by caring for the aged in nursing homes and the
sick in hospitals. They also engaged in service learning through
collaborative assignment. Socialization and service learning is
recommended in the curriculum to bridge the existing disparity
between privileged and under-served schools in Ghana. So-
cialization and service learning programs, such as serving in
public places like hospitals, museum, zoo, historical buildings,
will be introduced.
Delivery Medium
Technology provides the backbone for distance education
programs. With the widespread availability of communication
media, students and teachers in different geographic locations
can interact through technology. The Internet is the most com-
mon delivery medium for current-day distance education pro-
grams. Although the future of Ghanaian technology is promis-
ing, most areas, particularly those with lower incomes, do not
have reliable Internet connections. Given this reality, a more
common and readily available delivery medium is proposed.
Most school-aged Ghanaian children have access to television
sets with DVD players and many have access to personal com-
puters with Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports. The proposed
distance education model would use these as delivery media.
Curricula would be disseminated on DVDs or flash drives, for
playback on televisions or computer. Interaction between in-
structors and students would occur via telephone, e-mail, text
messaging, or other available technology. Each classroom par-
ticipating in the distance education would require the following
equipment for curriculum delivery: Television monitors, DVD
players or USB ports, and telephone lines or cables.
The production and development of the course materials
would take place either in a production studio or regular class-
room. On the way to achieving the model state of technology
diffusion, an intermediate model could provide a studio for
recording content—lessons prepared by qualified teachers in
their subject areas with particular attention to interactivity and
with the fully leveraged benefits of distance education. These
lessons could be videotaped and uploaded onto a site accessible
by schools in under-served environments. Students in these
schools could have access to recordings—CDs or otherwise—
containing the lessons along with availability of equipment to
project onto a television and to interact with the lessons. This
would provide under-served schools with opportunity to enjoy
quality lessons from well-qualified teachers. With the current
state of Ghana’s technology system, this is a possibility for
future programming. The focus of this study has been a more
realistic proposal for more immediate initiation. As a result,
more realistic and basic forms of recording in regular classroom
is proposed to meet the immediate educational needs of under-
served areas.
To provide delivery of the content to the students this basic
model would require computers, telephone lines or cables, cam-
corders for recording of classes, and the ability to distribute
courses and content. Contents would be prepared in advance to
ensure that schools received the materials in a timely manner.
Distributions to sites without Internet capability for download-
ing would be made through regular mail or could be available
for pick up at educational offices within the district.
Since this study will not rely on the Internet as its initial de-
livery medium, a full technical team will not be need. However,
technical personnel would be trained to support teachers to
develop the content. Their job would be ensuring quality pro-
duction through proper recordings, editing the content, posting
the content on the web, burning content on DVDs and flash
drives, and providing technical support for on-site facilitators.
Technical support for students would be provided by the indi-
vidual schools. Students will receive basic training to operate
the television set with the DVD player.
Program developers should pursue collaborative partnerships
with existing educational organizations, such as the New Part-
nership for Africa Development (NEPAD). NEPAD is currently
establishing science centers throughout Ghana and may be able
to provide some educational content and classes for the distance
learning program. Partnerships such as this can greatly enhance
the educational experience .
Programs cannot be sustainable without securing initial and
ongoing funding. One of the studied cases ultimately closed
because they lacked ongoing funding. Initial planning must
include all anticipated start-up and ongoing costs and expenses.
The recommendations provided do not include financial sup-
port for costs related to infrastructure, teacher salaries, or cur-
riculum development—which will be considerable.
The government of Ghana, NGOs, philanthropic organiza-
tions and individuals are expected to provide the majority of
start-up funding. A proposal, built on this study, would be sent
to the Ghana government and relevant NGOs and philan-
thropists in pursuit of grants and other funding to begin opera-
tions. Some of the considered NGOs are Volunteer Partnership
for West Africa, Savannah Education Trust Fund, PAAJAF
Foundation, and the Cheerful Heart Foundation. However,
these resources must be considered temporary. Start-up monies
must be replaced by more sustainable and reliable sources of
funding, such as tuition. Other possible sources of revenue
might include selling the curriculum materials to students. Be-
side the above, program developers will pursue partnerships
with universities and colleges who might have the resources—
both human and financial—to develop the curriculum and pre-
sent the lessons on DVDs and flash drives. Universities are
often resource rich and able to provide support for all aspects of
a project such as the proposed model.
Instructional Personnel
Well-qualified educators are key to any successful distance
learning program. Recruitment, hiring, and retention of well-
qualified educators is essential to the proposed model. These
educators will provide instruction and consultation to site
facilitators and students alike. Additionally, distance learning
programs rely on competent and qualified site facilitators. This
unique role is designed to be intellectual, social, managerial,
and technical. The facilitator of the class will help students with
questions and answers while referring difficult questions to the
content developer through telephone, text, e-mail and other
means of communication available to the facilitator/class.
The Ghana Education Service (GES) is the institution that
provides educational services to the nation’s educational insti-
tutions. Recruitment efforts would include contacting the GES
for recommendations and announcements to all qualified edu-
cators regarding open positions. Once the program director
identifies a group of qualified candidates, the selection com-
mittee would interview and select candidates. Qualified candi-
dates will have exemplified excellence in their courses through
effective instruction resulting into national academic excel-
Professional development will be an important part of the
proposed model. Efforts will be made to provide relevant and
current trainings for all levels of staff from doctoral-level edu-
cators to paraprofessionals providing administrative support. In
concert with incentive programs, these professional develop-
ment seminars will be part of the retention efforts.
