"What is Distance Learning It and Who Uses it How?"
What is Distance Learning?
“Distance learning is the ability to teach and learn over time and space via electronic means using various technologies and media such the Internet, video conferencing, CD-ROM, and video-cassettes.”
What are some techniques/technologies in DL?
1. Audios and Videos (asynchronous and synchronous)
2. Teleconferencing (synchronous)
3. Papers (asynchronous)
4. Organizing and Sort Features for Web materials (asynchronous)
5. Transcripts (asynchronous)
6. Virtual Conferences (synchronous and asynchronous)
7. Chat Rooms (synchronous)
8. Message Boards (asynchronous)
9. Email Lists (asynchronous)
10. CD-ROMs (asynchronous)
In distance learning (DL), there is a difference between adding to existing capacity and adding new capacity. Adding or enhancing of current efforts, a stepping-stone approach, is the most recommended route. Enhancement is the natural first step in developing DL capacity, insofar as it builds on existing efforts and introduces the technique in partial amounts without a full commitment to the concept. Initial investments into include technical, pedagogical, administrative and other supports. After that, further investments are required in technological, outreach and market areas. At some point, the organization needs to recognize DL as a core part of its mission and a continual dedication to improvement and enhancement. DL is just another means for providing access, but it also can educate at the same time. DL has often been most successful in an education context. After all, distance learning began at least with correspondence courses over a century ago.
DL can be further broken down by offerings that are on-line and this is off-line. On-line technologies on the Internet can be synchronous, indicating real-time inter-action, or asynchronous, indicating any-time participation.
What are some techniques/technologies in DL?
Distance learning does not have to be technologically sophisticated. Correspondence courses have been around a long time, a least 100 years, through the use of the written letter (snail-mail). Part of distance learning isthe mixing and matching of these types of technologies with some issues and ideas. Efforts need not be high-tech to succeed, but somehow engaging.
The trend of how quickly DL is being adopted in academia is instructive on how quickly this approach is being adopted. How fast is DL penetrating the education field? With obvious reliability caveats, one report notes that about one-quarter of all college classes use the Internet in some capacity in the year 2000, up from 4 percent only 4 years before. About 44 percent use email. These courses are mostly in the social rather than the physical sciences. Most credit program are for under-graduates. Other programs include certificates, corporate training, credential programs, conferences and other offerings.
By the year 2000 nearly two million people will have taken distance courses. Although students at all academic levels have taken courses, the growth is driven by the rising number of adult and professional students. New educational enterprises are rising to meet that demand.
Fully entering the distance education market is not easy. The enterprise will need to provide a host of technical, training, pedagogical, administrative, and other supports. In order to have the necessary supports, the university will need to invest in its current technological infrastructure and human resources, and develop new internal structures capable of managing distance activities. A full distance learning program will emerge from internal activities and only with time. Here are two reports that attempt to measure the rate of penetration of distance learning.
Asynchronous Internet instruction, two-way interactive video, and one-way prerecorded video were the most widely used forms of delivery, with Internet-based delivery accounting for 60% of the total, a rise of 38% from three years earlier.
The percentage of classes using e-mail increased to 44% in 1998. The report also states that one-third of all classes are using Internet resources as part of the syllabus, more than twice as many as two years earlier, and that nearly one-quarter of all college courses are using World Wide Web pages for class materials, up from only 4% four years earlier.
Not all technologies work best for all types of courses, nor do all courses or programs benefit from use of distance technologies. Programs designed to teach hundreds of students may require on-line instruction. Executive education and corporate training is often delivered by videoconferencing. Many programs include a residential component so that participants can meet face-to-face.
There is also a range of courses and credentials that can be appropriate across the full range of academic disciplines. There are even biology courses online where the animals to be dissected are sent by mail. The NCES report identifies English, humanities, and the social and behavioral sciences as the largest percent (70%) of college-level, credit-granting distance courses offered, followed by the field of business and management (55%).
Institutions offer credit and non-credit programs and courses at a distance as well as certificates, corporate training, credentialing programs (such as in computer repair), conferences, and other programming. Most credit programs are offered to undergraduates while non-credit programs are generally offered to graduate and professional students. In addition, the NCES study notes that postsecondary institutions are more likely to offer graduate/professional degrees or certificates than undergraduate degrees or certificates via distance methods.
