Conclusions: A recent workshop (see attached trip report) on distance learning, attended by experts from three continents, supports several conclusions about the status of distance learning:
- Rapid Growth: open universities and distance learning are growing extremely rapidly in academia, business, and government;
- Driving Factors: several factors drive the rapid growth of distance learning, among them the rapid pace of technological change and increased dependence of modern work on technology, the need for continuous learning in the workplace, increased availability of the means for economical mass dissemination of educational materials, and the need for new forms of education;
- Primitive, Evolving Tools: computer-based authoring courseware and multimedia tools are becoming available to support the development of distance learning materials, but there are few or no tools available for curriculum management or the administration of the virtual university, and today the technology infrastructure to support distance learning and open universities is akin to the status of software development environments over a decade ago: diffuse, primitive, handmade, and dependent on experienced guides and consultants;
- Pre-scientific Foundations: looking deeper than the availability of tools, the field is pre-scientific, i.e., there are no agreed-upon terms for its elements, there are no widely accepted theories, frameworks, or methodologies for distance learning comparable to those that define courses in the modern university, thus delivery of educational materials at a distance is completely ad hoc and rapidly evolving in many different directions, some which have nothing to do with pedagogy;
- No Standards: there are at present no commonly accepted methods to standardize, validate, or certify instruction via distance education, and although several traditional and non-traditional means are used presently to evaluate the effectiveness of learning at a distance, the scope and definition of the virtual university is still being shaped.
These conclusions imply some cautions as we attempt to develop distance learning solutions:
- the field of distance learning has many amateurs, some experts, and no masters;
- there are no school-solutions for how to provide distance learning (although one can pursue a Masterís Degree in the subject), successful experiences may or may not transfer across distant, open situations;
- the tools and technologies for providing distance learning, on-line curricula, and operating open or virtual universities are diffuse, evolving, and highly dependent on other technologies and infrastructures;
- until the field moves beyond its pre-scientific stage, the focus should be post-hoc (on outcomes and results benefiting clients) rather than anti-hoc (on methods and infrastructures);
- as demand for distance learning continues to grow, tools, methods, and infrastructures will undergo numerous cycles of evolution, creation, and extinction (as have software development environments), offering many business pitfalls and opportunities, and mandating a continuing need for experts and consultants.
Several organizations recently sponsored a Workshop on Educational Modules in the Field of International Relational and Security at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich. (ETH is the Swiss version of MIT, VPI, or Cal Tech in the United States.) The workshop sponsors were the Euro-Atlantic Foundation, the Swiss Ministry of Defense (MOD), and the ETH Center for Security Studies and Conflict Research (CSSCR). The CSSCR International Relations and Security Network (ISN) is a World-wide Web based site providing information and linking various sites involved in international relations and security. Drs. Kurt Spillmann, director, and Andy Wenger, deputy director, CSSCR ETH, were our hosts.
As an Adjunct Professor in the Security Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, I had consulted with the U.S Department of Defense Office of NATO Affairs on the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Information Management System (PIMS). PIMS is a US-sponsored intranet connecting PfP country MODs to each other and NATO, and through the Internet, to sites such as ISN. Having briefed representatives of CSSCR, ISN, and the Swiss MOD on PIMS in June, I was among the forty participants invited to attend the workshop in Zurich.
The workshop participants came from the United States, western Europe, and Australia and included experts in distance learning, technologists, consultants, and customers for distance learning. While government and academia were well-represented, industry (one of the major users and developers of distance learning) was under-represented. Many examples of distance learning courses and open universities were demonstrated and available for examination. The participants were housed together in a nearby hotel and took most meals together. Interactions were extensive throughout the workshop. The details of the workshop background, presentations, and participants can be found on-line on the Web (Homepage,
Presentations and Papers,
Invited participants and organizations).
In trying to characterize the "lessons learned" from the workshop, I found two images useful.