Site Facilitator
Site facilitators were noted throughout this study as being
crucial to the success of distance learning. Site facilitators per-
form four main functions—intellectual, social, managerial, and
technical. As the class facilitator, they help students with ques-
tions and answers. Any questions beyond their scope of know-
ledge are referred to the content developer through telephone or
other availab le means of communication.
As this is a new role, site facilitators likely will require on-
the-job training. Like the content developers, a resource person
will provide training to site facilitators. Both site facilitators
and students will receive training to trouble shoot any technical
issues that arise.
The purpose of this study was to improve the quality of edu-
cation for under-served schools. In order to ensure quality in-
struction is being offered and learning being enhanced, pro-
gressive data will be kept on instruction and learning on com-
puter. Data will be kept on students test scores to determine any
effect as a result of the program. Both students and parents will
assess the effectiveness of instruction at the end of every school
term. They will be presented with evaluation forms at the end
of every school term to evaluate the program. This will give
them the opportunity to evaluate the program and express their
level of satisfaction. Improvement measures will be enforced as
data determine an area of weakness.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The primary purpose of this research was to examine suc-
cessful and unsuccessful distance learning programs and use
these data to inform the development of a distance learning
program in Ghana. The three schools studied successfully started
and ran their programs for several years. Funding was different
in each school, and two of the schools were able to secure
sustainable funding. One was unable to continue because they
had depended on a single funding source and did not develop
new streams of money. The loss of funding suggests the im-
portance of securing initial and sustainable funding when de-
veloping a distance learning program.
An examination of the themes reveals that it is not one single
issue that determines the success of a program, but rather a
multitude of issues including program development, attention
to technology, hiring and retaining qualified staff, implement-
ing sound assessment, and securing initial and continuing fund-
ing . Training teachers and students to be successful is a complex
but necessary component of beginning and maintaining a su-
ccessful distance learning program.
The transferability of the ideas and processes for running
distance learning in Ghana is not as simple as copying a
successful program from a different country. Although much
can be learned from the three sites studied, additional study and
planning will be necessary before beginning a program in
Ghana. This study provides much needed information about the
complexities of the task. To begin such a task requires much
indepth planning, interaction, and commitment on the part of
the educators in Ghana. The energy, desire and vision of the
Ghanaian people, administrative personnel, and policy makers,
will be crucial in the development of a successful program.
Without the support of the Ghanaian people as a whole and
those identified to develop distance learning in particular, a
distance learning program will inevitably fail. Links with parent s
and educators will also be an important part of any successful
program in Ghana. In the U.S., distance learning programs that
were part of this study, parent commitment and involvement
were essential to the well-being of all three programs.
Six core principles emerged for consideration in the devel-
opment of a distance learning program in Ghana: Program de-
velopment, delivery medium, funding, instructional personnel,
site facilitator and evaluation.
The following recommendations are for schools offering dis-
tance education programs in the United States and Ghana re-
spectively. They could apply to other distance education pro-
grams in other nations.
Administrators. The success of any program depends on vi-
sionary leadership. Administrators must endeavor to provide all
the necessary resources and support needed to run effective
distance education program. Administrators should see them-
selves as resource providers and must design plan and strategy
for success.
Techno logy depar tment. Distance learning programs must make
provisions for technology departments to help in trouble shoot-
ing any technical challenge that may arise. To avoid high costs
associated with large technology departments, students and site
facilitators could be trained to handle minor technical issues,
and issues beyond their expertise would then be referred to
advanced personnel.
Teacher support. Teachers should receive adequate support
through training and mentorship as they learn the technology or
delivery media employed in this kind of learning environment.
This will help alleviate fear and/or anxiety and boost teacher
confidence. Confidence boosting will attract more teachers to
G. K. B. NSIAH 353
teach in this kind of environment and at the same time, encour-
age those who are already participating in the program to stay.
Encouragement of interaction/social presence. Students should
have the opportunity to engage in service learning and com-
munity building activities as a way to ensure social interaction.
This could be done through field trips, collaborative assign-
ments/projects and online social networking features like Face
book, Skype, Yahoo Messenger etc.
Interaction: Interaction between student-teacher and student-
student should be a top priority in this kind of educational en-
vironment. Irrespective of the delivery mode—either synchro-
nous or asynchronous—interaction should be a key in bridging
the transactional distance between the instructor and student.
Funding. Distance education operating institutions should
not depend on one source of income, such as tuition. Program
developers and administrators should seek out other sources of
income for regularity and sustainability to keep the program
Student orientation. Instructors should offer orientation/basic
training to incoming students on the technology and delivery
medium prior to beginning their distance education experience.
This will help students gain familiarity and confidence prior to
engaging in this new way of learning.
Parental support. School staff should encourage parents to
support their child or ward as they embark and continue on in
their education in distance learning environment. Educators
should provide parents with opportunities to learn about how they
can best support their children’s success in distance learning.
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