Farhad (Fred) Saba, Ph. D.
Founder and Editor, Distance-Educator.com
In recent years information and communication technologies (ICT) have made implementing extraordinary and revolutionary models of education possible. Participation of various colleges and universities in adopting new models of teaching and learning via the Internet, however, has been uneven. Up to now, the role of ICT in higher education has been largely to support the traditional models of teaching and learning (Kirkup and Kirkwood, 2005).
What is more troubling is that colleges and universities have not changed their organizational models to take better advantage of what technology has to offer. Most universities today are organized based on the same traditional model set centuries ago, when the first institutions of higher education appeared in Europe.
…colleges and universities have not changed their organizational models to take better advantage of what technology has to offer.
The key motivation for adopting ICT, however, has been to increase the ability of an institution to compete for student enrollments with all the others. Potentially, in a world that students are no longer bound by geographical location, they have a wide array of education providers to choose from. This inevitably increases competition among colleges and universities that are compelled to compete on a global stage to attract qualified students.
A recent report by Parker, Lenhart and Moore (2011) indicated that 89 percent of four-year public institutions offer courses via the Internet, while the participation rate for private institutions is 60 percent. Nevertheless, the world of distance education has touched the lives of only 23 percent of students who have taken at least one course via the Internet in the past 10 years. As the report further indicated, more than half (51%) of college presidents surveyed believed that online courses are equal in value than campus-based courses. However, the public perception of the value of courses offered via the Internet is not as positive. Only 29 percent of the general pubic, and 39 percent of students believed that there is parity between these two modes of instruction. Nevertheless, 50 percent of college presidents predicted that by 2021 most of their students would be taking courses via the Internet.
..the world of distance education has touched the lives of only 23 percent of students who have taken at least one course via the Internet in the past 10 years.
Their predication is partially supported because entrepreneurs and some state governors have realized that ICT has made new forms of educational service institutions possible. Among the prominent forms of such organizations are those that aggregate courses and educational resources of several colleges and universities and offer them to students residing in dispersed geographical locations. An early example of such an institution is the Western Governors University (WGU), which was founded in 1996. What is unique about WGU is that it operates on a competency-based model. Learners receive credit for what they know and can do and not necessarily based on how much time they have spent in a course. Such learner-centered models of higher education have also increased the possibility of providing individualized learning environments to learners. In such environments, learners can pace themselves based on several variables, such as, their prior knowledge of the subject, as well as their tolerance for independence or need for structure. This is an area which we will delve into in detail in this book.
Companies such as Coursera, UDACITY, and edX in the private sector which have roots in MIT and Stanford university are also aggregating courses and offering them to students the world over, although some of their offerings are not credit bearing for learners. In contrast, Semester Online is the first-of-its-kind program to offer for-credit undergraduate courses through a consortium of top-tier universities that includes Brandeis University, Duke University, Emory University, Northwestern University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University and Washington University in St. Louis.
…instructional innovations, such as, personalized learning will not yield the benefits they should in reducing the cost of education if they are implemented within the constraints of an organizational system that is not responsive to a post-industrial and dynamic model of teaching and learning.
While universities have been able to extend their course offerings beyond the walls of their campuses through the use of ICT, they have not been as successful in innovative uses of ICT to change the management structure of the university. As a result, instructional innovations, such as, personalized learning will not yield the benefits they should in reducing the cost of education if they are implemented within the constraints of an organizational system that is not responsive to a post-industrial and dynamic model of teaching and learning . For example, if the majority of institutions continue to enroll new students only twice a year, and move all of them through the system at the same pace regardless of their personal levels of performance, it would be difficult if not impossible to shorten the current 5 to 6 years that it takes for a student to graduate from a so-called four-year institution no matter how well s/he performs.