Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

DISTANCE EDUCATION: Sizing the Opportunity

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

DISTANCE EDUCATION: Sizing the Opportunity

Article excerpt

Distance educators are often asked about the quality and extent of online education in the United States. Many, especially new students, want to know if instruction delivered at a distance is of high quality, and if distance education is a passing fad, or a viable approach to teaching and learning. The Sloan Consortium, a collection of "institutions and organizations committed to quality online education," has recently attempted to answer these questions with Sizing the Opportunity: The Quality and Extent of Online Education in the United States, 2002 and 2003. The report contains a wealth of information about the field of distance education in general, and about online instruction more specifically (http://www. sloan-c.org/resources/).

The study's authors used a survey to obtain information related to four fundamental questions:

1. Will students embrace online education as a delivery method?

2. Will institutions embrace online education as a delivery method?

3. Will faculty embrace online education as a delivery method?

4. Will the quality of online education match that of face-to-face instruction?

Almost 1000 surveys (about 33% of those sent) were returned from chief academic officers from accredited degree-granting institutions of higher education in the United States. The report is interesting reading and the results are important, if not surprising, to those in the field.

* The majority of chief academic officers believe that the learning outcomes in online courses will equal or exceed that of face-to-face courses within three years. …

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