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Distance Learning

Call it the marathon without a finish line: As new network demands such as mobile computing and rich media increase, campus IT strategists are trying to keep running ahead, to ensure that their networks can meet the need.

Across many college campuses, one of the most innovative, yet sometimes controversial, initiatives in recent years has been the embrace and development of online programs. While avoiding the philosophical debate between online educational delivery and traditional on-campus programs, it is more critical to discuss the philosophy of the creation of online learning and its relevance in American economic growth.

America knows higher education. No other country in the world possesses the breadth and depth of comprehensive educational delivery like our uniquely American system.

As distance education programs expand at many colleges and universities, administrators are faced with a question: Is it better to have a centralized distance education office, or should individual departments handle distance education on their own?

Back in 2003, University Business ran a cover story that asked, "Is the Tablet PC the Future of Higher Education?"

It was an exciting time, when computers were faster and more powerful than ever, and everyone was still just scratching the surface of how to interact with the internet.

On college and university campuses across the country, people were talking tablets, and students, professors, technologists, and administrators alike thought we might be witnessing the next generation of computers.

Clemson University, located in the Upstate of South Carolina, has always been quick to use technology tools to advance the accessibility of higher education.

With 55 sites around the world, 17,000 students and 5,000 faculty and staff, distance learning, training, support and the accessibility to other suites of e-education tools is critical.

Adobe Connect is a key tool in that effort, said Deb Charles, manager of instructional services for the university's computing and information technology department.

Thanks to lecture capture, Julia Marty completed her junior year at Northeastern University (Mass.) this spring. The Office of Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) offers student-athletes access to videos of missed classes, allowing Marty to compete on Team Switzerland's hockey team at the 2010 Winter Olympics and not sacrifice her studies. While she missed a month of classes, three of her professors recorded their lectures and "she had an extremely successful spring term," says Coleen Pantalone, associate dean for undergraduate business.

Change in academia tends to occur gradually, but the University of Missouri- Columbia turned that conventional wisdom on its head when it implemented a lecture capture system that students and faculty alike embraced with unprecedented speed.

The search for a lecture capture system began in the spring of 2009, after several faculty members approached the technology department saying they wanted to implement lecture capture for their classes, said Danna Vessell, the university's director of educational technologies.

Innovation is not a term typically used within higher education circles. Rich in tradition and history, American higher education has been sometimes labeled a bureaucratic, traditionally mired venture that does not change with the times. But this generalization is, in so many ways, incorrect. We have one of the most innovative and complex postsecondary systems in the world, with breadth and depth in our educational delivery.

Although there are glimmers the recession could be ending, the unemployment rate is expected to stay high for some time to come. College enrollments will probably keep pace, especially at community colleges, where older adults looking to brush up their job skills are joined by traditional students looking to avoid high tuition for a few years.

“It’s all about making education accessible to everyone, anytime, anywhere,” explained Ann Watts, instructional design coordinator and portal project manager at DMACC. Des Moines Area Community College is a public institution with six campuses.

The portal ? known as “my.dmacc” to users ? is an outgrowth of the college’s educational mobility initiative that runs on HP ProLiant servers. DMACC has implemented a systemwide wireless system to support academic programs and administrative needs.