Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Capacity Building of Educators for Distance Education

Academic journal article Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences

Capacity Building of Educators for Distance Education

Article excerpt


A consortium of family and consumer sciences units, the Great Plains/lnteractive Distance Education Alliance (GP/IDEA), held a distance education capacity-building LearnShop for faculty. The lessons learned from the LearnShop are presented to assist family and consumer science units with their collaborative efforts in distance education. The goals of the LearnShop were to: increase faculty collaboration across institutions; provide learner-centered instructional design; and offer hands-on experiences with groupware for web-based instruction. Based on the LearnShop evaluation, the GP/IDEA was successful in meeting program goals and unexpectedly fortunate in creating a cadre of enthusiastic and committed faculty crusaders for distance education.

Advances in instructional technology have led to changed metaphors for education: (a) from classrooms to networks, (b) from teaching to learning, (c) from "seat time" to achievement-based assessment, (d) from information acquisition to knowledge, and (e) from distance-constrained to distance-free. The impact on education is that the emphasis moves from (teacher) teaching to (student) learning, and the focus moves from seat time spent in class to assessment of (learner) outcomes (Knowles, 1984; Naylor, 1996; Oblinger & Rush, 1997). The demographics of higher education today reflect additional changes (Levine & Cureton, 1998; Thompson, 1998). "Only 30 percent. . . [of college students] currently live on campus.... What this means is that higher education is not as central to the lives of many of today's students as it was to previous generations.... These students want their colleges to be nearby and operating at the hours most useful to them, preferably around the clock-much like an ATM machine.... Their focus is on convenience, quality, service, and cost" (Cureton,1998, p.2).

On-line learning is growing exponentially. In 1993, Peterson's college guide listed 93 "virtual universities"; by 1997, the list grew to 762 "cyber schools." One of the best known virtual universities in the U.S., Phoenix University, has more than 48,000 degree-seeking students. Also participating in the convenience or distance education market are the branch campuses sprouting up like strip malls. "Dozens of private and regional-public colleges. . .now offer degree programs in the Washington, D. C. area. Wisconsin recently counted more than 100 out-of-state degree providers within its borders.... Last month I passed a busy intersection in Lake County, Illinois, where a former gas station had become a branch campus of Missouri's Columbia College" (Marchese, 1998).

Competition and campus mandates will push and pull many institutions into distance education to better serve the educational needs of learners. Many campuses are contemplating how best to implement concepts such as "classrooms without walls" and campuses without buildings. To meet the challenges these changes present, faculty development in technology and pedagogy is essential.

Technology can be used for studentfaculty, student-student, and studentcontent interactions within distance education. Faculty choose experiential learning using media appropriate to content, including video-taped "lecturettes," case studies, trigger videos, class discussion, and team work. Computer-assisted instruction and the use of groupware on the World Wide Web have great potential as interactive learning environments. "Webbased instruction (WBI). . .[is] an innovative approach for delivering instruction to a remote audience, using the Web as the medium" (Khan, 1997, p. 5).

Given an awareness of the changing face in higher education, the Great Plains-Interinstitutional Distance Education Alliance (GP/IDEA) was established in 1994. GP/ IDEA is a consortium of family and consumer sciences colleges at mid-American landgrant universities, formed for cooperation and collaboration on mutual concerns about distance education. …

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