Distance Learning is a Unique Infant Industry: The first image was the early motion picture industry. This industry grew from several roots (e.g., the stage theater) but became uniquely different as it matured. Similarly, distance learning and open universities will probably grow in part from the root stock of traditional universities, but will mature into something uniquely different. For example, the full potential of multi-media distance learning involves production values and technologies more like the motion picture industry than like the traditional classroom culture. This is an exciting image, because there is an entirely new field blossoming in front of us. It is also a troubling one, because the traditional models and understandings are likely to take us only a short way, and then we are own our own. (The term "corps of discovery" was used sincerely, if somewhat grandiosely, by an organizer to describe the workshop participants.)
Distance Learning is a Pre-scientific Branch of Technology: The second image I took away was pre-scientific biology. That is, those early days of naturalism, when the first scientific names were being developed and negotiated, and terms were being invented to label key biological processes. The first scientific steps were naming, then enumerating, then measuring. Finally, correlation leads to theories of causation, and lawful relationships are discovered that allow general predictions to be made. Finally, engineering and economics make the enterprise of agriculture socially useful. Similarly, distance learning is at the earliest phase: trying to name phenomena (like "educational modules") with precision and consensus.
The experts are quite a way from being able to enumerate the key elements of distance learning. There simply is no framework yet for distance learning which allows scientific measurements, descriptions of processes, or general predictions. The engineering and economic principles of the discipline are yet to come. All this scientific, engineering and economic armature need to be developed, even as the field blossoms and is sowed and reaped.
Session Topics: The sessions of the workshop tended to reinforce these two images: many descriptions (with a variety of names, perspectives and interpretations), with an attempt at closure through three work groups:
- Session I: Why Educational Modules and not Textbooks?
- Session II: Aspects of Computer Aided Learning How Far Can We Go? Steps towards a Virtual University.
- Session III: Presentation of Selected Educational Modules
- Session IV: Creating Educational Modules
- Session V: Work in Progress
- Session VI: Work Groups
- Session VII: Final Discussion and Recommendations
The three concluding work groups suggested to me the first steps of both early industry and early technology:
- A Classification Scheme for Educational Modules;
- Identification of Fields where Educational Modules Are Needed;
- Setting up an Information Network among Developers of Educational Modules.
Closure? The final discussion and recommendations confirmed the preliminary nature of distance learning. Even the basic parameters of the concept of "module" remain to be specified.
The discussions of classifying modules opened up taxonomy issues. The structure of knowledge and education, while recalling the earliest days of Diderot and the encyclopedists, is not merely philosophical. The European Union, for example, intends to develop European Vocational Qualifications (EVQs), providing transparent and portable modules defining the skill units of all vocations, with all the attendant issues of validation and certification, not to mention currency. Discussions of the size of a module reflected their essentially fractal nature: each element of knowledge can be further "exploded" into a detailed blow-up of smaller elements. Conversely, stepping back, one sees connections and intersections with larger bodies of knowledge. Competencies, standards, authorities, structures -- all the convenient mechanisms of the traditional university offered at best starting points for discussions. The 21st century academy saw only partial reflections in the mirrors of the 20th century academy.
Discussions of where educational modules were needed was equally basic. While there were strong sentiments towards using distance learning to "leverage" education for the disadvantaged (e.g., East European groups), it was apparent (as we all sat in the Swiss MITís robotics laboratory with our sundry notebook computers) that more likely the richer would get richer before the disadvantaged benefited. That is, the well-off nations, audiences, and enterprises would initially sample and employ distance learning. However, the marketing-oriented among us saw sufficient variety in what we were calling "modules" and "distance learning" to find a multitude of niches to be filled among rich and poor.
Networking developers generated the more pragmatic discussions, since the distance learning practitioners and sponsors had real needs and objectives that could be served by better information exchange and collaboration. Educational modules need to be designed, developed, and launched. Doing so is much like launching new commercial products or services, an explicit assessment of audience needs and capabilities, and an eye on other stakeholders, such as investors and sponsors, are essential to any chance of success. Given the scale, complexity, time factors, and other "industrial" attributes of distance learning, networking the developers was a natural starting point. Constructing a pilot collaborative distance learning project offered a natural proposal for a next step. Task oriented, this work group threw up tool sets, project management frameworks, networks of contacts, and variations on the twelve-step improvement programs of the project-oriented. New product development batting averages are, roughly, a dozen project efforts yield one true success: the networked developers have their work cut out.
