This is a formal paper, use readings below to help aid in answering the discussion questions. You must quote from the readings in order to substantiate your points. Use APA format when quoting from the readings. Do Not Use Outside Sources!
1.How can the quality of distance education be measured reliably and validly? What criteria are appropriate for assessing the quality of distance education? Are those same criteria appropriate for assessing the quality of classroom-based education?
2.Do tertiary institutions have clear policies about distance education course in program quality? Are procedures for monitoring quality in place? Is responsibility for monitoring quality clearly identified?
Distance Education Policy Issues: Towards 2010
At the time the authors suggest six questions that researchers might address to develop baseline information on the newly emerging field of distance education. Those questions are as follows: how needed is distance education in the US? How are the clients for distance education? What are their needs? Who should pay for distance education and how much? Can newer technologies help distance education overcome some of the barriers to traditional education opportunities? Where will our next generation of distance educators come from? What types of training will they need? What are the research needs of distance education as we approach the year 2000? Some of those questions are as valid today as they were in 1990 expressly given the growing number of persons participating in distance education in the US. In writing his 1990 chapter that Arthur relied entirely on issues from his own experiences in reviewing hundreds of proposals for finding and in in overseeing several of the leading distance education projects of that time. In comparing the current chapter, he relied on a review of articles on distance education that have appeared in the Chronicle of higher education, the American Journal of distance education, and various other sources of distance education literature the variety of articles almost defy classification but certain issues emerge from the midst more central than others. Some issues were identified in composite list develop a national or regional organizations such as accrediting bodies or governing boards. Others emerged as single issues but were cited by many sources.
Composite List of Issues
some groups especially national and regional planning organizations have compiled composite list of issues facing distance education. For example, the American Council on education issue to publication in March 2000 developing a distance education policy for the 21st Century learning. In it the American Council on education identify the following seven areas in which policies must be review or developed: intellectual property policies, ownership of distance education courses, faculty issues (e.g. teaching load, preparation time, and class size); student issues (e.g. increased access, privacy issues, and disabled students); limiting liability; commercialization (e.g. direct agreements, consortia, and royalties for licenses); and teaching beyond state and international borders.
The council for higher education accreditation has contracted with the Institute for higher education policy to conduct a series of literature reviews and original research called distance learning in higher education 1999; Council for higher education accreditation. Those report documents the expanding universe of distance learning and the growth of statewide virtual universities. Among the issues identified are the following: equity gap, digital divide, lack of teacher training, battle over encryption, works made for hire, contractual transfer (as faculty member switch institutions), and security/privacy. Student aid for distance learners: charting a new course, a separate report from the Institute of higher education policy 1998, the new rates several student aid policy issues that are unique to student pursuing distance education. They suggest that student aid should be holding learners centered, following the student through his or her academic program, available without regard to the mode of instructional delivery, awarded only to student in accredited program of study
, and try to standards of academic progress and not arbitrary measure of time. They also suggest a regulation should allow flexibility on the part of institutions and that any amounts and limit should focus on lifetime standards rather than annual or institutional maximums. Working for a consortium of the six regional accrediting association, the Council of regional accrediting commission's 2000 prepared a draft of guidelines for the evaluation of electronically offered degree and certificate programs. Those guidelines focus on the following areas, indicating policy issue for institutions of higher education to consider in developing distance education programs: institutional context and commitment, curriculum and instruction, faculty support, student support, and evaluation/assessment. Reviewing contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance learning in higher education, Phipps and Merisotis 1999 cite the following gap in research: students outcomes for program rather than courses, differences among students, investigation of reasons for dropout rates, differences in learning styles related to particular technologies, the interaction of multiple technologies, the effectiveness of digital libraries, and a theoretical or conceptual framework. The review identifies three broad implications of the current research: the notion that distance education provides access the computer mediated learning requires special skills and technical support that might not exist; technology cannot replace the human factor; and technology is not nearly as important as other factors, such as learner cast, learner characteristics, student motivation, and the instructor. The same pair also wrote quality on the line: benchmark for success in Internet based education Phipps and Merisotis 2000, in which they identify 24 benchmarks considered essential to ensuring excellence in Internet based distance education. The benchmarks fall into seven categories: institutional support, course development, teaching/learning, or structure, student support, faculty support, and evaluation and assessment. This author in a review