Learning and Teaching in Cyberspace

by Greg Kearsley


Contents (Version 5/00)

1/ Introduction

2/ Scope

3/ Elements

4/ Research

5/ Online Learning

6/ Online Teaching

7/ Design and Development of Online Courses

8/ Organizations and Networking

9/ Policy

10/ When the Electrons Hit the Screen

11/ Education in the Information Age

12/ Future Directions

13/ Sources of Further Information



1/ Introduction

The past history of computers in education

There is a big difference between the earlier and current forms of online learning. The earlier type, called Computer Based Instruction (CBI), focused on the interaction between the student and computer drills, tutorials or simulations. Today, the prevailing paradigm is Computer Mediated Communication (CMC), where the primary form of interaction is between students and instructors, mediated by the computer. CBI is usually individualized (self-study) learning, while CMC involves teacher/tutor facilitation. In this book, when we refer to online learning, we are always talking about CMC, not CBI.

An interesting slice of the history of educational computing can be viewed through the work of Seymour Papert -- see his MIT home page at http://papert.www.media.mit.edu/people/papert Or visit the Connected Family site at http://www.ConnectedFamily.com

Themes that shape online education


Without any doubt, the biggest single change that online education brings about is an increased tendency towards collaboration amongst students and teachers.

EXAMPLE: The Global SchoolNet Foundation (http://www.gsn.org) is dedicated to creating interaction among kids around the world. It is derived from the FrEd mail system, an early email system for students and educators.


Online education provides fantastic connectivity. Students can easily connect with each other and their instructors through email and conferencing. Students can also connect easily with parents as many students away at college do ("Dad/Mom: Please send more money"). Even more impressive is that students can interact directly with experts in their field of study. Anyone who knows how to use an online address directory (such as 411.com) can track down someone's email address. Indeed many educational projects have been set up to put students and experts in contact and foster a dialog.

EXAMPLE: The Science Learning Network provides access to collaborative science projects (http://www.sln.org)


Another common characteristic of online education is being student-centered. While teachers and faculty still play the key role in creating and organizing a class, students largely determine its direction by virtue of their participation and activities. Instructors define the goals and facilitate or manage the learning process; students discover the content on their own and carry out assignments or projects. This means that online courses are often less structured (more chaotic?) than traditional classes.

EXAMPLE: The Jason Project (http://www.jasonproject.org) gives students all over the world a chance to directly participate in scientific projects led by Dr. Robert Ballard.


It is often said that online education eliminates the walls of the classroom. In the sense that it gives students access to information and people anywhere in the world, this is true. It is also true that opens up the classroom to many additional students. Online education removes boundaries having to do with where and when students learn -- as well as who can be a learner. It is a great boon to individuals who live in remote places, who are disabled, who are relocated frequently, or who are somehow different than "typical" students enrolled in a program of study.

EXAMPLE: MayaQuest (http://www.classroom.com) was the first of an ongoing interactive expedition series that has involved millions of students.


Education takes place in a community, whether it is the community of learning defined by a particular school or organization, or an actual physical community such as a town or city. Online education can bring together any community by increasing accessibility and connectivity. The simple step of creating a home page on the web that provides links to previously separate elements, or an online directory with email or telephone numbers, helps to establish a community.

EXAMPLE: Blacksburg Electronic Village (http://www.bev.net) - A college town becomes one of the countries first wired communities.


Many online activities involve some sort of adventure or discovery learning format. If computer games can be so much fun, why shouldn't "serious" learning be fun too! Young children in particular, love to explore and online classes in K-8 often use this approach. It is also a good format for museums and science centers --where people go to be entertained as well as enlightened. A more formal type of exploration is problem-based learning which is commonly used in professional education (i.e., law, medicine, engineering, business). In this approach, students are given problem situations or case studies and asked to work out a solution, diagnosis, strategy, or design. Problem-based learning is very compatible with online education since access to resources and expertise is a key aspect of problem-solving (see for example, http://spicy.atd.depaul.edu/pbl).

EXAMPLE:The San Francisco Exploratorium (http://www.exploratorium.edu) An online museum that offers plenty of interesting activities.

Shared Knowledge

While the sharing of knowledge is at the core of education, we have only been able to do it in limited ways prior to computer networks. Books are obviously a wonderful technology for doing this -- relatively inexpensive, highly portable, and long-lasting. But only a tiny fraction of human knowledge gets published and a bookshelf or library can only hold a small number. Putting information on the web (or some other electronic format) makes it immediately available to anyone in the world with a suitable computer connection. Everyone can be an author/publisher (for better or for worse).

EXAMPLE: Many government agencies, like the USGS offer educationally oriented web pages (http://info.er.usgs.gov)


We know that learning is more effective when it involves multiple sensory channels (i.e., visuals, color, movement, sounds, voice, touch, smell). We also know that individuals have different sensory preferences (called cognitive styles). Multimedia technology (much of which is available via the web) can provide certain kinds of multisensory learning experiences. While these interactions are not as rich or complete as first-hand experiences (e.g., no touch or smell), they are often much better than traditional classroom learning activities which are based upon "talk and chalk".

EXAMPLE: The Digital Safari was created by the students of the Mt Diablo High School Multimedia Academy (http://intergate.cccoe.k12.ca.us/mdtech).


One of the correlates of connectivity, community, and shared knowledge is that online education is highly authentic in nature. Ironically, the virtual world is more real than the usual classroom. Because students can access actual databases and experts, their learning activities are realistic. The lack of realism in traditional instruction has often been identified as a major weakness of education at all levels. Indeed, one of the reasons that students often give for disillusionment with school or college is that it lacks "real-world" relevance.

EXAMPLE: The Math Forum (http://forum.swarthmore.edu) is a source of mathematics help and information provided by the faculty and students at Swarthmore College.


Frank Odasz: Out in the Online Wilderness

It is fitting that our first profile be of Frank Odasz, a person who has taken on some of the biggest challenges in online education. From 1988-1998, Frank ran the Big Sky Telegraph, a project to help teachers and students in remote areas of Montana discover the power of online learning, with particular attention to Native American groups. Later he worked with native groups in Alaska and elsewhere. He written extensively about online learning communities and has proposed a four-level model of online learning.

To learn more, see http://lone-eagles.com



2 / Scope


Obviously, online education involves the use of computer networks for learning and teaching. However, this can include large-scale public networks such as the internet or small local area networks (LANs) in a specific building. The latter may be the basis for an electronic classroom or a campus/school computing system. In most institutions and organizations, LANs are connected to public networks, making the distinction transparent to individual users.

EXAMPLE: The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) is a good source of information about educational networks (http://www.cosn.org).

There are many efforts underway to develop improved networks with increased bandwidth and faster transmission times -- see the Next Generation Internet site (http://www.ngi.gov) or the Corporation for Research and Educational Networking (http://www.cren.net) for more details.

Higher Education

Without a doubt, online education is most extensive at universities and colleges, especially at the graduate level. This popularity has mostly to do with the easy availability of computer and networks (remember the internet began as a research network among universities). However, it also has to do with mature, motivated students capable of the independent study required in many online courses, and faculty familiar enough with network applications (e.g., email, the web) to offer such courses. The presence of good technical support in terms of computer software, networks, and instructional development is also a major factor.

EXAMPLE: The Charles Dickens web site created by Mitsuharu Matsuoka at Nagoya University (http://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Dickens.html).

EXAMPLE: GASNET (Global Anesthesiology Server Network) is an example of a cross-institutional site for medical education hosted by Yale University (http://gasnet.med.yale.edu).

K-12 Schools

For K-12 schools, the major value of the internet is to provide a gigantic online library system. Students and teachers are no longer limited by the confines of a single textbook or a small library collection, but can seek out information just about anywhere. Furthermore, finding information online is more like a field trip than a visit to the library, because the sites visited are often very rich in details. Indeed, electronic field trips to the web sites of museums, zoos, foreign countries, government agencies (e.g. NASA), even the White House, have become a popular classroom activity.

EXAMPLE: Eduscapes is a site developed by Annette Lamb and colleagues that provides many resources for K12 learning. (http://eduscapes.com )

Another very popular application of networks at the K-12 level are collaborative projects, either within a single class, or across multiple schools. Students are organized into small groups, each with a project topic, then use networks to collect relevant information and prepare a report or presentation. The network aspects could involve a LAN within a school that accesses CD-ROMs, or more likely, accessing the web via the internet. Many of these projects involve interaction with students at other schools via email, often in an international context.

