Quality, Technology, Experience and the Use of Media Resources in Distance Learning Programs by Two-Year Community Colleges

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ABSTRACT

In spite of the increase in the number of Distance Learning Programs (DLP) offered by higher education institutions, not all programs have been successful. Successful programs use different types of media resources for instructional delivery. An understanding of the factors affecting decisions related to the type and number of teaching media resources used in successful DLP could provide valuable information not only to those two-year colleges currently offering DLP but also to those planning to offer them in the future.

Unfortunately, the majority of the research efforts done in the past focused on DLP in four-year colleges and universities and not on two-year community colleges. Information on the key factors affecting these decisions from the two-year college perspective could help them in budgeting and planning new or enhanced distance learning programs, make an efficient allocation of resources and also give hints on how to improve the competitiveness of the college in a rapidly growing industry.

Limited Dependent Variable models were used in this study to analyze quality, technology and experience as factors affecting these decisions made by two-year colleges. It was found that the set of statistically significant factors affecting the decision to use a specific type of media used is not the same for each type of media. It could also be noted that these factors affect differently the decision to use a given number of teaching media resources.

INTRODUCTION

In the past decades, we have experienced rapid demographic, socioeconomic and lifestyle changes. Examples include more participation of women in the labor market, additional two income families, declining birth rates, increased number of one-person households, more women in executive positions, higher life expectancy, and higher standards of living.

All these changes, in one way or another, have increased the importance of the 'nontraditional" student (full-time employed, more mature, not able to attend regular classroom classes, with family responsibilities, goal-oriented) within the college student population. This increasing number of non-traditional college students has increased the demand for "non-traditional" educational programs, among them Distance Learning Programs (DLP). Distance learning provides access to many more students thanj ust offering higher education courses in the traditional classroom manner (Yee, 1998; Perreault et al., 2000). Distance learning encompasses many different types of teaching media like Internet-based courses, the use of satellites, interactive television (ITV), teleconferences, one-way broadcasting, electronic bulletin boards, fax machines, cable television, toll-free telephone numbers, etc. (Au and Chong, 1993; Ball and Crook, 1997; Brown and Duguid, 1998; Hall, 1990; Kubala, 1998; Luna and McKen/ie, 1987; Merisotis and Phipps, 1999; Opitz, 1996; Swift et al, 1997; Teleg, 1996). In 2002, 85% of 2-year colleges and 84% of 4-year colleges offered distance education courses up from 58% and 62% respectively in 1998 (Wirt et al, 2004).

In spite of the increase in the number of DLP offered by higher education institutions, not all programs have been successful. Actually, there are more examples of failures than successes (Arkansas Department of Higher Education, 2004). Among other important characteristics, successful programs use different types of media resources for instructional delivery but concentrate in the use of just a few of them (Waits and Lewis, 2003). An understanding of the factors affecting these decisions could provide valuable information not only to those institutions currently offering DLP but also to those planning to offer them in the future.

Successful DLP are offered not only by four-year colleges but also by two-year colleges (Williams, 2003). Unfortunately, the majority of the research efforts done in the past focused on DLP in four-year, masters, and doctoral programs offered by four-year colleges and universities. …