of the status of distance and virtual education in the US in 1999 Dirr, identify the following as important trends in the profession: the pervasiveness of change, growing commercial interest in education, the importance of partnership and alliances, and unbundling of the educational process. An Internet search for policies of distance education reveals a robust body of literature on the policies of individual institutions. In one instance, a group of researchers studied the written distance education policies of all the tertiary institutions in the state of Nebraska. They found that most existing policy dealt with: academic areas, faculty issues, students, and technical issues. Academic issues emphasize course integrity, especially ensuring the equivalents of distance education program with regular on-campus instruction. Measure of the code and see included class time, course content, student services, prerequisite skills, and instructor qualifications. The University of Nebraska system had the most policies (103), followed by community college's (48), state colleges (32), and independent colleges (32). The researchers found that legal and cultural issues were not addressed in any sector. They also found that written policies were more structured were collaborative efforts exist. They attributed this to the need to develop and communicate rules of participation for the collaborative efforts. They concluded that multi-instructional arrangements might be an excellent opening to cultivate and generate fundamental policy actions. Looking across these composite lists of policy issues facing distance education, one sees the faculty and student issues appear on almost all the list, as to academic and curriculum issues. Beyond those categories the list presents a quite disparate grouping of additional issues.
Singular Citation of Policy Issues
In addition to the composite lists of policy issues more than 100 articles over the past two years in the Chronicle of Higher Education alone have dealt with the policy issues that affect distance education in the US. The articles might have been labeled as policy issues but they certainly have policy implications for the future of distance education and in some cases the higher education in general. In most cases the issues addressed in those articles are also found in the composite lists of policy issues cited above. For the convenience the single citation have been classified by the author in the following categories: quality issues, equity and access, collaboration and commercialization, globalization, intellectual property rights, the roles of technology in distance education, faculty issues, student issues, and research and evaluation. Because many of the citations in this section are drawn from the Chronicle of Higher Education reporters Blumenstyk, Carnavale, Carr, and Young will be referenced often.
Several articles have addressed the issues of how to maintain quality in distance education courses and programs. At a September 2000 meeting of education officials from 30 nations, but is it is recognizes education as a means learners to become exchange students without passports of costly plane tickets. They sought to identify ways to foster coordination among institutions. High on their list was the development of ways to measure the quality of distance education courses and programs (Young, 2000). Sometimes the issues of quality is dealt with subtly. In an editorial in the American Journal of distance education, Michael Moore 2000 notes that two articles in fact issue address the question of whether distance teaching requires more or less work from the faculty than traditional teaching. Just below the surface of that question, however, live the issues of quality of instruction and the amount of interaction between the instructor and student. Following up on an announcement of the development of the new guidelines for distance education developed by the Council regional accreditation commission for the six regional credit rating agencies, interviewed Charles M. Cook of the New England Association of schools and colleges that observed that although the guidelines sought to ensure a quality distance education experiencing a half also anticipated new pedagogy one that shifts toward the learner and away from the teacher. This carries an important message for researchers will in future will be setting the quality of distance education courses. Charles Cook points out that because the assumptions of what happens in a traditional classroom cannot be made about an online course distance education will be held to a more explicit and possibly more detailed set of criteria and would be applied in a traditional classroom. If explicit criteria are developed for distance education courses might those same criteria be used to challenge the assumptions that underlie traditional classroom experience? It is not possible that holding distance education to higher standards may have ripple effect raising the standards for all of higher education? There is also an emerging body of evidence that distance education might be having qualitative impact on how students learn. For example, Lang 2000 and skeptically whether an asynchronous environment can foster suspension critical thinking given the lack of gestures and subtle nonverbal clues that students have in face-to-face instruction. In the end, he argues that online discussion can develop high level thinking skills, citing the experiences of faculty and students involved in an online writing across the curriculum course. Because words do not disappear and can be read, remit, and revised all online participants have an equal opportunity to organize your thoughts clearly. Furthermore since the conversation is not confined to an artificial time limit all participants have an equal opportunity to speak. The Pew Charitable Trust have been influential in encouraging new ways to evaluate the quality of learning experience. With $3.3 million in funding the trust have supported the development of the national survey of student engagement. The survey measures the extent to which colleges encourages actual learning by scoring student responses to 40 questions. More than 63,000 undergraduates filled out a questionnaire in spring 2000. The questionnaire actresses five benchmarks: the level of academic challenge, the amount of active collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, access to in reaching education experience (e.g. internship and study