EXAMPLE: Web 66 is an web site intended to help schools get online, hosted by the University of Minnesota (http://web66.coled.umn.edu )

Corporations & Government Agencies

Most large organizations make extensive use of networks, although more for general purpose information management purposes than anything having specifically to do with education. In fact, educational and training applications tend to be integrated with other applications in the form of help, performance support, or knowledge management systems.

EXAMPLE: Many technology companies are providing technical training online such as Microsoft Corp. (http://www.microsoft.com/training)

Non-profit Organizations

There are a wide assortment of non-profit organizations that play an important educational role in U.S. society, many of whom have developed an online presence. This includes professional and trade associations who conduct various educational activities for their members and the general public including publications, conferences, and workshops. In addition, there are large service organizations such as the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org) and the AARP (http://www.aarp.org) as well as hundreds of smaller ones in every community.

EXAMPLE: The World Bank is a good online education resource (http://www.worldbank.org)


The Home

Ultimately, online education could have its greatest impact in the home. Radio and television have done this, but with limited educational value. As the percentage of computers in homes gradually increases, it is likely that more and more educational activities take place there. For adults, they will be used for continuing education and job-related training; college and K-12 students will use them for class work. Of course, a lot of online learning at home will be informal in nature, like figuring out what's wrong with the cat, planning vacations, or shopping for a new car.

EXAMPLE: The Home School World site (http://www.home-school.com), one of many online resources devoted to home schooling.

EXAMPLE: The Creating Learning Communities site created by Ib Bang in Denmark focuses on home school efforts (http://www.futureworld.dk/ccl-llc/book.htm

Public spaces

Finally, there is one additional learning environment that electronic systems make possible: public spaces. These are kiosks placed in shopping malls, airports, convention centers, hotel lobbies, cafeterias, hospital waiting areas, etc. While such systems typically provide general information such as location or services available, they can be used for more sophisticated purposes. For example, those located in medical facilities can provide patient or health policy information; systems in government buildings (e.g., INS; IRS; SSA) can provide explanations of application or claim procedures; even those in tourist information centers can provide historical background or access to community resources.

EXAMPLE: Travel information sites are excellent candidates for public access settings, e.g., a guide to Paris (http://www.paris.org)


Margaret Riel: Learning Circles

Margaret Riel was one of the first researchers to focus on the development of global collaborative networks at the K-12 level. She lead a project called "Learning Circles" which originally involved a partnership with AT&T and is now called I*EARN. The key to this project was the formation of small groups that followed well-defined rules for online interaction. She subsequently was involved in the "Passport to Knowledge" project which connect students to scientists and allows students to participate directly in scientific discovery. She is currently the Associate Director of the Center for Collaborative Research in Education (CCRE) at the University of California, Irvine. Her home page is http://www.gse.uci.edu/mriel.html



3 / Elements


Email is the foundation for all forms of online learning and teaching. Indeed it is quite possible to use nothing more than email in a course and still have a highly valuable learning experience. Email is also a very cost-effective application from the point-of-view of computing and network resources needed; it works with most minimal of equipment, software and facilities.

Threaded Discussions

After email, the second most commonly used capability for online education is a threaded discussion system, also called asynchronous conferencing, a forum. or a bulletin board. While there are many different variations of these systems (for a survey, see http://www.thinkofit.com), they all work in the same fashion: topics and subtopics are created and people post messages under any topic/subtopic desired. Messages include the sender's name, a subject title for the message, and the text of the message. To read messages, you select the topic/subtopic of interest and click on the messages available.

Realtime Conferencing

Realtime conferencing covers any form of online synchronous interaction. The simplest form of realtime conference is a chat session in which participants exchange typed messages with everyone seeing the messages as soon as they are sent. Each message is preceded by the name of the sender so it is possible to identify who said what.

EXAMPLE: ICQ provides real-time connectivity to people around the world (http://www.icq.com)


MUDs (Multi User Domains) and MOOs (Multiuser Object-Oriented) are an interesting category of realtime conferences used in some education settings. MUD/MOOs allow many people to share a virtual word, usually set up as "rooms" containing objects which can be viewed or manipulated. People can interact with others by sending chat messages as well as performing simulated actions (e.g., standing/sitting, waving arms, running, etc). The original MUDs were designed as "dungeon and dragon" games in which people would hunt for treasures. MOOs are a later development of MUDs that employ object-oriented programming techniques and are easier to develop and extend (including inclusion of multimedia components).

EXAMPLE:Athena University uses a MOO for its Virtual Education Environment (http://www.athena.edu )

EXAMPLE:The English department at the University of Florida encourages students to conduct their class discussion in MOOville, a MOO which is part of their Networked Writing Environment (http://www.ucet.ufl.edu/writing).

For more about the use of MUDs and MOOs in education, see the E-MOO site at http://tecfa.unige.ch:4243

Desktop Video

The most advanced form of realtime conferencing are desktop video systems. A desktop video system is basically a chat system that uses video images instead of text messages. The video images (including audio) are captured by a small digital camera that is connected to the PC. These cameras are relatively inexpensive ($100-$500) and can be connected to any computer (including laptops). Using software that comes with the camera or is obtained separately, it is possible to connect to a server running a video conferencing program -- or make a direct link with another person using their IP address for a two person video session (called a point-to-point connection).

EXAMPLE:CUSeeMe is one of the oldest and most commonly used desktop videoconferencing system, originally developed at Cornell University and now distributed by White Pine Software (http://www.cuseeme.com)


A final category of realtime conferencing systems that needs to be mentioned is audiographics -- systems that allow audio interaction and shared graphic images or applications. Participants in the conference can hear what each other says and see the same graphic images or program screens. The graphic images are usually slides prepared with a slideshow program, although they can be drawn in realtime on the screen by any of the participants (hence these systems are often called shared whiteboards). Alternatively, an application program running on one participant's system can be seen by all participants and in most cases, controlled by anyone participating.

EXAMPLE:Microsoft Netmeeting - A widely used audiographics system. (http://www.microsoft.com/netmeeting )

EXAMPLE:There are quite a few audiographics systems making use of streaming media now being use in the training world - e.g. (Centra or Horizon )


A relatively new category of software to emerge are groupware programs which are specifically designed to facilitate group interaction. The MUD/MOO systems mentioned in the previous sections are a specialized case of groupware for shared worlds. Lotus Notes is currently the most widely used groupware program and is popular in many organizations and university programs. For example, Athabasca University in Canada uses Lotus Notes as the basis for student interaction in its MBA program (see http://vital.athabascau.ca).

EXAMPLE:Sample screen from GroupSystems program

from Ventana East Corp(http://www.ventana-east.com)

File Transfers

A very mundane, but none-the-less, essential aspect of online interaction is file transfer, i.e. sending a file from one machine to another. In most cases, the file to be transferred is a word processing document, but it could be a spreadsheet, graphic, video clip, slideshow or program. Since email is usually limited to relatively short text messages with no formatting, sending anything else requires a file transfer. The general purpose tool for transferring files is a utility program called "FTP" (File Transfer Program).

Application Software

Up to this point, we have been discussing software exclusively concerned with networking. However, much (if not most) of the work in online education is done with routine applications programs such as word processing, spreadsheets, graphics editors, and slideshow software which are used to create instructional materials or do course assignments. In many courses, more specialized programs such as math (e.g. Mathematica, Maple, MathCAD) or statistical tools (e.g. SPSS, Statpak) are used. In fact, almost every discipline has a variety of programs designed for certain teaching/learning activities. Some of these programs have been personally developed by instructors for use in their own courses.


There are many different types of simulation, but all have the same fundamental structure. Simulations are based upon a model of a specific system: mechanical, electronic, chemical, industrial, biological or social. A system state is presented which provides the student with a number of choices; the choice made determines the next state of the system. In a science lab, simulations allow students to perform experiments or observe processes that are dangerous, expensive or too time-consuming to do in actuality. Medical students can practice surgical procedures or diagnosis on simulated patients. Students in business schools can practice their marketing and financial skills with simulations of companies or industries. In the workplace, simulations allow people to practice operating or maintaining equipment ranging from telephone switching systems to aircraft. Even more interesting are simulations of human behavior that allow employees to improve their management, sales, leadership or customer service skills.

