What Impact Are Virtual Universities Having on Higher Education? An Interview with Michigan Virtual University's David Spencer
by James L. Morrison and David A. Spencer // Virtual University
Editor James Morrison forecasts that when historians look back at higher education in the year 2050, they may well view the advent of virtual universities as having as great an impact on American higher education as did the land grant act of 1864 and the GI Bill. Michigan Virtual University's dynamic president, David Spencer, adds credence to this forecast as he details the programs and projects that MVU has already implemented since its founding in 1998.
by Wallace Hannum // Faculty and Staff Development
Wallace Hannum provides an account of the Carolina On-Line Teachers (COLT) program, a professional development program recently created by the University of North Carolina School of Education. The COLT program gives K-12 teachers the chance to cultivate their skills in Internet-based instruction, to develop their own online courses, and to serve as mentors for future participants in the program. While in its inaugural year COLT faced obstaclessoftware challenges, difficulty in establishing group projects, and time constraints for both coordinators and participantsthe program, Hannum asserts, promises to have a long-ranging impact on North Carolina education as a whole.
by David Gurr // Commentary
Offering a vantage point from within the school system of Victoria, Australia, David Gurr discusses his interviews with 21 school principals regarding the effect of information and communication technology (ICT) on their schools. In his commentary Gurr underscores three main issues for principals: their own need to develop the technical skills to use ICT, the qualitative transformation of their daily work experience, and the impact of ICT on the teaching and learning environment of their schools.
by Stephen Ruth and Jiwan Giri // Commentary
In their commentary, Stephen Ruth and Jiwan Giri stress the need for an effective, two-dimensional field model for comparing distance learning programs, and propose a model of their own. Through this model, one may chart a given program through two variables that designate the roles of instructional technology ("tech") and personal interaction with the instructor ("touch"). Ruth and Giri generate nine categories based on these variables, defining each category and providing examples of institutions that fall under each category. They propose that their model may not only be helpful to researchers, but also to administrators who want to make gradual, cost-effective changes in the structure of their programs.
by Frederick Bennett // Commentary
In a Commentary on the role of technology in education reform, Frederick Bennett attempts to diagnose the limited results of recent initiatives: why has the computerized classroom not resulted in higher test scores for K-12 students? The problem does not lie in teacher training, Bennett suggests, but rather in how schools integrateor fail to integratesuch technology with pedagogical practice.
by Linda Peters // Commentary
In our fourth Commentary, Linda Peters provides a frank overview of the various factors underlying student perceptions of online learning. Such perceptions, she observes, are not only informed by the student's individual situation (varying levels of computer access, for instance) but also by the student's individual characteristics: the student's proficiency with computers, the student's desire for interpersonal contact, or the student's ability to remain self-motivated.
by Mary Harrsch // Case Studies
Mary Harrsch provides a case study of her work using streaming audio to broadcast a series of radio interviews with education experts over the Internet. Looking back on the project, Harrsch outlines the technical problems that she faced, many of which involved an incompatibility between Windows Media and a range of computer platforms. While such problems undermined the goal of providing a real-time broadcast, the project achieved its fundamental goal: reaching out to a larger community of educators, both within the state as well as on a national level.
by Tom Henderson // Assessment
In his Assessment discussion, Tom Henderson provides an account of his use of a classroom assessment technique (CAT) for a distance learning course, as well as a helpful outline of CATs for online instructors. While Henderson notes some crucial differences between classroom assessment in traditional and distance learning environments, he also notes that they share common criteria for success: careful planning, targeted questions, and a timely response by the instructor.
by Ed Fernandez // Spotlight Site
In his review of our Spotlight Site, Ed Fernandez offers an introduction to the Learning Support Centers in Higher Education (LSCHE) web portal. While still in development, the LSCHE portal offers a spectrum of tools: access to learning support research, discussion of terminology relating to "learning support centers," links to resources for learning assistance and distance learning, and information regarding employment opportunities. Such features, Fernandez claims, not only provide learning assistance experts with a valuable tool in their duties, but also represent another step forward in defining this professional field.
by Millicent Cox // Letters to the Editor
In our first letter to the editor, Midi Cox offers an introduction to the fifth annual installment of Global Learn Day, a continuous, 24-hour education conference that will be offered online. Through a combination of real time webcasts, radio broadcasts, and telecenters, this interactive conference will feature a range of professionals, all of whom will address the many ways in which e-learning has served to revolutionize access to education around the world. With a projected 7000 participants from more than 200 countries, as well as a projected audience of more than 500,000, Global Learn Day will remain devoted to offering "a convincing demonstration of affordable, accessible education, worldwide."
by Kathryn Winograd and Maureen Atkins // Letters to the Editor
In our second letter to the editor, Kathryn Winograd and Maureen Atkins discuss how The Virtual High School Symposium has reflected broader trends in the development of virtual high school education. As states have begun to pursue different means of incorporating Internet technology in their K-12 programs, the upcoming installment of the symposium will examine further ways in which such innovations may be put into practice.
by Steven W. Gilbert // Letters to the Editor
In our third letter to the editor, Steven Gilbert invites readers to contribute to the "Open Source Professional Development Environment for Higher Education." Gilbert's model of a systematic and coordinated "open source" framework would allow educators to share the various resources that they have used in their professional development activities and thereby assist us to keep up with fast-paced changes in information technology.
by Rob Spindler // Letters to the Editor
In our fourth letter to the editor, Rob Spindler addresses the current challenges that information technology has posed for academic record keeping. Focusing on a keynote address by Clifford Lynch at the 2000 ECURE (Electronic College and University Records Events) conference, Spindler highlights how technological change, according to Lynch, has often blurred the line between scholarly publication, classroom work, and academic records. Such challenges will only become more urgent as institutions deal with an increasingly large digital archive, and increasingly limited storage space.