Distance learning, sometimes called "distance education" is, according to Kerka (1996), a method of education in which the learner is physically separated from the professor and the institution sponsoring the instruction. Distance education may be used on its own, or in conjunction with other forms of education, including face-to-face instruction.
The advent of television and, indeed, the whole complex of newer communications media (from video to satellites) has given American citizens unparalleled opportunities to advance in their ability to record, disseminate, and communicate ideas. These new communication resources must now be harnessed to serve education. (Educational Media Study panel, 1962, p.15)
The purpose of this paper is to take an in-depth look at policies and written procedures that pertain to instruction of baccalaureate level courses taught through the use of the interactive television at Colleges of Engineering which are accredited by Accredited Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), as a means of distance learning. This paper emphasizes those factors that need to be most considered in policy development and formulation for the use of this technology as it relates to distance education and distance learning.
Colleges and universities, in an attempt to reach students who cannot come to regular classrooms on campus are utilizing satellite, open circuit, microwave, computer, telephone, and other related media. (Portway, 1991)
Pioneers in the media introduced Interactive Television seven years before the world's fair in New York in 1932 as an experiment in Ames, Iowa. The station W9XK used this as an experiment developed by the electrical engineering department of the State University of Iowa.
Once a new technology rolls over you, if you are not part of the steamroller, you are part of the road (Steward Brand).
During a presentation in 1999 on the subject, Dr. Linda Harasim said, "A Great Debate is raging, but fuelled by heat rather than light. Online Education is hot but media as well as both promoters and detractors have taken the stage. Faculty and educators concerned with educational effectiveness have been sidelined." (Harasim)
DeSpain, Johnson (2000), Interactive Television, has strong evidence that distance education is becoming an increasingly visible feature of post-secondary education in this country (U.S. Dept. Of Education, Lewis, Snow, Farris, Lewin, & Green, 2000). The 1995 U.S. Dept. Of Education Statistical Analysis Report stated "79% of U.S. higher education institutions planned to start or increase the number of computer-based technology distance education courses in next 3 years." Murphy (2000, p.1) quoted a study by Market Data Retrieval, a subsidiary of Shelton, Connecticut-based Dunn & Bradstreet Corp., which found that "seventy-five percent (75%) of the 4,400 post-secondary schools in the United States are offering distance learning classes."
Much of distance education is focused on the definition of distance education, the degree of learner satisfaction correlated with such variables as cognitive learning styles (Ehrman,1990) and instructor styles (Coleway, 1987), the effectiveness of distance education as measured by quantity and quality of learning (Garrison, 1990;Stubbs & Burnham,1990; and the characteristics of distance learners (Afman,1987,1988).
Kerka (1996) notes that in any distance education process there must be a professor, one or more students, and a course or curriculum that the professor is capable of teaching and the student is trying to learn. The contract between professors and learner, whether in a traditional classroom or distance education, requires that the student be taught, assessed, given guidance, and, where appropriate, prepared for examinations that may or may not be conducted by the institution. Some form of two-way communication must accomplish these requirements.
This is a critical element of distance learning, and sets apart Distant Learning from a passive watching of television. Students or learners must communicate with the facilitator or professor. A simple broadcast from the professor, teacher, or facilitator to the student is not enough. The medium used must allow for this important and critical two-way communication. It is from this process that the instructor interprets that the student is progressing with the course material. From watching body language, facial expressions, and actual classroom work, the professor or facilitator determines that the learner is on track or lost, and needs assistance. Experienced trainers and professors master teaching skills, and learn how to question students properly to determine the progression of learning. This interaction, available only with two-way communication, is vital.
Kerka (1996) notes that in this the two-way communication that is part of all education, instruction can be accomplished by diverse methods of instruction delivery. Some examples of these alternative methods are:
Telecommunications using the phone or fax
However, one alternative method of delivering instruction, a method that is being used increasingly frequent, is interactive television. According to Ostendorf (1994), interactive television typically involves an instructor who meets with students via the television while in a classroom at the originating site. The students communicate from designated remote sites using the interactive television technology. Through the television cameras, the instructor can hear and see the students at remote sites. The students can see, hear, communicate, and interact with the instructor.
ISSUES RELATED TO POLICY DEVELOPMENT
FOR INTERACTIVE TELEVISION AND DISTANCE LEARNING
All states are unique in distance learning policy development. However, policy must be part of an initial development" (Hazel, Feb. 4, 1991)
Instructional Television (see Distance education at a Glance, Guide #5 Engineering Outreach, University of Idaho) Interactive Television, is an effective distance education delivery system that can be integrated in the curriculum at all levels, single lesson, selected unit, or full course programs of specific topics or concept. Interactive Television may be either passive or interactive. Passive Interactive Television typically involves pre-produced programs, which are distributed by videocassette or by video-based technologies such as broadcast, cable, or satellite. In contrast, Interactive Television provides opportunities for viewer interaction, either with a live instructor or a participating student site. For example, two-way television with two-way audio allows all students to view and interact with the teacher (see Lochte, 1993).
DeSpain, Heeney, and Livingston (l999) have noted that while many schools and colleges utilize various alternative methods of instruction delivery for distance learning, they often fail to set up a clear method of formal policy and procedures relating to the use of this particular mode of instruction delivery. Consequently, the delivery of instruction using the method is seldom optimized. According to the authors, optimal use requires an examination of various procedures and processes (e.g., training, instructional support, extra compensation, adjusted teaching loads, and so forth) as well as the formulation of policy regarding these procedures and processes that is based on said examination. These factors, therefore, need to be examined in any comprehensive exploration of the use of interactive television in distance learning. Each of these factors is discussed below.
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a Statement on Faculty Workload 1970. This statement from the AAUP was developed prior to the significant development of Distant Learning in the United States.
As a result, the standards articulated within the AAUP policy statement articulate to the traditionally defined classroom. Even so, the AAUP statement remains the basis of the Association's standards for maximum faculty workload. The AAUP now takes the position that the workload should be:
For undergraduate instruction, a teaching load of twelve hours per week, with no more than six separate course preparations during the academic year.
For instruction partly or entirely at the graduate level, a teaching load of nine hours per week.
The AAUP statement recognizes that the standard method of workload measurement "hours per week of formal class meetings" is inadequate and that other factors, such as preparation and class size, also need to be addressed in the formulation of a faculty workload policy. (AAUP)
The widespread development of distance learning in the American Academy since 1969 requires the American Association of University Professors to reexamine workload and compensation formulations. The AAUP states "Class size, preparation, and student evaluation are specific issues that must be addressed, as well as overall commitment of time on the part of faculty."
Brigham Young University successfully tested the Distant Education methodology. "Maintaining ABET-accredited engineering programs requires hands-on laboratory experiences in addition to course instruction and theory. Web courses that satisfy both required elements have not been available in the past. During the past year, (1999) educators and academicians have openly debated the educational benefits of online instruction. Some have argued the foundational principles underwriting the "virtual university" while others have questioned whether or not such innovative developments can meet the high standards of traditional college and university curricula." (BYU)
The effectiveness of the Distant Education at an ABET (Accredited Board of Engineering and Technology) institution was documented in 1999. During the fall and winter semesters, 1998-99, a Brigham Young University classroom was linked via the Internet to a classroom at Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho, allowing lectures to be interactively shared by 260 students in the BYU lecture hall in Utah, and 54 students at the Idaho campus. (BYU)
The course offered was Brigham Young University's ME 172. This course has long been…