EXAMPLE: The ICONS project at the University of Maryland is an example of simulation applied to the international communications domain. (http://www.bsos.umd.edu/icons)

EXAMPLE: The online frog dissection is an example of how simulation can be applied to biology( http://curry.edschool.virgina.edu/go/frog)

Curriculum Development and Management

So far we have discussed online applications for direct instructional use. There are also a large collection of programs available to develop and manage online instruction.

There are many authoring tools for the creation of web pages and sites (e.g., FrontPage, Web-in-a-Box). Such tools make it relatively easy to assemble different kinds of information into a web page and put it in HTML format (the formatting language used by the web). Creation of multimedia involves the use of specialized programs for graphics, video or audio editing. A program like Macromedia Director (http://www.macromedia.com) might be used to produce an animation sequence for a tutorial or simulation. RealMedia tools (http://www.real.com) are popular for delivering digital audio and video segments on the web. On the other hand, a large percentage of curriculum materials (e.g., course outlines, syllabi, study guides, lecture notes) are created using standard application programs such as word processing or slideshow programs.

EXAMPLE:WebCT is a widely used course delivery system that provides a variety of course management functions.(http://www.webct.com)

There are also quite a number of web-based course management systems that integrate many of the applications discussed in this chapter (i.e., email, threaded discussions, realtime conferencing) into one package. Use of such systems makes it easier for students, instructors, and course developers since all applications work together from a common interface. Some popular examples include: Topclass, FirstClass, WebCT, BlackBoard and Learning Space. Such systems usually provide student gradebook functions which make it easy for instructors to keep track of grades.

EXAMPLE: Blackboard allows anyone to create an online course and make it available on the web at no cost or for a fee. (http://www.blackboard.com)

Comparisons and discussions of web-based learning environments are provided at http://www.ctt.bc.ca/landonline/choices.html and http://multimedia.marshall.edu/cit/webct/compare/index.htm

EXAMPLE:POLIS is a web development tool developed at the University of Arizona that facilitates the use of different instructional dialogues. (http://polis.arizona.edu)


Beverly Hunter - Computers as Tools

Beverly Hunter has been involved with computers in education for more than three decades and during that time has continually espoused the idea that computers are tools which should empower individuals to take an active role in the learning process. In 1983 she published My Students Use Computers which outlined this perspective in detail. She has worked at a number of educational R&D centers including HumRRO, TERC, and BBN, as well as serving as a program manager at NSF. Most of her attention in the past decade has been on school networking and learning communities (e.g., http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures/hunter.html )

She is currently at Boston College (http://learning.bc.edu)



4 / Research

Impact on Student Achievement

The starting point for most studies of educational technology is an analysis of student achievement relative to traditional classes. In most cases, a course which has previously been taught in a classroom is now offered in online form, or perhaps both versions are offered simultaneously. If the course content, instructor and student population are all the same, in theory any differences should be attributable to the different form of delivery. Alas, this isn't quite true since it is likely that a course will be taught differently in online form than when done in a classroom (a topic we shall discuss at length in Chapter 6). However, as a practical matter, it is useful to know what impact an online version will have on student outcomes, using the conventional course as a base for comparison.

EXAMPLE:The U.S. Department of Education is important source of information about research in online education. (http://www.ed.gov)

Evaluation of Web-based Courses

With the proliferation of web-based courses at all levels of education, there have been many evaluation studies conducted. These evaluations tend to look at different factors depending upon the interests of the instructor or course developers. Here are some examples at the college/university level.

-Taming the Electronic Frontier (see http://www.virtualschool.edu/98a) is an introductory course in telecommunications developed by Brad Cox at George Mason University.

-As part of the BIO project (Biology Instructional Outreach) at Iowa State University (http://project.bio.iastate.edu), an in-depth evaluation of one course, Zoology 155, was conducted.

-At the University of Oregon, physics and astronomy courses have been offered in on-line form for a number of years (see http://zebu.oregon.edu).

-At the University of Illinois, a number of web-based courses have been implemented by the Sloan Center for Asynchronous Learning Environments (SCALE) using a variety of different course authoring and delivery tools (see http://w3.scale.uiuc.edu/oakley)

EXAMPLE:Another useful source of research about technology-based projects are the regional educational laboratories (see http://www.nwrel.org)

The Nature of Class Interaction

One of the interesting questions about online classes is how the use of the computer changes student and instructor interaction. Of course, the answer to this question depends upon the exact nature of the class, i.e., which online capabilities are used, as well as the role of the instructor. Other factors which might also affect the nature of interaction are the discipline or subject domain, the level of learning, and student backgrounds.

EXAMPLE:The National Science Foundation is a major funding source for research projects involving technology in science and mathematics education. (http://www.nsf.gov)

School-level Impact

While impact on student achievement and class interaction are important levels of analysis, it is also important to assess the effects at the institutional or system level. Since online education is a major innovation which involves substantial changes in teaching methods and how learning is delivered, its overall impact on a school system or institution should be examined.

EXAMPLE:The Co-Nect project focuses on the impact of technology in school reform. (http://www.co-nect.org)

EXAMPLE:ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) provides access to the research literature on educational technology (http://ericir.syr.edu)

Virtual Conferences

A virtual conference represents a larger scale of online interaction. Conferences are the primary means for continuing education among professionals. They provide an opportunity to hear about new developments and ideas, learn new techniques, and try out new products. The virtual conference can provide most of the intellectual and social benefits of an actual meeting without the travel and financial complications.

EXAMPLE:Many private foundations pursue action research projects related to education and telecommunications, such as the Benton Foundation (http://www.benton.org)

Learning Communities

Learning communities extend beyond the timeframes of a particular course or conference and allow students to interact over an extended time period. Learning communities are ideal for professional or employee training which benefit from extensive interaction and sharing of information/ideas among participants.

EXAMPLE: An interesting study of an electronic mailing list for scholarly communication by Eva Ekeblad can be found at http://www.ped.gu.se/ekeblad/writings/earli99/multdyn.htm


Linda Harasim - Studying the effects of online interaction

Professor Harasim has been active for over a decade in researching educational applications of computer networking. She has designed,implemented, and evaluated networking applications in Canada, the U.S., and Latin America. She is currently leader of the TeleLearning·Networks of Centres of Excellence project which focuses primarily on the design and development of new pedagogies and network technologies to support collaborative learning, knowledge building, and lifelong learning. This project features over 150 researchers from education, cognitive psychology, social science, computer science and engineering science throughout Canada collaborating online to address some of the major challenges Canada faces in becoming a learning society with a knowledge-based economy.

Her home page is http://fas.sfu.ca/telelearn/homepages/harasim/harasim.htm



5 / Online Learning

Learning to learn

What is most different about online learning is that it usually provides the learner with a great deal of autonomy, i.e., the choice of when, where, and how to learn. We have described this earlier in the book as being part of a student-centered approach to education. Learners are given a lot of freedom to pursue their own interests and methods of learning.

EXAMPLE:Homework Central is one of many online databases designed to help students research topics (http://www.homeworkcentral.com)

However such autonomy brings with it responsibility. Learners must possess initiative and self-discipline to study and complete assignments. Students who lack these skills are likely to do poorly with online classes.

EXAMPLE:The Study Skills Help site developed by Carolyn Hopper provides help in learning skills. (http://www.mtsu.edu/~studskl)

Basic writing and communication skills are also important for online learning, especially in the context of group interaction. In fact, this is one of the common reasons why student has difficulties with online learning.

EXAMPLE:The ESL Study Hall developed by Christine Meloni provides help in basic skills. (http://gwis2.circ.gwu.edu/~gwvcusas)

The social milieu

Online learning is as much a social activity as an individual one. Social skills are an important aspect of interacting via computer networks, especially when collaboration is involved. Alas, most people have little formal training in how to successfully interact or work with others; these are skills that picked up incidentally through family or school life. To make things even more complicated, the social milieu of online activities is quite different from in-person interactions and requires new skills and behaviors.

