Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

The Distance Education Evolution: Issues and Case Studies

Academic journal article Quarterly Review of Distance Education

The Distance Education Evolution: Issues and Case Studies

Article excerpt

The Distance Education Evolution: Issues and Case Studies', by Dominique Monolescu, Catherine C. Schifter and Linda Greenwood (Eds.) The Distance Education Evolution: Issues and Case Studies, by Dominique Monolescu, Catherine C. Schifter and Linda Greenwood (Eds.). (Hershey, PA: Information Science, 2004, 346 pages, $59.95 softcover)

A practical guide to the development of online distance education programs can be found in The Distance Education Evolution: Issues and case Studies. The compilation chronicles the development of the online program at Temple University, providing an historical perspective that will immediately take the reader back to the late 1990s when we were all convinced that the online university would replace brick-andmortar institutions. Their experiences, as shared by various contributors, resonate with me as I reflect on my efforts in the development of an online distance education program. For these individuals, theory-informed practice is expressed in the need to focus on educational goals as opposed to technological innovation. This theme sets a context for the contributions made in this book. The faculty and staff at Temple graciously share lessons learned and provide a firm foundation from which to begin endeavors for those who are contemplating the development and delivery of distance-based programs.

This book's audience varies. As presented by the editors, the book provides guidance to administrators and faculty who are considering the development or expansion of distance learning programs. Discipline-specific case studies are presented for faculty who are thinking about developing online courses. I agree with the editors' assertion that any student who is interested in the phenomenon of distance education would find the book instructive. I would further suggest that university support staff would also find this book helpful, as it provides excellent examples of how faculty needs are being met.

While some research projects are described and findings reported, contributors rely heavily on anecdotal observations and action research to describe their activities. As online distance education is an emergent area of study, many of the authors identified a robust research agenda for the future. For the most part, the presented literature reviews are extensive, and references to other scholarly works appropriately support the assertions being made.

The editors describe online learning at Temple University by identifying issues and presenting case studies. section I, "Distance Education Issues in Higher Education," focuses on these issues related to the planning and development of online distance education programs: planning, faculty participation, technology use, accessibility, and virtual teamwork. Chapter 7, "Evaluating a Distance Education Program," describes the value of formative evaluation processes specific to Temple University's OnLine Learning Program. Monolescu and Schifter chronicle how the ongoing data collection has affected programmatic as well as institutional change.

In Chapter 1, "Creating an Online Program," Sandy Kyrish describes a two-pronged planning process that recommends the identification of programmatic educational goals and the practical issues of implementation. This is a must-read for administrators who are looking at developing online distance education. Kyrish warns against our tendency in higher education to drift toward "blue sky possibilities" when we should be looking at academic opportunity and unmet needs within the community we serve. Kyrish further points out that technology cannot help us do more and better if delivered programs are not grounded in the institution's existing strengths. The comprehensive process outlined in this chapter includes a discussion of all aspects of programmatic planning, including academic planning, faculty and student support, marketing, financing, profitability and sustainability issues. I especially applaud the notion that effective leadership accompanied by academic credential must be put into place to ensure programmatic success. …

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