abroad programs), and the level of campus support (e.g. social life and help in coping with nonacademic responsibilities). Not all of efforts to improve the quality of distance education have come from within the traditional higher education sector. Blumenstyk and McMurtrie 2000 reported on the tension being calls in higher education should go buy a fairly new a credit-rating agency, global alliance for transnational education. Created by Glyn Jones, founder of Jones international University the first fully online university accredited in the US, global alliance for transnational education is an international accredited agency for technology-based education programs and institutions. Originally run by a nonprofit group global alliance for transnational education has now become one of Jones's several for-profit businesses related to distance education. Critics charge that as a for-profit company tied to Joneses other businesses, global alliance for transnational education is riddled with conflicts of interest resulting from the marriage between the corporate and academic worlds. In a letter to the editor responding to critics, Jones 2000 noted that for-profit corporations are increasingly playing a leading role industry-leading education and that traditional nonprofit institutions are no longer the sole gatekeepers of quality education. Other solutions of the quality issue might also emerge from the private sector. Recognizing the vacuum in cyberspace when he comes to reliable information with which to evaluate online courses some web sites such as new promise.com, ecollege.com, and hungry minds have become to allow students who have taken online courses to post evaluations of those courses, similar to the way Amazon.com posts evaluation of the books in sales or eBay allows buyers to rate sellers of auction items (Carnavale, 2000).
Equity and Access
At the turn-of-the-century, the professional literature and the public press were full of references to the digital divide -- the gulf between the affluent and the poor in terms of access to telecommunications services and computer technologies. There was general concerns that the digital divide would have a major impact on access to distance education opportunities. Phipps and Merisotis 1999 pointed out that even though most studies
of distance education courses concluded that these courses compare favorably with classroom based instruction and that students in these courses enjoy higher satisfaction than students in traditional classes the notion that distance education provides access to higher education opportunities might be mistaken. Many distance education courses require computer mediated technology and skills and technical support that certain students might not have. Increasingly colleges and universities are attending to the need to make online courses accessible for all students, including the handicapped. In colleges strive to give disabled students access to online courses; Carnavale 1999 reported that colleges are finding that they must include the virtual equipments of Wiltshire ramps when building online courses. To understand the requirements colleges are urged to consider the guidelines developed by the California community college systems.
Collaboration and Commercialization
An overriding theme of much of today's literature in the extent to which alliances among colleges and between colleges and commercial interests are playing leading roles and the development and delivery of distance education at the higher education level. More has been written on the topic than any other. However since this theme is covered in depth elsewhere this theme is only noted briefly here. Many collaborations are driven by the need of the partners to provide their offerings to more students each year thereby increasing their revenues each year. This is as true for colleges and University as it is for commercial firms with whom they partner. For although enrollments in the US colleges and universities are growing steadily and tuition costs are growing along with them the increase enrollments by themselves cannot provide sufficient fuel for expansion. The scope of collaboration and the factors that motivate them are quite varied. Some are region-wide alliances, such as Kentucky virtual University (Young, 2000), Western governors University, and the Southern regional educational board electronic campus (Carnavale, 2000). Others bring together groups of institutions that share interests such as Jesuit-net, a collaborative effort of 24 and the 28 Jesuit universities in the US, and Universitas 21, a network of 17 or 18 procedures universities in 10 countries. The collaborators often struggle to devise relationships that draw on the strengths of each to create and deliver new products to meet the perceived needs of vast populations of adult learners. Sometimes, the collaborations involve a commercial partner most notably a publisher along with institutions of higher education. Other times institutions of higher education have established their own commercial distance education programs to extend their academic programs to new groups of learners. Cornell University, for example, formed a for-profit distance education entity named e-Cornell, Temple University created virtual temple, and the University of Maryland formed UMUC online.com a for profit arm to market its online courses to new groups of students. Temple University quietly shut down virtual temple in early 2001, less than 18 months after its and adoration, because it was not economically viable. One rather recent distance education collaborator in the US federal government especially the military, education opportunities are seen as a key incentive for attracting and retaining recruits to volunteer service. In the final days of 2000, the US Army found its six-year $453 million project to deliver distance education courses to soldiers all of the world. The project, Army University access online, involves a commercial company Price Waterhouse Cooper, 10 companies, and 29 colleges. By the middle of 2001 it had already enrolled more than 4000 persons in distance education courses. The U.S. Navy initiating similar program around the same time.
