Distance Learning and the Web: Are Advertising Programs Missing the Target?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Many academic institutions offering advertising programs axe making use of the Web pages (Deloughry, 1996; Holderness, 1995; Massey, 1995). Thus, the universities recognize the Internet as a suitable medium for presenting their offerings to traditional and self-directed learners. Additionally, using the Internet in distance learning is becoming a prevalent method to disperse offerings to the non-traditional student. The present study reports the findings of a survey on the use of Web sites and the Internet by distance education programs. The authors report that the Web paces of a majority of advertising programs ignore to list the courses offered via distance learning. The results also suggest that a majority of the advertising and public relations programs fall to use the Web to inform the potential students about the courses taught via distance education. Additional findings indicate that information on courses taught via distance education is not readily available on most university Web sites. The authors hold that the universities may he missing the opportunity of increasing enrollment in their distance education course offerings by not making extensive use of their Web sites.

INTRODUCTION

Distance Education has been a topic of discussion and practice since the beginning of this century (Holderness, 1995; Lockwood, 1995). Correspondence courses began the distance teaching trend. Russell & Lane (1996) report that as early as 1945, radio was employed for the delivery of distance education. As the technology developed, and it became apparent that television could add the visual component to the "lecture" on the radio, the new medium became the medium of choice, and distance education courses became telecourses. Despite the popularity of television and a long history of telecourses, several studies indicate that, among the early attempts, there was no significant difference between the effectiveness of conventional instruction and televised instruction. One explanation for the lack of effectiveness may be that the educators adopted television when the medium was in its emergence, and neither the television producers nor the distance education planners were aware of the potential, the opportunities, and the limitations of the medium (Dvorak, 1996). As television became more sophisticated and the designers of distance education became better familiar with the capabilities of television, the distance education opportunities expanded.

Standard television broadcasts brought the telecourses to distant communities, class rooms, and homes. With the presence of videotape recorders (VCR) in nearly 80 percent of the American homes, distance learning has acquired a new perspective on message delivery. The VCR allows institutions to send recorded tapes of specific distance learning classes to areas that are unreachable by standard television transmissions. The next big breakthrough was cable television. This enabled students to attend classes in areas that standard television transmissions could not reach, as well as, adding the real-time and group interaction elements.

Computers and teleconferencing enable the teachers and students to interact with each other while at different locations. New technologies such as the Internet and the Web sites make distance learning highly cost effective.

While an average American is exposed to 2400 ads every day (Russell & Lane, 1996), and this number is likely to increase as new means of advertising delivery appear on the scene (Stuart, 1995; Zeile, 1996). One of the fastest growing fields in advertising is the Internet. Nearly 500 new business sites go on the Web every day. It is estimated that the year 2000, the revenues from the Internet advertising will reach $6.6 billion (Butler, Plummer & Rick, 1996; Forbes, 1996). As the prices of home computers and Web boxes comes down, the number of computer/Internet users will increase (Laver, 1996). …