EXAMPLE:The Family Education Network provides an online environment for family learning (http://www.familyeducation.com)

EXAMPLE:The Oneida Indian Nation is an example of preserving a culture online. (http://www.oneidanation.org)

Parental Involvement

At the k-12 level of education, one of the most important elements of successful learning is to have parents who are supportive and involved in the education of their children. This includes following their progress at school, helping with homework, and providing a suitable learning environment at home.

EXAMPLE: ParentConnectXP is a software system from NCS designed to make it easy for parents to follow the progress of their children in school (http://www.ncs.com)

EXAMPLE: Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) are one of ways that parents can support schools (http://www.pta.org)

Engagement theory

Over the years, many different theories and models of learning have been developed (see http://www.gwu.edu/~tip). While many of these theories are relevant to online learning in some way, very few have been developed specifically in this context. An exception to this is engagement theory (see http://home.sprynet.com/~gkearsley/engage.htm)

EXAMPLE: WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented learning model that creates student engagement. (see http://edweb.sdsu.edu/webquest/webquest.html)

EXAMPLE:The Yahooligans search page makes it easy for kids to find information on the web. (http://www.yahooligans.com)

EXAMPLE:Study Web helps students find web sites for specific subject areas (http://www.studyweb.com)


Interacting with others online requires some specific communications behaviors -- conventions which have come to be called "netiquette".

EXAMPLE:The Netiquette site.(http://www.albion.com/netiquette)

The Netiquette Guide written by Arelene Rinaldi is available in 10 languages (http://www.fau.edu/netiquette.net/index.html)

Special Needs

Certain groups of individuals have special needs and hence pose particular concerns for online education. This includes young children, senior citizens, and handicapped individuals.

EXAMPLE:Project EASI (http://www.rit.edu/~easi) provides guidelines for development of online materials for individuals with disabilities.

EXAMPLES:The Center for Applied Special Technology (http://www.cast.org ) and WebABLE (http://www.webable.com) provide access to resources for the use of technology by disabled individuals.

Gender Equity

Another important social/cultural aspect of technology use is the inequity between males and females in computer activities. Beginning in the early grades of school and continuing through college and employment, relatively few females are attracted to computer technology, making it a male-dominated environment. Efforts are being made at all levels of education and training to rectify this situation.

EXAMPLES: The GIRLTECH site created by Cynthia Lanius of Rice University ( http://math.rice.edu/~lanius/club/girls.html


Norman Coombs - Adaptive technology for online communication

Norm Coombs is a professor of history at Rochester Institute of Technology and a pioneer in online education. As a blind person, he makes extensive use of adaptive technology to teach. Interestingly, his interaction with deaf students in classes provided him with an initial understanding of how online interaction could provide new learning opportunities. He has been the chair of the EASI project and involved in many efforts concerned with access for those with disabilities. He was also named New York Professor of the Year in 1998.

To learn more about his background and work, see his home page at http://www.rit.edu/~nrcgsh



6 / Online Teaching

Interactivity and Participation

The most important role of the instructor in online classes is to ensure that there is a high degree of interactivity and participation. This means designing and conducting learning activities that result in engagement with the subject matter and fellow students. As discussed in the previous chapter, coursework should focus on assignments and projects that are relevant and realistic in nature. It should involve plenty of opportunities for input from the instructor and fellow students.

EXAMPLE:The World Lecture Hall is worldwide database of online courses at the college level. (http://www.utexas.edu/world/lecture/index.html)

One factor that strongly affects the amount of student interaction and participation is the level of instructor involvement. If the instructor regularly posts messages in the discussion forum or provides comments to students via email, this increases student involvement and participation in a course. So a cardinal rule of good online teaching is that the instructor must participate a lot to get students to do likewise.

EXAMPLE:The Awesome Library for Teachers developed by Jerry Adams is one of many online curriculum databases available for K-12 teachers. (http://www.awesomelibrary.org)

EXAMPLE:Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators is another excellent source of curriculum and other teacher resources ( http://discoveryschool.com/schrockguide)


A primary task of the teacher is provide feedback. In online courses, teacher feedback will mostly take the form of email messages about assignments or comments made on the assignment and returned to the student. The latter will usually involve marking up the original file submitted by the student and having them download it to see the comments. Ideally individual feedback is provided to each student, as well as group feedback. Group feedback can take the form of messages posted in a discussion forum or conference which summarize/synthesize the individual responses made on a given topic or activity.

EXAMPLE:The Training & Development Community Center is an example of a resource for those interested in the training world. (http://tcm.com/trdev)


One of the implications of making a course highly interactive and providing good feedback to students is that it creates a high workload for instructors. As a rule of thumb, the higher the level of interactivity and participation in a course, the more work involved for the teacher. Online teachers (and institutions) need to develop strategies to successfully manage this increased workload.

EXAMPLE:Teachers Helping Teachers site developed by Scott Mandel (http://www.pacificnet.net/~mandel)

Moderating and facilitating

It has been mentioned previously in this chapter and earlier in the book that online teaching requires good moderating and facilitation skills. Moderating involves encouraging students to participate in discussion forums and conferences, ensuring that certain students don't dominate, keeping discussions focused on the topic at hand, and summarizing/ synthesizing the highlights of discussions. Facilitation means providing information that will help students complete their assignments, suggesting ideas or strategies for them to pursue in their course work, and getting students to reflect on their responses and work.

A source of further information about the nature of moderating online courses can be found at the Moderators Home Page, http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~mpc3/moderators.html#mod.

EXAMPLE:Ed's Oasis provides a variety of useful resources for teachers (http://www.edsoasis.org)


There are many factors which determine the effectiveness of online teaching. Experience and comfort with online teaching is one of the most obvious. This includes general familiarity with the nature and techniques of online teaching as well as mastery of the particular system and software used in a given course.

EXAMPLE:The Searle Center for Teaching Excellence at NWU is one of many teaching effectiveness centers around the country. (http://president.scfte.nwu.edu)

Faculty collaboration

Just as online courses offer many opportunities for student interaction, they also provide many possibilities for collaboration among teachers. While teachers usually like to collaborate, it is often difficult to do so in a conventional classroom setting. However, an online class makes it quite easy to do so.

EXAMPLE:There are many associations and organizations concerned with online education such as EDUCAUSE (http://www.educause.edu)

Student Evaluation

One aspect of online teaching which often generates considerable concern for teachers is evaluation of student performance. They worry that they will not be able to assess student understanding or participation properly. Ironically, student evaluation can be done far more effectively online than in a traditional classroom setting because of the ease of creating online tests and other forms of assessment.

EXAMPLE:The Educational Testing Service is a good site to research issues concerning student evaluation (http://www.ets.org)

EXAMPLE:Test.com provides access to a large collection of online tests (http://www.test.com )


Betty Collis: A World Perspective on TeleLearning

Although she began her career as a mathematics teacher in the U.S., Betty Collis has been a professor for many years in the Faculty of Educational Sciences and Technology at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. She has been involved in numerous projects to assess the effectiveness of computers in European school systems as well as research studies of online learning. Recently she has been involved in a project to implement an online education system at the University of Twente called Teletop (http://teletop.edte.utwente.nl). She has written many publications including the comprehensive textbook TeleLearning in the Digital World.

To learn more about her work, see http://www.to.utwente.nl/user/ism/collis/home.htm



7/ Design & Development of Online Courses

Development methodology

Over the years, methods for the development of instruction have been explored and refined. The most widely adopted methodology is the Instructional Systems Development (ISD) model. While the ISD model has many variations, it basically suggests that an instructional development project be divided up into 5 major stages: analysis, design, production, implementation, and evaluation.

EXAMPLE:Big Dog's ISD page is a online guide to ISD developed by Don Clark.(http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/hrd/sat.html)

An alternative development methodology is minimalism which originates from the computer and technical publications world rather than training. Minimalism is based more on the iterative design approach commonly used in the computer field which involves the development of prototypes.

EXAMPLE: The NODE site provides resources for instructional design related to online courses ( http://node.on.ca/tfl/design )

Form and function

Development methodologies such as ISD and minimalism provide a series of principles based upon instructional. However, the creation of online courses involves at least two other categories of design principles: usability (function) and aesthetics (form).

EXAMPLE:There are a number of style guides available for the design of web pages/sites such at the one developed by the Center For Advanced Instructional Media at Yale University (http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/contents.html)

Good design involves achieving a balance between usability and aesthetics. You want a program that is easy to use, but is also visually interesting and highly motivating. This is a very difficult combination to achieve which is one reason why there are relatively few outstanding programs.