Favorite Links: I close the trip report with a copy of my own on-line notebook of distance learning resources available through the Worldwide Web.
Distance Learning Resources on the Web
World Lecture Hall (WLH),
maintained by the University of Texas, contains links to pages created
by faculty worldwide, who are using the Web to deliver class materials.
Over fifty course areas are covered, ranging across a spectrum of university
topic areas. For example, you will find course syllabi, assignments, lecture
notes, exams, class calendars, multimedia textbooks, etc. An e-form is
provided to add new distance
learning links. Students and faculty auditors contribute to an on-line
Author: Kathy Rutkowski.
Links to information on virtual learning: Global
Efforts, and Commercial
& Government Efforts, with Recommended
Copyright © 1996.
Global Schoolhouse In recognition of National Science and Technology
Week 1993 (April 26-May 1), the National Science Foundation's Directorate
for Computer and Information Science and Engineering is sponsoring the
Global Schoolhouse project, an activity that will demonstrate how the Internet
can be used to allow students all over the world to work and learn together,
by communicating with each other, teachers, scientists, and even national
and international leaders.
The Michigan Virtual Automotive College
(MVAC), providing an automotive
technology distance learning site, is a private not-for-profit 501(c)3
corporation formed by the State of Michigan, Michigan State University,
the University of Michigan, the state's other colleges and universities,
and the auto industry. MVAC will integrate the automotive education and
training offerings of Michigan's higher education providers with the support
services needed to provide convenient, cost effective, and high-quality
automotive education and training.
University of Phoenix offers graduate
and undergraduate degree programs to working professionals around the world.
With 51 campuses and learning centers located throughout the U.S. and the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, including the Online Degree Program and Center
for Distance Education, University of Phoenix is one of the nation's largest
private accredited institutions for business and management.
the Tele-Conferencing Service of MATES.
Authors: Peter Parnes, Dick Schefström, Kåre Synnes, Centre
for Distance-spanning Technology, CDT,
University of Luleå, Sweden. This site describes WebDesk, a distributed
electronic conference environment in conjunction with the World Wide Web,
WWW, where users share a common view of the distributed workspace and can
interact with each other through audio, video, drawing and annotation of
existing documents. The WebDesk attempts to create a single homogeneous
and integrated framework for distributed collaboration. The Esprit 20598
MATES project is supported by the Information Technology part of the 4th
Framework Program of the European Union. Provides useful information and
design notes for any distributed collaborative architecture, e.g., distance
learning or virtual education.
Time and Space through Network Technologies to Enhance Learning
Authors: John F. Chizmar and David B. Williams. Networking technologies
offer a better learning environment for students while providing opportunities
for reducing the cost of the learning process. A key outcome of advances
in networking, the Internet, telecommunications, and client/server computing
is that they are serving to alter the limitations of time and place. The
authors discuss their experiences from the perspective of teaching in economics
and the arts. They have created learning strategies that make use of these
technologies for communication and access according to a matrix showing
the interaction of time and place. A useful essay on designing distance
Copyright 1996 CAUSE.
Virtual Learning Environments
at a Glance. An overview of VLE, or virtual learning environments,
provided by University of Florida, Gainesville. The Web gives little
consideration to the use of VLEs specifically for distance learning. The
links provided offer an orientation to the use of VLEs for distance learning.
Moving your organization into the 21st century.
Authors: Ray Grenier & George Metes, Prentice Hall, 1995, Upper
Saddle River, NJ.
Notes on virtual workers, collaboration, virtual teaming, collective
learning. The integration of work processes with a ubiquitous electronic
information infrastructure enables the optimum teaming of world class competencies
to create value. The era of teams of knowledge workers able to use electronic
systems to support knowledge and information worldwide. Interactions are
in real time and designed to use all available telecommunications facilities.
Learning is continuous, collaborative, and acquired through the information
infrastructure. Notes by John Sharp, October 1996.
Learning offered by Knowledge Ability Ltd, provides international consulting
and training services on online communication, collaboration, and learning.
