Michael G. Moore
The Handbook of Distance Education has been developed in recognition of the need for an authoritative compilation reflecting the state of the art in what is arguably the most significant development in education in the past quarter century. Distance education, which encompasses all forms of learning and teaching in which those who learn and those who teach are for all or most of the time in different locations, dominates the discussion agendas of policymakers, administrators, faculty, and students across the educational spectrum. Its importance and its potential are now generally and widely accepted, as much by professors in universities and community colleges as by trainers of teachers and members of the armed forces and by those responsible for the continuing professional education of physicians and nurses, public accountants and pharmacists, managers in the corporate board-room and workers seeking new skills on the factory floor.
What has brought about this sudden explosion of interest and the recent frenzy of activity? Although there is no simple answer to this question, there can be no denying that the emergence and spread of new computer-based communications technologies is one of the principal reasons. As will be seen in more than one chapter of this book, the idea of using communications technologies to deliver instruction at a distance is at least as old as the invention of universal postal systems at the end of the 19th century, and the idea that education provided in this way would open doors of opportunity to people who were otherwise disadvantaged by conventional institutions of education and training is just as old. Until recently, however, these ideas have rarely, if ever, found acceptance among mainstream educational administrators, faculty, or educational theorists (the reason for this neglect is itself an interesting phenomenon that I hope will be the subject of research in future). Now, the first years of the new century have seen a new, unparalleled willingness to consider the benefits of teaching outside of the classroom and beyond the campus. The idea of distance learning seems to have finally entered the educational mainstream. Nonetheless, few commentators or policymakers have yet come to recognize the implications of the shift of focus from where the teacher is to where the learner is—implications for how education is conceptualized, how it is organized, what roles teachers should assume, and how financial and other resources are to be distributed.
To open up the imagination of readers to these new possibilities by providing a comprehensive and detailed account of the current state of the art—an account that includes information about the wide variety of contemporary practices as well as the foundations on which these practices are built—is the purpose of this handbook. Here we have assembled a compendium