Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning

Philip Barker (University of Teesside, Middlesbrough, UK)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Barker, P. (2004), "Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning", The Electronic Library, Vol. 22 No. 5, pp. 450-451. https://doi.org/10.1108/02640470410562027



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

As online learning emerges as a panacea for education and training, the distinction between conventional campus‐based courses and distance learning programmes is slowly starting to disappear. Nowadays, educators talk about “flexible delivery” or “blended approaches” to learning. In my view, this can only be a good thing – for students, for teachers and for educational organisations. This book explores some of the issues involved in moving towards “ubiquitous” online learning.

The book contains a collection of 16 contributed chapters that originate from an international group of authors whose members are based in Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the USA and the UK. Despite the international mix of authors, most of the book is framed within the context set by activities taking place in the USA.

The book is organised into three main parts. The first part focuses on strategies and paradigms for online learning. The second part deals with some of the important instructional, course development and quality issues involved in moving from traditional classroom settings to online delivery. In the third section, the authors examine a variety of issues and strategies for building successful distance learning programmes (based on online delivery) and the organisations that support them.

The four chapters that make up the first section of the book consider some of the basic issues that need to be taken into account when using online learning techniques for distance education. The first of these chapters discusses how distance‐learning programmes are likely to affect students, courses, staff and institutional futures. The second chapter outlines a six‐level instructional design framework for producing online and distance learning environments. This is followed by a chapter on the topic of “e‐moderating” and how to train effective and efficient e‐moderators. The final chapter in this section discusses various issues relating to community‐based distributed learning in a globalised world.

The seven chapters contained in the second part of the book address a variety of topics related to course development and assessment. Some of the important issues that are considered in this section include a description of online course design principles (chapter 5) and a review of theory and practice for distance education (chapter 6). Within their contribution, the authors of chapter 7 attempt to identify important factors that can be used as “indicators of success” for distance education. Chapters 8 and 9 then explore approaches to online assessment of student learning using techniques such as Internet‐based testing. The advantages (and use) of modular Web‐based teaching and learning environments are discussed in chapter 10; a practical illustration of the approach (an education network called WINFOLine) is also presented. The final contribution in this section of the book (chapter 11) describes some research into the effects of culture and ethnic diversity on electronic mail usage. Particular emphasis is given to exploring the individualistic/collectivist cultural dimension on participants’ use of electronic mail and their email “posting” behaviour.

The third section of the book contains five chapters whose common theme relates to identifying some of the important financial and logistic issues surrounding the creation of organisations that might successfully deliver online distance education programmes. The first chapter in this section introduces the concept of an “e‐store” for selling online electronic course components to consumers (thereby generating a source of revenue). The next chapter describes a “transformative income generation” (TIG) model which involves the re‐purposing of online content for different markets. The TIG model can be used in order to facilitate and maximise return on investment in relation to course content. In the following chapter, eight “key elements” for developing successful, self‐funding online learning programmes are identified and discussed. The use of these key elements is illustrated in a practical way by means of a case study involving the development of a number of online courses using WebCT. The authors of chapter 15 discuss some of the market‐ and cost‐orientated benefits of co‐operative education networks within the university sector in Germany; WINFOLine (see chapter 10) is used as a basis for the case study that is presented. For many organisations, Web‐enhanced education could offer an optimally blended way of providing teaching and learning opportunities. The use of this approach is discussed in chapter 16. This reports on the results of an “unobtrusive” study that was designed to explore students’ perceptions and attitudes to a face‐to‐face course that had been supported by a dedicated course Web site. The results of the study were used to suggest ways to build “richer Web sites” which might ultimately lead to the creation of “richer learning environments”.

The various chapters in this book provide some valuable insights into the effective use of online learning for the support of distance education. The contributions blend together well to give a clear picture of the current state of the art of online learning. It also provides some useful indicators of where important future developments are likely to take place within this rapidly evolving area of endeavour.

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