The team approach

One of the most different aspects about developing online course materials relative to traditional print materials (e.g., textbooks, lecture notes) is the need for a team approach. It is difficult for a single individual to have the range of skills and time required to develop online courses.

EXAMPLE:There a number of research labs around the country that study computer usability such as HCIL at the University of Maryland (http://www.cs.umd.edu/projects/hcil)

Course documents

There are a number of documents that can be used to organize and structure a course. The most common of these is a syllabus which includes course goals and objectives, discussion of pre-requisites, an outline of class activities and schedule, a description of course grading and evaluation methods, a list of texts or readings, and a bibliography.

A second important document is the lesson plan which describes how a teacher plans to conduct a class. The lesson plan is similar in nature to a syllabus with description of goals and objectives, pre-requisites, class activities, and evaluation methods. However, lesson plans are usually more detailed in terms of class activities, identifying specific actions to be performed by the teacher, including preparation steps.

EXAMPLE:An example of a lesson plan from the Lesson Plan Exchange of the Engaging Science site (http://www.engagingscience.org/lpe/lpe.htm)

A third important course document is a study guide. The study guide is intended to help students understand the course content better and usually provides additional explanations and examples of the subject matter.

EXAMPLE:The IMS project is an attempt to develop an international specification and database for online courses (http://www.imsproject.org)

Integrating online and on-campus activities

As a general rule, most online courses and programs will involve some on-campus activities. These activities may include orientation sessions, hands-on labs, examinations, lectures, or discussion groups. A typical arrangement is for students to attend an on-campus session once at the beginning of the semester, another at a mid-point, and a third at the end of the course (which may involve taking an exam). Many graduate programs often only have one on-campus session at the beginning of each semester (i.e., three per year) or just an annual session in the summer lasting a week in duration. The frequency of on-campus sessions will be dictated by the nature of the curriculum (i.e., need for hands-on or in-person interaction) and by the level of education. It has been well-established that graduate students need relatively little in-person interaction, but younger students (especially k-12) may require more.

EXAMPLE:One of the issues that become important when integrating on-campus and online activities is electronic classrooms (see http://classrooms.com)

EXAMPLE:Online Class has developed a model that integrates online and classroom activities at the K-12 level (http://www.onlineclass.com)

Authoring Courses

At the end of chapter 3, we briefly discussed authoring tools for creating online courses. The most commonly used authoring tool for most teachers will be a word processing program given that the primary course documents (i.e., syllabi, lesson plans, study guides) are text files. Since the current versions of all word processing programs allow documents to be saved in HTML format, creating web documents does not require any special effort. Of course, if these documents are to involve graphics, photographs, or slideshows, additional software tools will be required, but these are standard applications programs that any computer user can be expected to learn to use. If the institution provides instructional support services, such additional components may be created by graphics designers or multimedia specialists on behalf of the instructor.

An interesting new development in the world of web-based learning is the idea of shared resources. The Educational Object Exchange site (http://www.eoe.org) is resource for sharing Java applets and assisting others to develop their own object exchange communities.

For an analysis of the design of web-based courses, see http://snow.utoronto.ca/best/crsreview.html

EXAMPLE:Almost everything a teacher needs or wants to know about creating web sites can be found online. The WebTeacher site is an introduction to the web (http://www.webteacher.org)



Judi Harris - Telementoring

Judi Harris is a professor in the College of Education at the University of Texas, Austin. Her focus is on teaching teachers how to use the internet in the classroom and she has written a number of guidebooks on this topic published by ITSE and ASCD. She also directs the "Electronic Emissary" project, an effort to connect students and subject matter experts via the internet. She considers this project to be an example of telementoring,.

For more about Judi Harris, see http://www.edb.utexas.edu/coe/depts/ci/it/harris.html

The home page for the Electronic Emissary project is: http://www.tapr.org/emissary/index.html



8/ Organizations and Networking

Physical facilities

In order to participate in online activities, all students and staff need easy access to networked computers. For on-campus access, this normally means computers in offices and labs connected to LANs which in turn have a high speed connection to the internet (e.g., a T1 line). In addition, machines in dormitories, libraries, and classrooms will also need to connect to the LAN (or have their own LANs). Creating this kind of on-campus network means that each machine must have an appropriate LAN interface card, the necessary cable is run through buildings, and the LAN server has a suitable modem to connect to a high speed line. Plus all machines will need software for the LAN and internet configurations. And there will be printers and various storage devices connected to different machines in the network. Multimedia adds further.

EXAMPLE:In many cases, networking vendors are the best source of up-to-date technical information, e.g., the 3Com site (http://www.3com.com/edu)

Use of a network tends to raise additional computing issues such as security, virus protection, backups, and file sharing.

EXAMPLE:Some vendors offer complete educational network solutions, reducing the level of technical expertise required by schools, e.g., NetSchools (http://www.netschools.net).

Installing and supporting all of these network facilities takes considerable staff and money. In the case of small school systems, the lack of both can present major obstacles to networking. The costs of multiple phone lines is a big problem for some school systems. In 1996, the U.S. Congress passed the Telecommunications Act which includes a subsidy program (the "E-rate") which is supposed to reduce the cost of telecommunications services to schools; however this subsidy has had little practical effort to date (see http://www.slcfund.org).

Patterns of study and work

Online education provides a lot of flexibility in terms of where and when people work, especially if asynchronous interaction is involved. In the case of students, studying and class participation can be done at home in the evenings or weekends. Similarly, faculty do not need to be on-campus to do their teaching -- they can do it from home according to their own work schedule. It is also possible for people to study or work while they are traveling, confined to a hospital, or even on vacation -- provided they have a computer and access to a phone line.

EXAMPLE:Finding a good Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a critical aspect of online education. The List site helps do this (http://www.thelist.com)

However, one weak area for online interaction is supervision and management. Most individuals who have supervisory or management responsibilities over others (e.g., deans, department heads, principals, thesis advisors, etc.) are not comfortable conducting such activities entirely in electronic form. While it is very easy to track the work of someone via online means (e.g., logon records, file or screen sharing), it is usually considered difficult to solve disputes or conflicts this way. Most people prefer to handle these aspects of supervision and management via in-person meetings. It is also difficult to get an overall picture of a person's progress or state of being solely from online interaction. Consequently, most supervisors and managers like to have periodic in-person meetings with their staff, even though most of the actual work can be done online.

EXAMPLE:Creating a online campus involves defining how students, faculty and administrative staff will interact. Embanet is an example of a commercial service that provides online learning environments (http://www.embanet.com)

Power relationships

One of the aspects of organizations that online interaction changes considerably is the relationships of authority and power (see Davenport, 1997; Kling & Dunlop, 1996; Sproull & Kiesler, 1991). When information is communicated through a physical means (including telephone and fax), lines of authority can be maintained through gate-keepers (i.e., secretaries and assistants). However, online interaction via email and conferencing tends to override these channels, allowing anyone to contact anyone else.

EXAMPLE:Many publishing and media organizations are using online learning to extend their markets. The PBS TeacherSource site links public television with the classroom (http://www.pbs.org)

Cooperation and competition

One of the most intriguing aspects of online education is how it affects the relationships among institutions, in terms of cooperation and competition. Just as networking can facilitate collaboration among students or faculty, it can also do so at the institutional level. The most obvious form of collaboration is course sharing in which a group of institutions agree to jointly offer online courses to their respective student populations. Many groups of institutions have formed consortiums as the administrative framework for these offerings. Examples include the Western Governors University http://www.wgu.edu), the California Virtual University (http://www.california.edu), and the Southern Regional Electronic Campus (http://www.srec.sreb.org).


Al Rogers: Linking Kids Around the World!

Al Rogers is a former classroom teacher who has played a prominent role in getting students online around the world. Along with his collaborator, Yvonne Marie Andres, he developed FrEdMail (and the FrEdWriter program) which provided a low-cost email system for schools. Currently he is the executive director of the Global SchoolNet Foundation (http://www.gsn.org) which supports a number of projects for online interaction among schools and students in many different nations. You can out more about Al Rogers at http://www.gsn.org/who/team/ar.bio.html.