Interwoven into many of the collaborations is the theme of globalization. The very technologies used for distance education today make it possible for an institution to think beyond its traditional borders. The technologies also make it possible for potential students to sink education opportunities from tertiary institution throughout the world. This trend holds the potential of having a major impact on traditional institutions because this theme is dealt with in depth elsewhere in this handbook, only a few examples will be mentioned here as evidence of its importance. Many US universities have already begun to extend their distance education programs into other countries as a way to expand their student population. Currently enrolling about 75,000 students in the US, the University of Phoenix plans to I had another 75 students in such diverse countries as China, India, Mexico, and Brazil. Carnegie Mellon University plans to offer online programming courses to 15,000 students in India. The University of Bar-Ilan Israel and developing virtual Jewish
universities to deliver in Jewish studies
courses to learners throughout the world. And on any more global level, the World Bank is setting up distance learning centers in countries that lack the telecommunication infrastructures so that learners in those countries might have access to education opportunities offered in other parts of the world. One challenge that will face all institutions offering distance education over the next decade will be to develop new guidelines and policies that allow the expansion of education opportunities through distance education while its same time providing learners with appropriate course of instruction and student support services.
Ownership and Intellectual-Property Rights
The issue of ownership and intellectual-property rights is one of the importance in all sectors of education today. This issue shows up on many of the composite list of issues facing distance education. Developing a distance education policy for 21st-century (American Council on education, 2000) in this intellectual-property rights first on the list of issues that must be reviewed and address. Distance learning in higher education cites works made for hire and joint works are two of the policies that must be addressed. Written policies of many tertiary institutions that offer distance education programs addressed issues of intellectual-property rights of institution and of individual faculty members. Policy at San Diego State University requires that faculty and the university must agree on who owns an online course before the course begins. A faculty committee at the University of Illinois has recommended that professors retain ownership and control of online courses. Aside from the issue of ownership of online courses the issue of copyright raises many questions for which there is no clear answer. In fact, the congressional web-based commission referred to the copyright law as a horse and buggy on the information superhighway. The Napster case in the US and the icrave.com case in Canada have provided vivid examples on how the law and policy lagged behind practices supported by new technologies. It is safe to say that it is not currently clear just how the copyright laws will apply to digitized content.
