Programmatic Growth in Distance Learning

Article excerpt

Potential students surf university web pages to meet the professors, view the campus, seek program descriptions and discover degree outcomes in alumni success stories. Acutely aware that the university's market niche needs to be shared publicly, many universities invest heavily in attractive, informative web pages. Those pages also share the university's approaches to multiple modes of instruction including distance learning. For many students, the opportunity for distance learning is a must on their desired university quality checklist.

Extending coursework beyond the confines of a traditional classroom requires strategic planning. Faculty in the College of Education and Professional Studies (CEPS), at Jacksonville State University, took the University lead in distance learning and attribute growth in all programs first to an inductive response to student needs by a faculty willing to try a variety of venues to interact with students. At that initial stage of development, the College housed the Distance Learning Coordinator, the majority of equipment and about eighty percent of the distance learning course offerings. Any course in the College, regardless of instructional mode, aligned with the College Five-Year Plan Goals, Annual College Goals, Department Goals, and the College Conceptual Framework. Faculty, regardless of rank agreed that students evaluate all courses taught in the College each semester.

As a foundation, the Conceptual Framework outlines the following areas:

* Creative Decision Makers reflect understanding of educational theory and research by their ability to recognize individual leaner characteristics; select appropriate content/subject matter; and choose teaching methods that address learner characteristics and needs.

* Creative Decision Makers reflect understanding of content/subject matter by their ability to know the facts, concepts and principles or laws of the discipline; and understand the relationships among the major facts and ideas.

* Creative Decision Makers reflect understanding of the learner by their ability to be sensitive to the needs of learner's environmental and societal influences; know the stages of cognitive, physical, and affective/emotional development as they affect learning; are aware of the differing values and behaviors in learners from diverse cultural backgrounds; assess the readiness of learners for specific learning experiences; and develop assessment and evaluation strategies.

* Creative Decision Makers reflect understanding of teaching strategies and techniques by their ability to choose strategies that address learner needs; use intrinsic and extrinsic motivators to foster learner progress; individualize educational experiences for a wide range of learners; and apply a variety of teaching techniques and technologies.

* Creative Decision Makers reflect an understanding of professionalism by their ability to model effective speaking and writing skills; demonstrate effective interpersonal skills when relating to student colleagues, supervisors, parents, and the community; apply knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of students, parents, and school personnel; understand the school as an organization within the philosophical, historical social and political context of a community, state and nation; act as mediators between the educational agenda of society and the needs, interests, and abilities of learners; understand the school as an organization; participate in site-based management; continue professional development through participation in appropriate organizations and lifelong learning experiences.

* Creative Decision Makers reflect understanding of the educational context under which the teaching-learning process takes place by their ability to know the effect of teacher expectations on student achievement, especially for culturally diverse groups; structure the learning environment for the needs of learners; develop or select resources, equipment, and facilities to create appropriate interactive learning environments; organize time, space, and materials for effective classroom management and instruction; demonstrate a variety of classroom disciplines and management skills. …