Networked Learning uses computer
networking to bring learning to the learner, by creating electronic classrooms,
available anywhere, anytime. A variety of web-based Networked Learning
tools are now available. Useful descriptions of web-based learning and
copyright © Knowledge Ability
By Wire offered by Knowledge Ability Ltd, provides international consulting
and training services on online communication, collaboration, and learning.
Working By Wire offers over
30 skill development modules, building the skills for working online. Useful
descriptions of web-based learning and methods.
copyright © Knowledge Ability
Global Learning offers virtual learning through: learning environments
offered on the world wide web; senior learners, experts, and peers from
various locations around the world; participants will be encouraged to
fulfill competencies by pursuing off-line opportunities while remaining
linked virtually to learning environments and other learners through the
internet; and participants will be able to remain active in cohort groups
and the community of faculty and learners at a number of different locations.
©September 1, 1995 THE LAURASIAN INSTITUTION
of Education and Research: Assumptions about Teaching and Learning
Author: Blake Ives. This hypertext essay from ISWorld Net
paraphrases the original set of assumptions about the future of education
included in "Will the Internet Revolutionize Business Educationa and Research,"
by Blake Ives and Sirkka Jarvanpaa, that appeared in the spring of 1996
issue of the Sloan Management Review. These assumptions were drawn
from the literature on distance learning and provide useful links and references.
The Globewide Network
Academy offers thousands of course opportunities through links
in its distance learning catalog. GNA also sponsors a Virtual
Information Technology College.
Athena University, administered
by Virtual Online University Services
International, Inc., is a corporation offering a distance education
program. Its electronic campus allows students to collaborate, debate,
and interact with fellow students and instructors by way of a distinctly
innovative model for distance education.
Art Site on the World Wide Web @http://shum.cc.huji.ac.il/jcmc/vol1/is
Author: Margaret L. McLaughlin,
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California.
Nowhere is the online presence of artists and their work more significant
than on the Internet. Artists are represented in every arena of network
activity, and, to a greater extent each day, the World Wide Web. An analysis
of using the web for teaching art subjects.
Copyright 1996 Journal of Communication 46(1) Winter
Galleries and Exhibits on the WWW
Author: Margaret L. McLaughlin,
Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California.
An example of resources for on-line art teaching.
Eureka Distance Learning WebLinks offers dozens of links to Web sites
dealing with learning and education using the World Wide Web:
Learning on the World Wide Web - A searchable, dynamic collection
of sites where the web is used for more than just surfing; these are places
where teachers are using it in the context of their instruction.
World Classroom - trains you in the design and HTML publishing
of 3D Worlds using Mac and SGI-based software.
Institute for Global Learning
- offers classes on-line for individuals and corporations interested in
Newcastle Schools on
the Internet - project involves 8 schools using the Internet
in their classrooms, including CU-SeeMe, email and WWW.
Instruction using WWW
AcademicNet - Online information
and communication resource for educators interested in technology-mediated
instruction and learning in higher education.
for Computers and Writing@
AskERIC Virtual Library - AskERIC
is an Internet service dedicated to providing education information to
the networked K-12 audience.
Calgary's Math Tutor - an
on-line math tutoring service that keeps and posts student questions with
my answers. It also has a puzzle page.
CaseNet - Internet"s premiere
location for teachers interested in the use of cases for teaching Internat'l
CATS PROGRAM Home Page - offers
a graduate diploma course in the area of development and application of
advanced software technologies.
Center for Visual Creation Catalogue
Database Welcome Page - a case study course based upon current chance
events as reported in the daily newspapers such as the New York Times and
the Washington Post and current journals such as Science, Nature, and the
New England Journal of Medicine.
- Survey Course covering methods of separation. Emphasis is placed on modern
for younger students - Background information and links to Internet
CNU Online - Christopher Newport University
- Offers a variety of college courses online through dial-up and Internet
connections. Students can take full college courses for enjoyment, credit,
or towards a four year degree.
