Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning

By Howell, Scott L. | Quarterly Review of Distance Education, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning


Howell, Scott L., Quarterly Review of Distance Education


Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning, by Caroline Howard, Karen D. Schenk, and Richard Discenza. (Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing, 2004, 368 pages, $59.95)

Given a list of book review choices, I jumped at the opportunity to review this book because of who the editors are, the title of the book, and, most importantly, the timely topic: Distance Learning and University Effectiveness: Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning. The editors Caroline Howard, Karen Schenk, and Richard Discenza are seasoned scholars, thought leaders, and experienced professionals in the burgeoning field of distance education and online learning. Their contributions to the field in recent years have been many and significant.

Scanning the table of contents for this volume, I was somewhat surprised to observe a number of chapter authors from around the world, (i.e., United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Canada, and New Zealand). On second thought, however, I realized this reach of authorship and experience further validates the ubiquity and globalization of online and distant learning.

The book's subtitle, Changing Educational Paradigms for Online Learning, was the dominant theme throughout. The editors organized the book's 16 chapters around three thematic units: (1) strategies and paradigms, (2) course development instructions and quality issues, and (3) building an organization for successful distance education programs. Each chapter and unit, either openly or indirectly, addressed the challenge that online learning was bringing to the traditional educational paradigms for administrators, faculty, students, and infrastructures. As I read this book, it became evident that for any new online and distance learning initiative to succeed, its director, staff, and faculty would need to know as much about change management as they do online and distance learning. The editors divided the 16 chapters into groups of four, seven, and five chapters respectively and distributed them over the following three units: (1) strategies and paradigms, (2) course development instructions and quality issues, and (3) building an organization for successful distance education programs.

Two of the three editors for this volume, Richard Discenza and Caroline Howard, joined distinguished professor Murray Turoff in writing chapter 1. This chapter was appropriately situated as the first of 16 included in this volume since it established the groundwork for the thesis: "changing educational paradigms for online learning." The authors boldly asserted that distance education and online learning are now permanent fixtures in the higher education landscape and may even be providing a better education than their traditional counterparts. The authors identified some of the changes they believe will come as the educational paradigm shifts and adapts to new technologies and pedagogical models, including (1) the introduction of collaborative learning in all modes of instruction, (2) more emphasis on better trained and effective teachers and not just more productive researchers, and (3) added responsiveness to market and educational consumer pressures. This sentence from the chapter abstract sums up not only this chapter but also much of the book itself: "Distance programs are accelerating changes that are challenging students, faculty, and the university itself." Each chapter addresses some of the changes that its authors anticipate because of the widespread proliferation and adoption of online and distance learning delivery models, including role changes for faculty, more emphasis on teaching by university administrators, the commoditization and transferability of courses, hybridization of instructional methods, and increasing competition.

The longest chapter in this book (2), "Design Levels for Distance and Online Learning," by Judith V. Boettcher was also the best, especially if an institution is or will be engaged in strategic planning initiatives involving online and distance education. …

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