The Role of Technology in Distance Education
Colleges and universities in the US have been increasing their spending on information technologies including those used in distance education. A study
of liberal arts colleges by David L. Smallen of Hamilton College and Karen L. Leach of Colgate University shows that in the decade of the 1990s the typical liberal arts college doubled its spending on information technology services. Information technology spending at liberal arts colleges at the end of 1990s was typically 3.5% to 5.2% of total institutional spending. PC replacement costs accounted for 14% to 24% of the total. A broader annual study
of technology using by tertiary institutions, the campus computing project, by Kenneth Green, showed that in spite of increased expenditures on information technology institutions of higher education still have a long way to go. The study
in 2000 found that 60% of all college courses uses e-mail as a tool for instruction, and 30% of all courses have web sites. In spite of that high level use of the technology by faculty members, administrators remain skeptical about its value. Only 14% of administrators agree with the statement, technology has improved instruction on my campus. Green believes that in the absence of empirical evidence of impact the increase in technology use might begin to slow. He noted that some technology trends in society at large have yet to catch on in academe, citing the absence of any meaningful use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) by colleges. He further noted that academe is far behind the private sector when it comes to e-commerce. Only 19% of colleges have e-commerce services such as tuition payment. Perhaps educators have reason to be at least slightly timid about jumping on the technology bandwagon. That many businesses are suffering because they bet on web-based growth rates that are well beyond what could be delivered. That has led to the downfall of several dot com companies. Rather than banking completely on the Internet, Noguchi 2000 encourages business to think of the Internet as enhancing what they already do, and extension of the business rather than a revamping of it. That is not bad advice for colleges and universities with distance education programs. Distance education has existed through correspondence courses for more than a century. Access to distance education was accelerating in the 1970s with the introduction of television bass lessons that were broke faster of the US on public television stations the advanced capabilities of Internet based courses have greatly expanded the reach of distance education courses open new opportunities for learners to continue their education. But the sad fact is that we know little about the impact that these technologies have on the access or quality of education being provided. One question that has been raised Ridley for at least three decades is, how effective is the use of technology in education? This question has been very specifically about distance education. Some studies
in recent years have addressed the issue of the roles and effectiveness of technology in distance education. Unfortunately many of those have been a dimensional, that is, they have focused on a single technology is isolation from many other variables from the horse race syndrome; that is, they attempted compared a technology base course with a traditional course to see which came out ahead in terms of student learning. This approach suffers from two flaws: first, it holds up the traditional course as the standard to be emulated rather than asking whether things might be done differently (and may be better) by using the power of technologies, second, it overlooks the sample bias that is inherent in the research methodology when potential students cannot randomly assigned to traditional or distance education courses.
Many faculty issues emerge from the literature. Faculty concerns our needs are referenced in most of the composite list of issues cited at the beginning of this chapter. A study
of 402 college faculty members drawn from the 85,000 members of the national education Association found that faculty members who have taken part in developing and/or offering distance education courses are generally enthusiastic about the experience and benefits of teaching distance education courses. They might feel that they put in more work on distance education courses than on traditional courses but they also believe the benefits outweighed the extra work involved. Some faculty members have used students as a shield questioned the appropriateness of distance education courses when Fairleigh Dickenson University decided to require that all its undergraduates take at least one distance education course annually in part to help students become global scholars who are able to use the Internet for IT purposes, the American Federation of teachers question whether that was an appropriate requirement for students who do not do well in distance education courses. Nevertheless, some pouty members expressed fear about distance education, some fear that they might be replaced by Barry distance education courses they help develop. Others fear that distance education might take jobs away from Ph.D.'s and put them in the hands of business executives and poorly paid part-timers. Still others resist this is education because they fear it will increase competition from foreign institutions. One thing that seems to increase faculty opposition to distance education is when administrators commit to distance education programs without adequate consultation with the faculty. This became a major issue when Cornell University established e-Cornell to deliver distance education courses and when Temple University established virtual temple. The San Diego State University policy on distance education, developed by the faculty senate, contains several requirements that reflect the concerns of faculty: professors must oversee online courses in their fields, students must have substantial, personal, and timely entry action with faculty members and other students, faculty and the university must agree on who owns the course before it begins, students must be assured of access to appropriate resources and services, and full-time professors must not be replaced by part-time instructors. Another concern of faculty members is that distance education might be leading to a new learning paradigm and changed