(a) It is the intent of the Legislature that legislation be enacted to implement the policy objectives set forth in this section with regard to distance learning. For purposes of this article, “distance learning” means instruction in which the pupil and instructor are in different locations and interact through the use of computer and communications technology. Distance learning may include video or audio instruction in which the primary mode of communication between pupil and instructor is instructional television, video, telecourses, or any other instruction that relies on computer or communications technology.
(b) Distance learning should be utilized by the state to achieve the following educational goals:
(1) Equity in education, which requires that every pupil in California’s public schools, and every adult in the state, have equal access to educational opportunities, regardless of where he or she lives or how small a school the pupil attends.
(2) Quality in education, which would be enhanced through the creative application of telecommunications, as pupils are given the opportunity to interact with pupils from other cultures and geographical locations, and with outstanding educators from other educational institutions.
(3) Diversity among educational institutions, which has been recognized in California through the support of various types of public educational institutions as well as of independent and private colleges and universities. Distance learning technology permits greater diversity in the means of instruction and in the delivery of educational and training services to an adult population that is more and more likely to seek education outside of the traditional baccalaureate program designed for four consecutive years on a full-time basis shortly after graduating from high school.
(4) Efficiency and accountability, which receive increasing emphasis as state budget resources become increasingly restricted. Distance learning technologies can be effective only through the cooperative efforts of individuals from different institutions, a collaboration that has the potential to reduce costs and increase efficiency. A technology-integrated educational delivery system would allow for the electronic transmittal of files and reports, thus providing the information needed for accountability more rapidly and at a lower cost, and for video teleconferencing for state and local education and other government agencies, thereby diminishing travel requirements.
(c) To the extent that funding is made available for this purpose, a coordinated distance learning system should be developed to serve the following high priority education needs:
(1) The enhancement of work force skills and competency in the adult population.
(2) The expansion of adult education classes in English as a second language, in response to the growing level of unmet need for that instruction.
(3) The enhancement of curriculum to meet the needs of high-risk pupils who would be likely to drop out of traditional classroom programs.
(4) The expansion of course offerings in subjects that include, but are not limited to, foreign languages, science, and mathematics, to rural and inner-city secondary schools that are unable to provide the college preparatory and enrichment courses that their pupils require and that other secondary schools provide.
(5) The expansion of course offerings at community colleges and off-campus centers to better serve students in all parts of the state. This expansion should include university-level courses, to better serve community college students who seek a university-level education but do not have the financial resources to transfer to a university.
(6) The establishment of staff development courses for elementary school, secondary school, and community college teachers who otherwise might be unable to participate in training opportunities.
(7) The enhancement of curriculum through an increased communication capability on the part of schools, colleges, and universities, providing the opportunity for those institutions to receive various types of supplementary educational programs, conduct exchanges with business, industry, and government, participate in live lectures and conferences on special topics, and increase cooperation and communication with other educational institutions.
(d) The state should encourage the use of multiple technologies in distance learning education, including microwave, satellite, and public/private switched network delivery systems. Priority in this regard should be placed upon interconnecting the various delivery systems, while providing educators with the opportunity to experiment with each alternative distance learning technology.
(e) The state shall recognize the value of regional networks serving regional needs, as well as the value of a statewide network.
(f) In expanding the use of distance learning technology, the state should emphasize the delivery of education and training services to populations currently not receiving those services, the ease of access by educational institutions to the technology, and the lower cost over time of providing instruction through distance learning rather than on site.
(g) The state should employ incentives, rather than requirements, to induce educational institutions to expand their utilization of distance learning technologies.
(h) The state should ensure that the same standards are applied to distance learning for course and program quality, course content, pupil achievement levels, and coherence of curriculum that are currently applied for those purposes to traditional classroom instruction at public educational institutions.
(i) The state should encourage collaboration between the private sector and educational institutions in the use of technology, both to enhance the quality of education in the classroom and to expand the delivery of educational services to the worksite.