Phi Kappa Phi & Distance Education

Article excerpt

It is hard to ignore the emergence of distance education in higher education. Even so, no honor society to my knowledge has systematically addressed pertinent issues related to quality, effectiveness, recognition of excellence, and other facets of this burgeoning student population. That is both interesting and odd, in my opinion. Arguably, Phi Kappa Phi has an obligation to do so because one of our operating principles is to recognize excellence wherever it exists.

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The purpose of this article is to:

* Draw attention to our responsibilities as leaders of the academy as it relates to Phi Kappa Phi and distance education;

* Relate the journey that a major Phi Kappa Phi committee has taken in conceiving, researching, writing, and disseminating a white paper on distance learning; and

* Encourage you to read Phi Kappa Phi's white paper on distance learning.

In sum, this article asks you to think critically about the significance of distance education, especially as it relates to Phi Kappa Phi's role in this expanding dimension of higher education.

A SEED IS PLANTED

Society President Paul J. Ferlazzo deserves credit for recognizing a void; as a proponent of distance education, he recognized that no honor society has considered the implications of distance education in any comprehensive way.

Dr. Ferlazzo approached me, knowing that I have some experience in distance education, to determine my interest in chairing a Phi Kappa Phi committee to study this matter. I happily agreed to do so.

A COMMITTEE IS FORMED

President Ferlazzo established the Membership Opportunities Committee (MOC) made up of colleagues from throughout the country. The MOC members and their affiliations are given below:

* Dr. Wendell H. McKenzie (chair), North Carolina State University

* Dr. Yaw A. Asamoah, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

* Dr. Catherine Clark-Eich, Ohio Department of Education

* Dr. Paul J. Ferlazzo, Northern Arizona University

* Dr. Marilyn J. Musacchio, Spalding University

* Dr. Diane G. Smathers, Clemson University

* Dr. Perry A. Snyder, Executive Director, Phi Kappa phi

* Ms. Lourdes Barro, Associate Executive Director/Chief Financial Officer, Phi Kappa Phi

THE COMMITTEE'S EXECUTION OF ITS CHARGE

The MOC was asked to consider the following:

* Are chapters initiating their distance-education students?

* Are there issues and concerns that might constitute barriers to initiating distance-education students? What strategies might overcome such barriers?

* Should we be doing more for our distance-education Phi Kappa Phi students?

* Should we establish chapters, ceremonies, or activities that make greater use of the virtual environment to better engage our distance-education students?

* What opportunities or services should we provide them?

* How can we help them identify more strongly with Phi Kappa Phi?

* What skills and resources might they be able to provide for Phi Kappa Phi?

The MOC addressed these and many additional questions. For example, what does the research literature have to say about the quality of teaching/learning when delivered via distance education? Are distance-education programs accredited, and if so, by what agencies or bodies? Do potential employers perceive distance-education students as of lesser quality? Is that perception changing? To what extent has distance education grown in recent years? What are the predictions for its future?

The MOC met face-to-face for a weekend meeting early in the triennium to consider its charge, direction, and plan for executing its charge. A consensus emerged from that meeting as well as from numerous subsequent conference calls and e-mail exchanges that the MOC should research and write a scholarly piece on distance learning, that is, a white paper. …