roles for the faculty. The concern seems to be supported by some of the literature. The draft guidelines for the Council regional accrediting commissions to help colleges and University review the quality of electronically offered online degrees and certificate programs anticipate a new pedagogy won the shifts toward the learner and away from the teacher. Some see the emergence of multi-University portals and statewide virtual universities as evidence of new learning paradigm in which the faculty role changes from teacher to designer of interactive materials and guide for students. Perhaps the most interesting train in terms of potential impact on the roles of about 20 members in distance education is the unbundling of the parts of education process. This phenomenon was identified by this author in 1999 as one of the leading trends in distance and virtual learning in the US (Dirr, 1999). Since then the team had appeared several times. In September 2000, John Stone noted that the task of teaching and supporting students learning are becoming unbundled. One way of breaking out of this components is as follows: curriculum development, content development, information delivered, mediation and tutoring, student services, administration, and assessment. As these functions most of which have traditionally been done by individual factor members are unbundled, it becomes possible to ask who might best performed each function and which of the functions might be contracted out. Distance education provide a fertile testing ground for exploring such arrangements. A growing number state line institutions and consortium provide administrative services for online students. Follet, Amazon.com and others offer electronic bookstores and library services. Others offer testing services the most recent addition to the field is smart thinking.com, an online tutoring service with coverage 24 hours a day seven days a week. The theme of contracting out unbundle services appeared again indecent or 2000. A new digital library company announced plans to offer students online access to searchable books and journals. For a fee of about $20 to $30 per month, students would have access to 50,000 scholarly books and journals (150,000 by the end of 2003). The resources would be searchable by keyword leading some faculty to fear a cut and paste approach to the research and report writing an approach that could lower the effort that students put in to their studies
. About the same time the faculty union at New York University was expressing his concern that new roles for faculty hired by the University online subsidiary would begin to break down the teaching functions into a series of discrete tasks performed by different people which would lead to disassembling and de-skilling of the profession. A counterbalance to such faculty affairs can be found in a monograph issued by the league for innovation. The faculty guide in moving teaching and learning to educational networking is intended to encourage faculty members to break a course down into component functions and explore how they can for field each component without meeting any fiscal classroom.
Distance education programs and courses have become known for being more student centered than many other university programs in part because many distance education programs are developed in response to specific perceived needs for the students. But how well our distance education programs doing responding student needs? Few empirical data exist. Young 2000 interviewed seven adult students who were taking online courses. For several the courses provided a chance to be back in college and opportunity they would not have had absent distance education. Many reported a nagging guilt -- that they should be logging-on to their courses web pages more often. Those who were most successful had developed a regular schedule for working on their courses. The oft-reported isolation of distance learner were supported to some extent by these interviews. The students stated that the dismissed instant feedback from their professors. They also found taking exams a logistical challenges especially if they had to travel to campus to take the exam. Although generally satisfied with the distance education experience the students recognize the distance education is probably not appropriate for everyone. Hara and Kling 1999 also studied a small group of students six enrolled in a web-based distance education course. They identify several frustrations that inhibited student performance in the course. These included a felt need to compete among each other on the volume of e-mail messages submitted, a perceived lack of feedback because of the lack of physical presence of the instructor and other students, technical problems and the absence of personnel to provide technical support and ambiguous instructions from instructor. The students dealt with these frustrations by venting them with each other over the Internet. The authors do not end up condemning distance education but rather causation institutions against advertising only the virtues of computer mediated distance education when promoting courses. These studies
possibly reflect the way that many distance education courses have been developed they have devolved out of campus base courses in faculty member focus almost all their attentions on getting the content of the course transferred into a new medium the Internet. However a new emphasis began to emerge in the late 1990s spurred in part by a funding program of the fund for the improvement of postsecondary education. The fund encourage institutions amending proposals for funding to think about the entire student experience when designing distance education courses as much emphasis was placed on making quality student support services accessible at a distance as was devoted to quality presentation of the course content. One of the recipients of the fund for the improvement of postsecondary education grant was the Western cooperative for educational telecommunications an organization that has played a leading role in looking at how support services are provided to students studying
at a distance. The goal of the Western cooperative for educational telecommunications -- the fund for the improvement of postsecondary education Project was to identify colleges and universities that had developed quality suites of student support services that were delivered to students at a distance. From a survey of 1028 institution the project learned that most institutions that offer distance education courses that concentrated on delivery of existing courses without developing new support services for students studying
