by James L. Morrison and Diana G. Oblinger // Vision
In our first Vision feature of this issue, editor James Morrison interviews Diana Oblinger, independent consultant and senior fellow at the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research. Oblinger assesses the integration of information technology in higher education: its driving forces, its specific applications, its future development trends, and its current challenges. Noting how technology has compelled educators to re-define their ideas about learning as well as their responsibilities to constituents, Oblinger offers timely advice for the future. In particular, she stresses the need to make technology suit the distinctive needs of institutions, and to conceive of technological change as inseparable from the cultivation of human resources.
by Joel Foreman // Vision
In response to the daunting workload and limited resources of most college composition programs, Joel Foreman's Vision article examines how information technology can serve to streamline the process. His proposals include customized software for guiding student revision, efficient tracking systems to manage the flow of incoming assignments and peer review, embedded autotext and hyperlink features for convenient instructor feedback, and an archive that future instructors can consult to measure student proficiency. While Foreman concedes that such innovations would face both financial and professional obstacles, their potential long-term benefits merit consideration from college administrators.
by Kathryn Winograd // Virtual High School
In the face of a national debate regarding the future of education, as well as the ever-increasing rate of technological change, virtual education has emerged as a touchstone for addressing these challenges. What needs do virtual schools serve, and what innovations do they provide to current models of teaching and learning? What advances have been made, and what are the potential directions for further advances? In our inaugural Virtual High School feature, Kathryn Winograd solicits answers to these questions from a group of virtual education administrators. Representing a range of virtual high schools from six different states, they offer an illuminating account of their work in this field, and share their thoughts on the future paths that virtual education will take.
by Nada Dabbagh // Commentary
When course management systems are used to enhance traditional instruction, educators typically face numerous challenges as well as opportunities. Nada Dabbagh addresses the most urgent of these challenges and proposes guidelines for how to meet them in her commentary. With particular emphasis on activities that integrate face-to-face and Web-based instructional formats, as well as instructional support in the use of system features, Dabbagh suggests how educators can take full advantage of the potential such tools provide.
by Steven W. Gilbert and Phillip Long // Commentary
The future success of online education will largely depend on professional collaboration and the sharing of resources. In this spirit, an "open source" approach to technology encourages educators to work together to achieve the best results in their teaching. In Steve Gilbert's Commentary interview, MIT senior strategist Phil Long discusses two recent initiativesthe Open Knowledge Initiative (OKI) and the OpenCourseWare Initiative (OCW)whereby MIT will grant free access to course management tools as well as course content. While Long notes that these resources cannot substitute for a course of study at MIT, the two initiatives illustrate how open source policies can support effective online course design.
by Laura N. Gasaway // Commentary
Laura N. Gasaway's commentary focuses on university copyright policies, and offers valuable advice to educators regarding their development. Because crucial distinctions between faculty ownership and institutional ownership need to change in different contexts, Gasaway recommends diverse faculty representation in the drafting process. After discussing some of the situations that such policies would need to address, as well as assessing the relative advantages of faculty ownership and institutional ownership, she gives practical guidance regarding implementation: spread the word effectively through faculty representatives, and allow time before putting the policy into practice.
by Douglas F. Johnson // Case Studies
Course management systems have remained an appealing resource for instructors who teach online courses with high enrollment rates. In our first Case Study, Douglas F. Johnson evaluates the implementation of a course management system in undergraduate chemistry and pre-calculus courses at the University of Florida. While some obstacles arose in the initial acquaintance period, Johnson focuses in particular on the problems related to these large classes: a server outage due to the volume of users, additional strains on the server during periods of high demand, and difficulty in uploading student records due to the incomplete synchronization of the course database and global database. Johnson discusses the measures whereby these problems were addressed, and identifies the factors that must be addressed in the large-scale use of course management systems.
by Sharon P. Pitt, Edmund Vitale Jr., and Diane L. Foucar-Szocki // Case Studies
In the arena of workforce development, online technology has contributed to the training of instructors who then use their specialized knowledge to enhance the job skills of their students. In our second Case Study, Sharon P. Pitt, Edmund Vitale, Jr., and Diane L. Foucar-Szocki outline the background and mission of the Workforce Development Campus (WDC), an online program that originated in Virginia and has since been adopted in Pennsylvania. Through its seven-course curriculum, the WDC offers a program that is learner-centered in its pedagogy, flexible within the busy schedule of its participants, and designed to suit the needs of learners with limited technological experience. As the authors reflect upon the advantages they've seen in this virtual format, they offer a valuable glimpse into the future of online professional development programs.
by David P. Diaz // Tools
Can the advantages of Web connectivity and compact disc capability work together to overcome their limitations as discrete technologies? Can such a synergy have substantial benefits for online education? In our Tools feature, David P. Diaz answers these questions in the affirmative with a compelling discussion of CD/Web hybrids. Such a resource, he observes, would not only address the problem of bandwidth limitations that undermine the quality of streaming audio and video, but also the additional obstacles that result from busy servers and slow modem speeds. In underscoring the overall advantages of CD/Web hybrids, as well as outlining their specific applications and the factors involved in their implementation, Diaz argues that such a resource remains a valuable option for online educators.
by Stephen Downes // Spotlight Site
For our Spotlight feature, Stephen Downes gives our readers a tour of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF) Web site. Organized with a threefold emphasis on innovative classrooms, skillful educators, and involved communities, the Web site keeps its readers informed about current developments in education and technology, and suggests ways in which everyone can support positive change. The high-quality design of the site, in conjunction with its range of specialized subtopics ranging from assessment to project-based learning, contribute to the overall mission of the Foundation. In his review, Downes shows how the GLEF site represents a force of advocacy and public service, offering a vision for the future of education that brings us closer to realizing its potential.
by Lucy Vaysman // Letters to the Editor
In her letter to the editor, Lucy Vaysman introduces Technology Source readers to a new online forum for educators: Teacher Focus. In allowing instructors to participate in threaded discussions, and in facilitating access to a range of materials and resources, Teacher Focus seeks to foster a supportive virtual community for teachers around the globe. While still in its early stages, this convenient site will interest online instructors as well as traditional, face-to-face instructors who seek to share experiences, concerns, and practical solutions to the challenges of teaching.