9/ Policy


In theory, questions of ownership (which include copyright, royalties and licensing) are no different for online materials than any other media. Educational institutions usually specify in their employment contracts that all instructional materials developed by faculty or staff are the exclusive property of the institution. Copyright law clearly spells out the rules of ownership for works in electronic form. And today's publishing contracts normally outline in extraordinary detail, the terms for royalties and licensing of all materials, including electronic versions. But online courses raise questions of ownership which are difficult to answer.

EXAMPLE:The copyright website. (http://www.benedict.com)

Quality Control

One of the concerns that it shared by most faculty and administrators (as well as the public) about online courses is whether the quality of education is par with traditional on-campus classes. In Chapter 4, we reviewed some of the research on the effectiveness of online courses which suggests that they can be just as effective, or more so, in terms of learning outcomes. But, that research doesn't address the question of whether a given course is good. Educational institutions need to develop quality control procedures that ensure the effectiveness of all online courses they offer.

EXAMPLE:The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is an organization dedicated to the examination of network policy issues (http://www.eff.org).

EXAMPLE:The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) is a regional organization that focuses on policy issues for higher education (http://www.wiche.edu)

Student/Faculty workloads

One of the data items that can be collected as part of the quality control process is how much time students spend studying and how much time faculty spend teaching. This data is very important with online courses for a number of reasons. For one thing, there are expectations on the part of schools (and accrediting bodies) about how many hours of study are required to complete a course for a certain number of credits. Almost any online system can produce records of student sign-on time as well as what they did while they were signed on (e.g., number and type of responses). To the extent that students send email, participate in conferences, and post messages in discussion forums, all of these activities can be tabulated or kept as records of student performance. Of course, this data doesn't indicate that learning is taking place any more than when a student is occupying a seat in a classroom.

EXAMPLE:The Consortium for Policy Research in Education. (http://www.upenn.edu/gse/cpre/)

While it possible that the student workload in an online course is too light for the designated credit hours, in most cases it is too heavy. Teachers are inclined to give assignments involving online collaboration, research or writing that are very time consuming, without realizing how long it takes to complete these assignments.

EXAMPLE:The Education Commission of the States (ECS) coordinates educational policy nationally (http://www.ecs.org).

Accreditation and certification

Some of the issues we have been discussing in preceding sections provide the background to questions about the accreditation of online programs and the certification of those who teach online. Given the common concern with the quality of online courses, it is no surprise that the credentials of those who teach and the institutions that offer such courses is subjected to additional scrutiny. Likewise, to the extent that course workloads are related to credits and learning outcomes, there is a connection between accreditation and the nature of online courses.

EXAMPLE: The American Council for Education provides accreditation guidelines for post-secondary learning


EXAMPLE:The EdWeb site created by Andy Carvin discusses the policy implications of online education (http://edweb.gsn.org)

Acceptable use

One of the most complex issues associated with the internet and computer networks is acceptable use -- regulating what is acceptable online behavior. Acceptable use covers what kind of information can be accessed and stored online, and by whom. It also covers how online facilities are used. Almost every educational institution has its own acceptable use policy which all students are expected to abide by, with penalties for violations.

EXAMPLE:Handbook for Acceptable Use Policies; the Virginia Dept Education ( www.pen.k12.va.us/go/DOE/Technolgy/AUP/home.shtml )

EXAMPLE:The SafeKids web site provides guidance on how to ensure a wholesome online experience for children (http://www.safekids.com)


Jason Ohler - Exploring the Electronic Frontier

Jason Ohler is Director of Educational Technology for the University of Alaska and a long-time advocate of online education. His efforts focus on the creative, effective and responsible use of technology in education. He is was the founder of one of the first online journals about distance education (The Online Chronicle of Distance Education and Communication) and the author of Thinking About Technology (http://ivaldi.jun.alaska.edu/edtech/tat/cover/covfram.html). He is also a musician and composer with interests in computer-based music.

See his home page at http://www2.jun.alaska.edu/edtech/jason



 10/ Education in the Information Age

Access: The haves and have-nots

Throughout this book we have stressed the fact that online education only works if students and teachers have easy and regular access to computers with network connections. As a general rule, this is not a problem in the relatively affluent suburban areas of developed countries. However, it is a different situation in the poor urban and rural areas of the world (including the USA). In these settings, there may be few computers and very limited or no network connections. For such students and teachers, online education is not a possibility at the current time.

EXAMPLE:The Rural Education Activities Programme (REAP) in New Zealand is an effort to ensure that individuals in rural areas have online access (http://reap.org.nz)

Technology: good or evil?

A general debate rages over the immediate and long-term desirability of technology: the technophiles versus the technophobes. Many have argued that our increasing reliance on technology is a fatal flaw and will ultimately lead to the demise of society; others feel that it is the road to utopia. Most people accept it at face value and see neither Armageddon nor utopian implications. The critical question is whether technology is inherently good or evil -- or whether it simply reflects the characteristics of the individuals or groups that use it.

EXAMPLE:Is technology inherently good or evil? The U.S. Holocaust Museum. (http://www.ushmm.org)


A more serious issue of individual freedom is privacy in online environments. We have mentioned in earlier chapters, that is is easy to capture the full details of what a student does while signed on, usually for the legitimate purpose of tracking student performance or providing assistance during learning activities. However, users may not be informed or aware of this automatic data recording -- or able to do anything about it. For example, it is common for schools systems to monitor all online transactions occurring in computer labs watching for violations of acceptable use policies (e.g., accessing pornography, spamming, or hacking attempts). Such monitoring can include reading private email messages.

EXAMPLE:The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is a good resource for information about online privacy issues (http://epic.org)


While the benefits of online education have been alluded to from time to time in this book, there has been no discussion of the cost/benefits. The primary benefit of online courses is that the effort to develop and deliver them can be distributed over a large student audience, resulting in economies of scale for educational institutions. In the case of higher education and private companies, larger student enrollments means more tuition revenue. For public schools and training organizations, larger enrollments lowers the per student cost (and may mean larger subsidies or budgets). From the student's perspective, the availability of many online courses from different institutions means a variety of choices in terms of subject matter, instructors, media alternatives, and pricing.

EXAMPLE:The National Center for Technology Planning founded by Larry Anderson is helpful in determining what resources will be needed for educational networks. (http://www.nctm.com )

A major economic consequence of online education is that it has created new market opportunities for computer and telecommunication companies, not just in hardware or software, but services as well. The web has spawned a tremendous range of new educational ventures from course delivery tools to test preparation companies. Perhaps the most interesting new entities are the many for-profit "virtual schools". At the present time these organizations are not much more than online versions of the classic "home study" companies. However this is likely to change in the near future.

Virtual Schools

Online education allows for new forms of institutions to evolve from those that currently exist or develop from scratch. For example, there is no reason why a group of experts in a given subject area can't start their own online "institute" which offers courses or seminars and even confers degrees or certificates. To be meaningful, such a virtual school would want to be accredited and would need to go through the accreditation process. While accreditation as it currently exists is intended for large institutions, it could be changed to fit smaller entities. If a virtual school offered courses on topics in high demand (e.g., new areas of science, medicine, or technology) from very credible teachers, they could be quite successful.

EXAMPLE:The Ziff-Davis University (ZDU), a virtual school created by a media company. Tuition is a small monthly cost (http://www.zdu.com)

Resistance to Change

Because online education entails major changes in the way education is designed and delivered, it creates a great deal of resistance among individuals and organizations. The reasons for resistance to change are varied: fear of the unknown, additional effort required to learn new things, loss of power/prestige due to changed roles, or disagreement about new ideas. Given that online learning and teaching is so different from traditional classroom instruction, it is very likely that some faculty, students and administrators will object strongly.

(See for example, the article "Digital Diploma Mills" by David Noble at http://firstmonday.dk/issues/issue3_1/noble/index.html ).


Curtis Bonk: Electronic collaboration

Curtis Bonk is an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of Indiana and a member of the Center for Research on Learning and Technology. He is the developer of "smartweb", an online environment for mentoring undergraduate educational psychology students as well as other tools for web-based learning. He is the co-editor of the book Electronic Collaborators: Learner-centered technologies for literacy, apprenticeship and discourse published in 1998 by Erlbaum. He has recently proposed a 10 level model for online learning.