electronically. Most held firm to traditional structures and policies for student support services. The findings of that study
led Western cooperative for educational telecommunications to create its guide to developing online student services. This guide offers a series of the practices for delivering student services via the Internet. It ends with a section call outstanding web-based student services system, which highlights some institutions that have shifted from a provider perspective to a customer centered orientation for providing student support services. The most advanced institutions have three decision-support systems that offer students variety of opportunities for self-help and customized services. The guide notes that within the past couple of years a number of software companies have been gone to develop products that assist institutions in making the transition to a customer centered orientation. For-profit and nonprofit companies are also developing resources that help students sort through the thousands of online courses that are available and to choose a course that best fit each student's needs and interests. Rose 2000 evaluated 21 online course database is designed to help students locate the right courses or program. Criteria for evaluating databases include user friendliness, search capabilities, reliability, course offerings, course information, and connectivity. Another student issue that continues to work in the background distance education is the number of dropouts from distance education courses. It is generally recognized that enrollments in distance education courses are increasing but so is the number of dropouts. National figures do not exist but anecdotal information suggests a sum that dropout rates are higher in distance education courses than in traditional courses. Direct comparisons across institutions are difficult because institutions in a report completion and dropout rates in any consistent way. Some speculate that distance education dropout rates are higher because distance education students are older than traditional students and have busier schedules. Others argue that the nature of distance education courses is at fault in that they cannot supply the personal introduction that some students crave. This is certainly an area that deserves further research. Some colleges have entered the world distance education without fully considering the implications for disabled students they were surprised, for example, that they must include the virtual equivalents of wheelchair ramps on the web sites when building online courses. This can raise the cost of developing online courses. Provisions of the American with a disability act and the vocational rehabilitation act are generally interpreted to apply to online education programs even though the US office of civil rights has not yet issued rules for online courses. In the meantime colleges are being urged to use guidelines developed by the California community colleges system. The report of congressional web-based education commission has already reference above. The report recognized the students in distance education courses and programs are penalized by existing laws and regulations. One regulation is that specifically targeted is a requirement that to be eligible for full student aid a student must at least take 12 hours of classes each semester. The whole question of student aid for students enrolled in distance education courses was studied by IHEP 1998. In its report student aid for distance learners: charting a new course, IHEP suggested several principles future policies regarding student aid for distance education: student aid should be available without regard to mold of institutional delivery, delivery of student aid should be learners center, with eight following the student through the academic program, aid should be awarded only to those an accredited programs of study
, awarding of age should be tied to standards of academic progress and not average really measures of time, regulations allow flexibility on the part of institutions, and aid amounts and limit should focus on lifetime standards rather than annual or institutional maximums.
Research and Evaluation
The need for research and evaluation distance education generally recognized however that the need is really get in shape. Consequently although many studies
can be found there is little organization among them and cumulatively they did not add up to a significant body of research on topics that are critical for guiding the future of distance education. As in 1990 the author will encourage the research community to concentrate their energies on a limited number of questions so that the sum total of the research efforts might have far more impact on the future of distance education than if they were without a focus. Certainly some quality research and evaluation is done in distance education, Phipps and Merisotis 1999, of IHEP with backing from the American Federation of teachers and the national education Association analyze what current research tells us and does not tell us about the effectiveness of distance education. They found that many of the questions educators have about distance education are unanswered by existing research in their opinion although there is a not insignificant body of original research, little of it is dedicated to explaining or predicting distance education phenomenon. From their perspective, three Bourque measures of effectiveness dominate the research: student outcomes, student attitudes, and overall student satisfaction. According to Phipps and Merisotis most of the studies
of distance education conclude that distance education compares poorly with classroom base instruction and that students enjoy higher satisfaction with distance education courses then with classroom base course. However their review of research suggests that many of the research studies
are of questionable value, rendering the findings inconclusive in the opinion of the reviewers. The current research suffers from key shortcomings: it does not control the extraneous variables and cannot show cause and effect, it does not use random selection of subjects, and the validity and reliability of the issue mints are often questionable. In looking at gaps in current research Phipps and Merisotis identify the following needs: studies
