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Challenger Learning Center Earns Consecutive Honors for Distance Learning

Wed Sep 18 2013

Pinnicle AwardThe Challenger Learning Center at Wheeling Jesuit University again has been honored for its many videoconference-based programs that are reaching students around the world.

For the second consecutive year the Challenger Learning Center has received the Pinnacle Award from the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration, this time for the 2012-2013 school year. It had also been honored with this award in 2011-2012. The award is presented annually to organizations delivering outstanding K-12, standards-based, interactive videoconferencing programs.

To qualify for the award, Challenger had to receive a minimum 2.85 average score out of a possible 3.0 on evaluations from educators during the school year. The evaluation assessed seven areas related to the effectiveness of the presenter and the educational content of the program.

Established in 1994, the nonprofit Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration specializes in the use of videoconferencing for live interactive content and professional development as well as web-based collaborative learning environments for K-20 education.

Challenger's innovative distance learning program, called e-Missions™, links the Wheeling facility to classrooms anywhere in the world. Each of the 11 e-Missions provides teachers with an all-inclusive curriculum package comprised of teacher training and support, online lesson plans and materials aligned with standards, and technical support. The e-Mission culminates with a live event. In these videoconference simulations students connect with a flight director at the center and use their problem solving, math, and science abilities to work their way through a scenario fraught with crises. Each year more than 750 video connections are made to classrooms around the world. Challenger missions have been flown in 18 countries.

Another distance learning program recently developed at the Challenger Learning Center is e-Labs. This series of 12 virtual, interactive lessons in various science subjects connects students via one-hour videoconferences with a chief lab director linked live from a science lab at the Challenger Learning Center.

"The Pinnacle Award shows the public that we're meeting the industry's level of excellence for distance learning," said Kathleen Frank, assistant director of the Challenger Learning Center and head of the e-Missions program. "In the same way many of our programs have passed NASA internal review, this award demonstrates that our e-Missions and e-Labs stand up to critical review for their effectiveness. We're keeping good company, judging by some of the other Pinnacle Award recipients."

Among other organizations earning a Pinnacle Award are the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The Challenger Learning Center is one of 48 centers worldwide established by the Challenger Center for Space Science in memory of the space shuttle Challenger. More than 30,000 students fly missions each year either at the Wheeling facility or through distance learning. The center has been honored nine years at the annual national awards conference in three categories: Most Students Served, Most Missions Flown, and Most Teachers Trained.