Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Distance Education Complexities: Questions to Be Answered

Academic journal article International Journal of Instructional Media

Distance Education Complexities: Questions to Be Answered

Article excerpt

DISTANCE EDUCATION COMPLEXITIES: QUESTIONS TO BE ANSWERED

Distance Education, in all its manifestations, has moved from being, an alternative delivery system to acceptability as a mainstream delivery format for instruction and training. This transition has been effected, in part, by the development of the new electronic technologies and the subsequent compatible software development. Access to these technologies are redefining the way we are thinking about the delivery and management of academic and training opportunities. Developments in technology and systems design have brought about dramatic chances in the ways that academic and corporate institutions view their needs for instruction and training. Distance education is currently being, driven by money, market, or mission. In the future it will be driven by effectiveness and efficiency. As the concept of distance education explodes in the next decade, it will offer significant opportunities in all disciplines and fields of study (education, training, professional development, communications, etc.) for individuals to become actively and profitably involved. Many of these types of institutions/organizations are already utilizing some form of distance education and many others are currently contemplating their use. Seemingly, the changing, nature of society and the workforce will necessitate that, for competitive purposes, most companies will, be required to take advantage of the distance education technologies to improve their positioning in academic and workforce environments.

There are a number of concerns associated with distance education. The vision of distance education is to be able to deliver quality type instructional experiences. Building, quality into instruction/training costs money. How much quality can reasonably be expected to be expended in the development of a typical course/training module. Additionally, it is possible that if you spend enough money you can make a bad idea work -- at least temporarily until it becomes exposed to the economics of the real word. Experience has also found that traditional courses/training, modules cannot be adapted to the new electronic delivery systems without modifications in a number of key areas such as visualization, user friendliness, interaction, feedback, evaluations, etc. It is also been documented that if you if you do not have the knowledge or time to do it right the first time, it is going to be extremely difficult to access adequate resources to do it over. If efficiency and effectiveness are critical issues in the development of distance education materials, then it would seem that a generic needs assessment would need to be implemented at the analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation, management and marketing levels. The results of this analyses, if properly conceptualized, would necessarily result in the development of a customized design and business plan for distance education endeavors. While it understood that many of the elements within the cited analyses levels are interrelated, and the positioning of the questions to be answered may differ based on individual preferences, following is a sampling of the types of questions which would need to be answered at each of the levels.

Institutional/Organizational Analyses

* Who are the principal stakeholders in the distance education decision making process?

* Does the planning impact analyses justify the utilization of distance education as a delivery system?

* Is there a general commitment as to what the scope of the distance education endeavor should be?

* What is the acceptable return on investment for the distance education endeavor?

* Who is to exercise oversight over the distance education process?

* What is driving the distance education decisions -- money, market, mission?

* There are many paths to possible solutions ... how will the most economical path be determined? …

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