Distance Education Policy Issues:
Nova Southeastern University
Department of Education and Cultural Affairs
State of South Dakota
A policy is defined as a written course of action, such as a statute, procedure, rule, or regulation, that is adopted to facilitate program development (King, Nugent, Eich, Mlinek, & Russell, 2000). A distance education policy is a written course of action adopted by an institution to facilitate the development of distance education programs.
Policies provide a framework for the operation of distance education. They form a set of agreed rules that explain roles and responsibilities. Policies can be compared to laws of navigation, rules of the road, or language syntax. They define a standard method of operation, such as “no wake zone, ” “keep to the right, ” or “subject and verb must match. ” Policies give structure to unstructured events and are a natural step in the adoption of an innovation, such as distance education. The institutionalization of a new idea includes the development of rules and regulations (policies) for the use of the innovation (Rogers, 1995). One key indicator that distance education is moving into the mainstream is the increased emphasis on the need for policies to guide its effective growth.
Berge (1998) and Gellman-Danley and Fetzner (1998) have proposed models for distance education policy. These models have been reported and evaluated a number of times in the literature (King, Lacy, McMillian, Bartels, & Fredilino, 1998; King, Nugent, Eich, et al., 2000; King, Nugent, Russell, Eich, & Lacy, 2000) and seem to provide a useful framework for an investigation of distance education policy.