Australia's School of the Air programs have been among the most lauded distance education schemes for more than 50 years. In response to a scattered population in a less than hospitable environment and with a lack of nearby population centers and facilities, the School of the Air provided education for isolated children. The original School of the Air was opened in 1951, but had been broadcasting school lessons from the Royal Flying Doctor Service for some years prior to that. The School of the Air programs still operate today, as there are students living more than 800 kilometres (more than 500 miles) away from the nearest school.
Why is it then, that as soon as the notion of avatars and collaborative virtual environments is brought up for education, that the educational establishments seem to shy away? Does virtual learning have to be dreadful before anyone is willing to seriously fund it?