To learn more about his work, see http://php.indiana.edu/~cjbonk



11/ When the Electrons Hit the Screen

Putting together an online course

Many instructors, schools and organizations are just getting started with online education. In chapter 7, we discussed some of the issues associated with the design and development of online courses. There are also quite a number of practical considerations to be addressed.


First, it is a lot easier to convert an existing class into online form than develop something brand new. With a new course, both the curriculum (content) and the delivery format (online teaching/learning) have to be debugged simultaneously.

Indeed, the starting point for creating an online course (beyond goals/objectives) is the definition of student assignments/exercises. The nature of the assignments will determine the level of interactivity and participation in a course.

Another decision to be made is the extent to which students will work individually or in-groups. Students may work together on major projects, but do weekly assignments by themselves.

EXAMPLE: Many colleges and universities have excellent faculty development programs which provide support for development of online courses, e.g., the Hawaii Community College system (http://www.hcc.hawaii.edu/intranet/committees/FacDevCom/index.htm)

One last piece of advice about creating a first course is to begin with a pilot or prototype. Before a lot of effort is expended in the design and development of the full course, it is highly desirable to make up a sample lesson or two and try it out with a small number of representative students.

EXAMPLE: The tech-learning site is a source for online teaching ideas as well as software reviews


Getting connected

As has been mentioned many times earlier in this book, online education only works if everyone involved (i.e., students, faculty, and administrative staff) has regular access to computers and networks.

Access problems need to be solved at two basic levels: individuals and institutional. At the individual level, students and employees need to have their own personal network accounts as provided by an ISP.


EXAMPLE:All technology vendors offer online support for their products and this can be a useful resource when troubleshooting network problems e.g., Sun Microsystems (http://www.sun.com/service/online)

Getting connected at the institutional level is a much more complex endeavor. The kind of network connections appropriates for a given school or organization is dependent upon its size (i.e., number of students/employees/customers) and the nature of the online applications.


EXAMPLE: Many states have created extensive online resources for their school systems including information about training and funding for technology, e.g., the Link 2 Learn network in Pennsylvania (http://l2l.org/index.html)

Finding money and resources

Most institutions and organizations recognize network costs as a regular budget item and plan accordingly. However, many schools find it difficult to squeeze any more money out of their existing budgets for technology (or anything else) and require external assistance in the form of grants or donations. Some schools have established partnerships with technology or telecommunications vendors who donate equipment and support services. Other schools have reached out for state or federal money, or in the case of colleges and universities, private donations.

EXAMPLE: The Pitsco web site includes a very comprehensive guide to funding resources as well as information about many of the topics covered in earlier chapters


Selecting software

Software selection is a decision process that goes on at all levels of online education. Students need to make decisions about what application and browser software they will use (although Microsoft tries to keep the options limited to their products). Instructors and course developers make decisions about which online applications and authoring environments they will use (chapters 3 and 7). Network administrations make decisions about what online environments will be implemented and supported as well as the server and telecommunications software to be used. All of these software decisions have financial and instructional implications.

EXAMPLE: There are many sources of product reviews which can be useful in selecting software. The Benchin web site features user reviews



A general skill required by all computer users is troubleshooting, i.e., being able to figure why something isn't working and fix it. This skill is especially important for online activities because they tend to be fairly complicated applications. On the other hand, modern network software including browsers and learning environments tends to make it relatively easy to accomplish tasks. But things do go wrong, and frequently.

The importance of good troubleshooting procedures in online education cannot be over-emphasized. Students (as well as faculty) are often isolated and with no local resources or support. They are dependent upon the support provided remotely to address and solve their problems. If problems are not solved promptly, they impede learning progress and quickly wear down the motivation to continue learning. Ultimately, the troubleshooting effectiveness of a program will affect the success of its online courses.

EXAMPLE: The THE Journal Online web site not only contains articles about technology applications but also provides their roadmap to the internet


What to do next

This chapter has touched upon only a few of the practical matters that educators will encounter as they implement online education. Anyone embarking on the design or delivery of an online course, whether a teacher, administrator, or instructional developer, should do a number of things: (1) search the web for existing online courses that involve similar content, students, tools, or objectives and study them, (2) talk to others in your institution or elsewhere who have done what you plan to do, (3) take an online course if you have no first-hand experience with this form of learning, (4) put together a team for course development and support, and (5) ensure that your institution or organization is ready for online education. One of the easiest ways to avail yourself of information and ideas about online education (apart from web browsing) is to attend a conference of any organization devoted to educational technology (see chapter 13) or education/training in a given domain. This will provide an opportunity to learn from the experience of others, see demonstrations of software and systems, and determine the current trends.


Mariano Bernardez - Online professional development

Mariano Bernardez is a well-known training consultant who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1998, he founded the Performance Improvement Global Network (PIGN) chapter of the organization ISPI (http://www.pignc-ispi.com). PIGN is one of the first virtual (and bilingual) chapters of a professional association. It provides a variety of information resources and discussion opportunities to members of ISPI and the training community -- as well as a nice demonstration of how networks can link up two continents.



12/ Future Directions

Ubiquitous Computing

One technology development that seems easy to predict is the increasing prevalence of microprocessors in all objects - making them "smart". We have become used to having computers in devices like cars and coffee-makers, but many believe this is just the beginning.

A key element to ubiquitous computing is wireless networking. We already have simple forms of this - the use of infrared connections in LAN settings and radio frequency (e.g., cellular) in WANs. However, current forms of wireless networks are less dependable and more expensive than direct (wired) connection at present. With the advent of satellite-based cellular services, this is likely to change for the WAN environment. But the kind of ubiquitous computing envisioned by many will require much more robust forms of wireless networking than is available now.

EXAMPLE:Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is one of the most influential R&D labs in the computing field having made significant contributions to the nature of personal computers and networking. (http://www.parc.xerox.com).

Intelligent Software

Correlated with the emergence of ubiquitous computing is the development of intelligent software - programs capable of making autonomous decisions based upon the input received or what they sense about the state of the environment. In the case of ubiquitous computing, these decisions are most likely to be about personal preferences or routine procedures, e.g., turning on lights and setting them to appropriate levels or logging on to a network and checking email automatically when you enter your office. While such actions are relatively mundane, they represent small decisions that people don't have to be bothered with and are relatively easy and safe for computers to carry out.

EXAMPLE:The Research division of IBM Corp. is another very influential R&D lab in the computing world, especially in terms of new hardware developments.(http://www.research.ibm.com)

EXAMPLE:Bell Labs, a component of Lucent Technologies, is the premier R&D lab for new developments in telecommunications technology (http://www.bell-labs.com)

Merging of television, telecommunications and computing

A long predicted development which we are just beginning to see occur, is the merging of the television, telecommunications and computing worlds. This has been most clearly demonstrated by the appearance of Web-TV, the ability to access the web via a specially equipped television, through the services of television cable/satellite providers. Moving television content, such as movies, home shopping, or talk shows to the web (using digital video) is the commercial force underlying this development. Media companies believe that they can make more money if they are able to deliver personalized content to homes, especially in an interactive context where orders can be placed or people can actively participate in programming.

EXAMPLE:The CNN Student News Bureau allows students to correspondents to the CNN NEWSROOM, a news service for classroom use. (http://learning.turner.com/SB)

Virtual environments

In chapter 3 we briefly discussed the value of simulation as an instructional methodology. An even more worthwhile version of simulation is virtual reality - which is basically 3-D simulation with sensory-motor input and output. In a virtual environment, students have realistic learning experiences that include the ability to manipulate objects or navigate around 3-D representations of actual or imagined worlds. An obvious application for virtual reality are science or medical labs that involve working with simulated equipment or biological entities. More intriguing are virtual worlds for mathematics, astronomy or geology that involve visual representations of abstract concepts. It is also likely that virtual reality will be used extensively for the humanities and fine arts where it can extend traditional modalities of expression.

EXAMPLE:The Virtual Reality Lab at the University of Michigan is one of a number of R&D facilities around the world that is exploring this technology. (http://www-VRL.umich.edu)

For more discussion about virtual reality and its application in schools, see the VR & Schools newsletter at http://eastnet.educ.ecu.edu/vr/pub.htm

Speech processing

One of assumptions made by many science fiction writers and those who write future computing scenarios is that people will interact with computers primarily via speech. Speech input and output is seen as more natural form of interaction than the use of keyboards and mice. Since it allows "hands-free" interaction, it fits in with ubiquitous computing devices which might be worn as jewelry (the proverbial "Dick Tracy" wristwatch) or embedded in furniture/furnishings.