Computational Science Education
Project - CSEP produces electronic teaching materials for advanced
undergraduates and beginning graduate students in computational sciences
Computing Maths Lecture
Of Modern English Texts - a collection of texts for use in research
and teaching. We have many Scottish texts which are not available elsewhere.
UMass Dartmouth - Register for credit courses taught over the Web/Internet
in 1995. Includes technical writing, Web design, personal finance, Chem
lab statistics, Midi composition techniques, and the Holocaust.
Department of Instructional Technologies
Distance Learning Italy
- constitutes the center of the consortium which joins italian public and
private institutions active in the CBL field.
Douglas Eyman's Digital
Space at WISE - Pointers for writing teachers new to digital pedagogy.
Also included is the online version of my MA Thesis: Hypertextual Collaboration
in the Computer-Assisted Classroom.
Early Career Preventionists
Network - Dedicated to fostering the development of prevention science
researchers, practitioners, and/or advocates who are beginning their professional
Earth System Science Community Curriculum
- a holistic approach to the study of the Earth that stresses investigations
of the interactions among the Earth's components in order to explain Earth
dynamics, Earth evolution and global change
ECSEL Coalition - a coalition of seven
diverse schools and colleges of engineering engaged in a five-year effort
to renew undergraduate engineering education and its infrastructure.
Education Sharing Service
- Large Education Archive available via ftp & html HTML portion is
still under contstruction.
Educational Online Sources
Home Page - Welcome to the world wide web of educational online sources.
We want to make this a space where everyone can contribute, where everyone
together can build a clearinghouse for educational information.
eText - Electronic Textbook
project at Caltech
eWorld on the Web:
Learning Community - Provides educators, students and parents with
a simple and easy way to find extensive educational information on the
General, Organic and
Biochemistry - Two semester series of lecture slides, practice exams
and chapter summaries.
GOAL - Global On-line Adventure Learning
- Our "GOAL" is to intrigue you with the adventures, the sciences, the
technologies and the underlying laws of nature that make them possible.
Hewlett Packard Email Mentor Program
- mentor program developed by HP to encourage local k12 students to take
full responsibility for their education by providing an environment which
nurtures their interests, dreams and goals.
with HTML - A page with two types of hidden links -- perfect for a
simple teaching machine, where the student must click on the answer space
in order to reveal the answer.
How To Let Earth
Teach - free E-mail course enables you to master thoughtful nature
reconnecting activities that dissolve stress by satisfying our deepest
natural loves wants and spirit.
Degree - Online Catalog of courses available online and by mail for
a fully accredited, completely external Master of Arts in the Humanities,
and other related information.
ILTweb - A high-speed multimedia
network linking many diverse local and global resources related to education
and educational technology.
Integral Link - on-line education
Interact Project -
aim of the INTERACT project is to provide students with an understanding
and appreciation of the interactions and relationships which occur in engineering
phenomena. This is being done by use of interactive computer simulations
of engineering systems.
and Negotiation Simulations (ICONS) - offers educational simulations
of international relations over the Internet at both the university and
high school level.
International University College - a university
to develop and provide affordable courses, certificates and degrees to
individuals world-wide, using electronic technologies.
For Leadership And Management Development - Useful information for
both facilitators and leaders/managers themselves.
and Technology Journal (IPCT-J) - Educational use of computers and
telecommunication, Computer mediated communication, human factors in CMC,
and many other subjects.
Leon - Visit a unique educational experiment in which students put
their reports on Home Pages and interlink them generationally every semester
creating a generational virtual superdocument.
On-line mainframe government computer instruction K thru College. Approximately
16,000 hours of lessons available.
Kennedy-Western University - offering degrees
at undergraduate and graduate level in engineering and non-engineering
KIDLINK: Global Networking for Youth
10-15 - KIDS-96 (sm) is a grassroots project aiming at getting as many
children in the age group 10-15 as possible involved in a GLOBAL dialog.
KIDLINK (sm) is the name of the organization that runs the yearly KIDS-nn
- Worldwide tutoring exchange. Find a tutor for your specific needs or
be a tutor by filling out our easy on-line form
Learning Path - Numerous
courses in business, the management of technology, the reading of books,
history, politics, and writing.