There are a number of potential distance learning students - traditional students, career enhancers, corporate learners, life-long learners. It is expected that adult and non-traditional learners, who form a growing segment of the educational market, will be the people most likely to want to take a course in a completely distance environment. Part-time students 25 years of age and older currently represent about 45% of the enrollments in higher education, while only about 15% of college students are 18-22 years old and live on campus. It is expected that these adult students, along with corporate trainees, will make up the sizeable portion of the distance pie and traditional college-aged students will be in the minority.
The reasons for this composition are three-fold. First, most adult students have other things going on in their lives, such as careers and families to support. Second, large corporations need to train their employees but find that trying to do it themselves is cumbersome, so they are turning to distance learning providers. Third, traditional resident students who are paying for the face-to-face learning interaction and social aspects of college life generally avoid distance learning, except as an enhancement to a traditional course.
Distance learning must be curriculum driven, meaning that there must be an educational reason for providing material in a distance format. Not all courses/programs are going to work in this environment. Distance technologies offer a new array of pedagogical tools to reach students in the traditional classroom setting.
Some DL Providers Offering OnLine Degrees
University of Maryland University College (UMUC)
George Washington University
University of Phoenix, OnLIne
Measuring DL: Web Statistics
One Way of Measuring Success
It is absolutely critical that distance learning (DL) efforts have a basis not only in sound ideas but also in establishing a system for an on-going systematic analysis of efforts. Use of distance learning can include a wide variety of simple yet essential indicators of costs (both fixed and operating), revenues, and faculty, student and staff participation. Costs and revenues are being treated in a separate report being prepared by the University Web Budget Committee. Data on the number of people involved is relatively easy to gather and can be easily produced, for example, through the Registrar's Office.
While simple, participant data can be misleading because it may well mis-represent the importance of distance learning to the classes. For example, the number of participants may be rising at the same time, in reality, that the amount of resource use, and thus its value of the investment, are decreasing. Such a gap indicates, at least, a less efficient use of resources.
One should rather think about measurement along the lines of the stock market. No analyst would conclude that the market is healthy because more people are investing. The value of the investment, whether distance learning or the stock market, ought to focus on values and returns. There is however great debate on measuring hits, in an exercise that has become known as "proxy valuation". "Eyeballs” or visitors are a common indicator, as are "stickiness" (how long the visitors stay at the page), inquiries per visitor, and of course revenues generated.
A "hit" refers to the usage of a Web page, but what is reported can include the number of times a page is visited or the number of times certain graphics appear. We are on the whole more interested in the latter. A content "hit" is defined as a user accessing a content or navigation page on the Web. We want to know where users wind up and the answer to that is where the content is that they want to sue or research they want to access. Hits usually are part of "navigation" (how to get to content) or "content" itself.
Intellectual Property Issues and Distance Learning
Intellectual property issues are rampant in DL, especially in terms of ownership. Parts of classes can be legally claimed by adminstrators, deans, professors and students. For example, who owns classroom discussion that is recorded on videotape and transmitted live over the web as part of a distance learning course? What if the students are discussing the professor's book? What if they are discussing, free-style, ideas on possible web ventures?
Intellectual Property and Copyright
Yahoo IP Site
Stanford Copyright Site
Who Owns HyperLinks?
Syllabus Web Site
IP and Copyright
TED Cases, Distance Learning and Intellectual Property (IP) Issues
Numerous TED cases relate to IP issues, especially as they relate to the convergence of geographic, ethnic, environmental and cultural issues and the ownership of the of this heritage. Here are some examples.
Distance Learning's Impact on Faculty and Students
No one should be under the impression that DL makes teaching and learning easier, in many ways it makes it harder. Faculty and students both need a higher level of technological capacity and capability to take advantage of distance learning. How is that cost-effective and how does such a philosphy fit into the overall mission of a university?
Distance learning is from the start an investment, an up-front, cost to any organization. After there is this investment of technology and ideas, then the operational aspects of such a program are possible. This gets into the ugly truth: distance learning needs to pay for itself.
Shoud students in DL courses pay more or less tuition? DL increases the external costs of curse delivery but reduces the costs of internal delivery. Should a student pay more or less for a course? Should a faculty member be compenstaaed more or less? The fact is that students now normally take courses through other universities and can transfer credits. DL just makes that easier.
The matter is then essentially a question of tuition. Should persons who take a DL course have to be pay higher or lower tuitions compared to the advantage on-campus sutdent. How do we integrate these near and far students into a succesful pedagogical experience? How can students from developing countires participate given the financial requirements?