Speech processing does have many potential educational benefits. Language learning programs have made good use of existing synthesis/recognition capabilities to allow students to listen to and practice pronunciations. Speech input and output is also very useful with young children when they are learning to speak and read. In certain training settings, speech processing capabilities are an important part of simulations, such as air traffic control or emergency services. And, text to speech conversion programs are a critical component for blind computer users. There are probably many educational applications that would be enhanced through the use of speech input/output.

To learn more about speech technology and research, see the "Speech" site at Carnegie-Mellon University (http://www.speech.cs.cmu.edu/speech) which also provides links to many other relevant sites.

Automated language translation

One of the exciting aspects of global networking is that it allows people from all nations to interact easily. This is especially true in the case of online education where courses can involve participates from anywhere in the world. However, people speak different languages which makes communication difficult. This problem is likely to get worse as more people get online. The ideal solution is automatic translation programs that will convert text from one language to another.

EXAMPLE:The AltaVista system provides an automated translation capability (http://www.altavista.com)


Paul Levinson: Information Technology Visionary

Paul Levinson is the founder and president of Connected Education Inc., an organization that has provided online courses in conjunction with major universities since 1985. He is the author of many books and articles about electronic communications including "Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium" published in 1999 by Routledge, and the editor of the Journal of Social and Evolutionary Systems. Levinson is also a noted science fiction writer.

To learn more, see http://www.sfwa.org/members/Levinson


Knowledge management

One of the most important developments in the training domain in the past decade has been the emphasis on organizational rather than individual learning. The idea underlying organizational learning is to develop methods to foster the sharing and accumulation of knowledge within an organization. This involves capturing the expertise of employees and putting it in a form that is easily available to everyone else (present and future) who wants to access that expertise. This is most easily accomplished via computer databases and networks. The creation of such databases and networks has come to be called knowledge management.

EXAMPLE:Major consulting firms such as Andersen Consulting are good sources of information about emerging technology and its impact on business. (http://www.ac.com)

EXAMPLE:While not specifically concerned with technology, the Institute for the Future is a well-known "think tank" that makes forecasts about emerging trends and developments in society. (http://www.iftf.org)

 A good source for further information about knowledge management is the Biz Tech web site at http://www.brint.com



Organizations that shape online education

Many organizations shape current and future developments in the field of online computing. This includes technology companies who develop hardware and software products that enable new networking capabilities. It also includes R&D centers, as well as the funding agencies and foundations that make it possible for R&D to be conducted. Finally, certain schools, associations, and companies can strongly influence the direction of online computing by the nature of their projects, programs or products. In this section we mention some organizations (in no particular order) that stand out in terms of their contributions.

-International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) - provides conferences and publications for teachers about online education (http://www.iste.org)

-Technical Education Research Center (TERC) has

been conducting research projects that focus on the use of technology in math and science education since 1965. In recent years, TERC has spearheaded a number of major online projects including Kids Network (done in conjunction with the National Geographic Society) and GlobalLab. (http://www.terc.edu)

-The MIT Media Lab. While not specifically concerned with education or networking, the demonstration projects and prototypes developed here strongly influence the entire technology world, especially in terms of multimedia capabilities. (http://www.media.mit.edu)

-NASA. While many government agencies have done an excellent job providing online access to their resources, NASA has been the leader in terms of working with schools and creating worthwhile learning programs. It also helps that their subject matter is exciting and fascinating to kids and adults alike. (http://www.nasa.gov)

-Pacific Bell - Knowledge Network. While many of the telecommunications companies have become heavily involved in school networking, Pacific Bell was one of the first to provide substantial funds ($100 million) and broad support for online education with its "Education First initiative and Knowledge Network web site. (http://www.kn.pacbell.com)

-The British Open University. Not only is this the worlds largest and most successful distance learning institution, but it also make extensive use of online education. The OU also hosts a number of advanced research groups such as the Knowledge Media Institute. (http://www.open.ac.uk)

-The National Center for Supercomputer Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. One of the nations leading research centers for high performance computing and networking. This is where the original web browser (Mosaic) was developed (http://www.ncsa.uiuc.edu)

-Although not as large as some other computer companies, Hewlett-Packard has always exerted a significant impact on the evolution of computing and its development in education (especially on the west coast). Their Test & measurement Educator's Corner web site allows engineering students to use virtual test and measurement equipment. ( http://www.tmo.hp.com/tmo/iia/edcorner/English/product_main.html )

-The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been a leader in providing online access to medical information, beginning with its Medline database in the 1960s. This web page shows their Office of Science Education which provides curriculum support materials for high school science. (http://science-education.nih.gov)



13/ Sources of Further Information

Online Journals/Magazines

There are many online journals and magazines that address technology in education such as:

The Wellspring - An online community of distance educators: http://wellspring.isinj.com

CMC Magazine: http://www.december.com/cmc/mag/current/toc.html

Networking - Online newsletter of the NODE program: http://node.on.ca/networking

From Now On: http://fromnowon.org:

J. of Asynchronous Learning Networks: http://www.aln.org/alnweb

J. of Interactive Multimedia in Education : http://www-jime.open.ac.uk

J. of Interactive Learning Research: http://www.aace.org

J. of Instructional Science & Technolology : http://www.usq.edu.au/electpub/e-jist/homepage.htm

J. of Technology Education : http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JTE/jte.html

New Horizons for Learning: http://www.newhorizons.org/

Online Educator: http://ole.net:8081/educator

Technology Source : http://horizon.unc.edu/TS

THE Journal: http://www.thejournal.com

Multimedia Schools: http://www.infotoday.com/MMschools/default.htm

First Monday: http://firstmonday.com



A number of organizations provide their conference or workshop papers online:

AusWeb 97: http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/ausweb97.htm

NAU Web 98: http://star.ucc.nau.edu/~nauweb98

NSF Future of Networking Technologies for Learning (Nov 1995): http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures

Teaching at Community Colleges Online (TCC 98): http://leahi.kcc.hawaii.edu/org/tcon98/papers.html



The following organizations have something to do with education, training and technology:

Association for the Advancement of Computers in Education (AACE):


American Society for Training & Development (ASTD): http://www.astd.org

Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD): http://www.ascd.org

Distance Education Training Council (DETC): http://www.detc.org

Computer Using Educators (CUE): http://www.cue.org

EduCause: http://www.educause.edu

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE): http://www.iste.org

International Technology Education Association (ITEA): http://www.iteawww.org

International Teleconferencing Association (ITCA): http://www.itca.org/

National Education Association (NEA): http://www.nea.org

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA): http://www.nsta.org/

Society for Applied Learning and Technology (SALT): http://www.salt.org

U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA): http://www.usdla.org



Some collections of articles or project archives about online education:

Global School Net: http://www.gsn.org/teach/articles

MCCCD Learning Communities: http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/monograph/index.html

MCREL Technology Integration: http://www.mcrel.org/resources/technology/index.asp

Living Schoolbook Project: http://lsb.syr.edu

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Technology: http://www.ed.gov/Technology/pubsh.html


Research Centers

There are a number of research centers that focus on different aspects of educational technology:

Knowledge Media Institute, Open University: http://kmi.open.ac.uk

Institute for Computer Based Learning, Heriot-Watt Unversity: http://www.icbl.hw..ac.uk

Institute for Learning Sciences, Northwestern University: http://www.ils.nwu.edu

Institute for Learning Technologies, Columbia University: http://www.ilt.columbia.edu

National Center for Supercomputer Applications, University of Illinois:


The Concord Consortium: http://www.concord.org

Virtual Reality & Education Lab, East Carolina University: http://eastnet.educ.ecu.edu/vr/vrel.htm



Here are some sources of more information about networks in education:

Consortium for School Networking: http://www.cosn.org

Cisco Educational Archive: http://www.cearch.org

3Com Education site: http://www.3com.com/edu

Internet2: http://www.internet2.org

Internet Society: http://www.isoc.org

WWW Virtual Library: Networking: http://src.doc.ic.ac.uk/bySubject/Networking.html