of student outcomes for complete programs of study
rather than the single courses, careful attention to the differences among students, investigation of reasons for dropout rates, research on how differences in learning styles relate to different technologies, research on the interaction of multiple technologies, research on the effectiveness of digital libraries, and development of the theoretical or conceptual framework. Using a modified Delphi technique, Rockwell, Furgason, and Marx 2000 surveyed educators in Nebraska to identify needs for distance education research and evaluation. They identified for topic areas: cooperation and collaboration among institutions including postsecondary and secondary schools, designing the educational experience to meet the unique needs of distance learners, teach preparation especially in competencies that are unique to distance education, and educational outcomes expressing participation and completion rates. Smith and Dillon 1999 tackled a difficult problem of how to conduct comparative studies
that will withstand critical review. They know that most comparative studies
have suffer from confounding factors in their methodologies making the findings suspect. They propose a schema to address the issues of confronting factors, the media attribute theory, a framework based on identifying the defining categories of attributes that are embedded within each delivery system and media used in distance education course. The categories of attributes they suggest include realism/bandwidth, feedback/interactivity, and branching/interface. Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dan Carnavale 2000 reported on a study
criteria for an excellent online course, Lee Alley chief executive officer of world-class strategies Inc. Alley stated that some aspects of distance education that were considered novelties if you years ago are now considered essentials for quality distance education. He specifically cited regular into action between student and faculty and among students, a student centered approach, and a built-in opportunities for students to learn on their own. He concluded that distance education is changing the theoretical underpinnings of tertiary education by forcing an understanding that you don't transmit knowledge; knowledge is constructed. This will inevitably lead to a change from faculty centered to student centered instruction. Ongoing tracking of developments in issues in distance education has been a characteristics of the work of the CHEA and IHEP. Since at least 1998 these two organizations have worked together to issue an annual report, distance learning in higher education. The report looks at the status of distance education at the tertiary level in the US, tracking growth, identifying trends, and raising issues. The organizations have also undertaken focus studies
of distance education, such as IEHP’s what's the difference? A review of contemporary research on the effectiveness of distance learning in higher education and quality on the line call in benchmarks for success in Internet base education. One issue that has gotten sporadic attention from researchers and the cost of distance education. Brian M. Morgan, a professor at Marshall University has developed an interactive spreadsheet that will help an institution compute the likely cost it will incur in offering distance education courses. Morgan 2000 also wrote and extensive background paper, is distance learning worth it? Helping to determine the cost of online courses, in which he identified the research he did several original surveys to obtain the data on which he based the algorithms used in the interactive worksheet. The paper contains many helpful references and insights. Business might be even more concerned about the cost of providing learning opportunities than some colleges and universities. Writing and the Washington Post, Evans 2000 noted that Internet base lessons are rapidly overshadowing traditional manual and face-to-face classes and many corporations. According to international data Corp., which falls more than 200 e-learning companies, the e-learning market will grow from $550 million in 1998 to $11.4 billion in 2003, especially in the view of the need of companies to deliver up-to-the-minute training to workers all over the globe without having them leave their place of work. Not all e-learning is online because not every place on earth have the bandwidth needed to accommodate interactive learning over the Internet. Whalen and Wright 1999 use the case study
approach to analyze the cost benefit of web-based telelearning at the bell online Institute. They examined the relative importance of several design elements and presented a detailed cost-benefit analysis model of courses that Bell uses to train employees and customers. Treat courses each equivalent to a two-day classroom course were developed and offered on for learning platforms (WebCT, Mentys, Pebblesoft, and Symposium). Fixed and variable costs were computed for each, including the cost of delivery platforms and transmission costs, salaries, hardware, and license fees. The author concluded that web page training has higher fixed cost than classroom base training but those costs are offset by lower variables costs in course delivery given a larger enough number of students overtime.
There are many policy issues concerning distance education that must be addressed over the next decade. There is little evidence in the literature to indicate that they will be addressed in any systematic way. That along with the fact that distance education holds the potential to have a greater impact on higher education than any other single phenomenon for several decades, leads this author to suggest that the education community consider adopting a framework, a focus, and funding that will permit systematic development of policies that can advance quality distance education. A systematic approach will also facilitate the documentation and validation of the impact distance education has on the lives of learners. At a starting point, the author suggests that the policy issue areas identified above serve as the framework for policy development. The focus might be created by carefully crafting the few questions in each policy area.
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