Learning Through Collaborative Visualization
- attempting to transform science learning to better resemble the authentic
practice of science. Geological sciences.
- Topic pages with texts and links for study by Readers. HTML templates
to build a Web-based learning medium which is decentralized, configurable,
Live From Antarctica
- Passport to Knowledge project designed to allow students and teachers
the opportunity to experience what life is like in the coldest place on
Long Island Educator
MetaSelf - -- Common spatial
metaphors ("back of mind," etc) comprise an accessible model of the self.
Combines psychology, virtues, cognitive linguistics. Lesson plans.
Middle of Nowhere -
an experiment in using hypertext web documents to distribute hoarded information
to students of all ages around the globe.
National Teachers Enhancement
Network - offers on-line, graduate-credit science and mathematics courses
to K-12 teachers nationally. Professional networking between teachers and
active research scientists.
NovaNET - system for computer-aided
instruction - a system for computer-aided instruction. The system provides
instruction, communications, courseware authoring, and curriculum and student
NYU Hippocrates Interactive
Grammar - An on-line English grammar reference.
Once Upon a
Time in the Eighties - final project for an Introductory Composition
seminar at the University of Virginia; an example of how the WWW can be
used as a publication medium for student work.
Literacy Project, The
Knowledge for Humanity
Postgrado de Comercio Exterior
y Economia Internacional - Primer Postgrado de Comercio Exterior y
Economia Internacional via Internet, impartido por la Universidad de Barcelona.
Pueblo - Global Learning Collaboratory
- text-based virtual learning community. Partnership program between Longview
Elementary School, Phoenix College, and Xerox PARC.
and Composition - Southern Illinois Univ, Carbondale
House - online learning and educational information.
Spectrum Virtual University -
an online campus offering free and low-cost classes and workshops over
the Internet and by touchtone telephone.
SyllabusWeb - Covers technologies
of interest to educators in high schools, colleges, and universities.
Homework Helper - resources, learning games, and info on arts, English,
language, math, science, social science, and general.
Technology Education Network
- Programming from software and hardware manufacturers.
Text Project - generate
hypertext textbooks to teach various subjects over the network.
- personal and professional development directory.
Documentation - a filter for a CGI-compliant HTTP server that makes
it slightly easier to develop tutorial style questions and have them presented
by most Web browsers.
Ultimate Children's Internet Sites
- A resource for teachers and parents-- contains more than 100 links to
fun and educational sites, divided by school ages. Sponsored by Vividus
University of Florida's IBM Writing
Project - involves the teaching of undergraduate and graduate writing
and literature classes in an X-windows based networked writing environment.
University of Missouri
at Columbia - Online Writery - online tutoring service for undergraduates,
which makes use of the web, e-mail, MOO, and other resources.
University Online, Inc - offers online
computer based training.
WWW to Augment University Courses
Center - On-line school devoted to rigorous, interdisciplinary instruction.
For grades 7 and up.
Virtual Academy (Wirtualna
Akademia) - promote the Internet among Polish speaking people and education
through the Net.
Experiment on Learning
Environment Project at Texas Christian University - program designed
for English-speaking MBA students.
Virtual Online University - Virtual
Online University is an institute of higher learning offering courses via
Virtual School -
provides the opportunity to collaborate with world class thinkers in understanding
electronic property and how to leverage the Internet to solve business
Virtual Summer School
at UK's Open University - Students of Cognitive Psychology used Internet
Videoconferencing and a range of other communications technologies to participate
in tutorials and practical lab activities.
Web Based Training
Information Center - non-profit resource designed for individuals and
organizations developing and delivering training via Web. Share non-proprietary
information, stimulate creative ideas, and link to training sites.
Web Educational Support Tools (WEST)
- a project of the UCD Computer Science department designed to deliver
course materials and support to students over the WWW.
Where On the Globe is Roger
- Q&A from kids to Roger Williams via the net as he travels around
Worldwide Media Webcast
Network - Operates three online educational channels: Beckley-Cardy
Online, Frey Scientific, and Just for Kids.
WWW '94 WS: Teaching &
Learning with the Web