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« Sociology Essay | Main | Thesis Topics - Distance Learning Education »


Thesis Chapter 1 - Distance Learning Education



While distance education emerged in the United States by means of the postal mail service as early as the 1880’s (Vincent, 1886), during the past two decades distance education has experienced unparalleled growth in higher education through access to the technology revolution and on-line learning. Distance learning offerings are a particular challenge to E-learning providers in three areas: alternative design of instruction, alternative providers of higher education, and expanded focus on training. E-learner designers have responded to these challenges by making significant changes in standards, policies, and procedures. Careful examination of each in relation to distance learning offering is essential to assuring the quality of alternative designs and providers as well as the expanded focus on training.   They can help students affirm the purposes and determine whether and how educators can fulfill those purposes while taking advantage of the new capacities that distance learning provides.

            A current Educational Research Improvement Report states that corporate vendors have provided around 2.4 million information technology certifications to 1.6 million individuals worldwide since 1997 (Adelman, 2000).  However,

A majority of the growing numbers of completely on-line programs for

higher education remain non-credit bearing, serving the professional

development interests of a broad number of adults holding baccalaureate

or other degrees, distance education also influences and challenges the

capacity of traditional providers to educate.  It also invites particular

attention by the accrediting associations as they reflect on and describe

their standards in the review of distance-education programs to ensure

that they reflect quality, integrity, and effectiveness (Swail & Kampits,

2001, p. 38). 

Today, and for the last century, education has been practiced in segregated buildings by carefully regimented and standardized classes of students led and instructed by teachers working essentially alone (Downes, S. 1998). Downes (1998) asserts that in ten years, this model will be seen in many quarters to be obsolete, and a new model, where education is practiced in the community as a whole, by individuals studying personal curricula at their own pace, guided and assisted by community facilitators, online instructors and experts around the world. Moreover, the educational experience will be rich and diverse, supported by interesting and engaging educational software, and enhanced by discussion and collaboration with people from around the planet.

            In a virtual university not only students but also faculty members may be also geographically separated from one another and services and resources a faculty member needs to prepare for his/her class instruction may not be immediately available physically (Aoki, K., & Pogroszewski, D. 1998). Thus, it is important to create a forum for faculty members to exchange pertinent information and to provide them with technological resources to better prepare for their class presentation. As noted in Bray (1995), spontaneity is limited in a virtual university classroom as the lack of immediate feedback from students makes difficult for an instructor to adjust the course materials on the fly. In addition, there is a pressure to best utilize the time in a synchronous instructional delivery as it involves expensive airtime or telephone connection, which often discourage instructors from being spontaneous.

Limited research has shown that a number of circumstances influence whether or not faculty choose to teach via on-line (Barnard, 1999). Since faculty are pivotal to the success of online instruction, Barnard’s (1999) study explored their backgrounds, concerns, and their on-line teaching practices. He posited that administrators need to determine what factors encourage faculty to adopt online instruction, and what kinds of support faculty require to design and implement online delivery. Faculty who have not participated in online instruction need to know the time and resources required to design and implement on-line courses, as well as an introduction to the various course tools that can be used in on-line delivery. Teacher education is one of the areas in distance learning.  The Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) believes that the purpose of teacher education accreditation is to prepare “competent, caring, and qualified educators” (TEAC, 2001). In any educational environment, teachers and instructors play the most significant role in providing quality education (Aoki, K., & Pogroszewski, D. 1998). In a traditional setting, faculty members interact with students inside and outside classrooms and the interaction takes many different forms; one-to-many classroom presentation, one-on-one face-to-face interaction during office hours, mediated interaction through assignments and exams/quizzes (Aoki, K., & Pogroszewski, D. 1998). Any of those are critical elements of instruction and has to be included in a virtual university environment.

Instructor training is particularly needed to support faculty in a field that is rapidly changing. In addition, providing technical support for faculty is challenging for many colleges because of limited resources (Levy, 2001). Traditionally, faculty has received support from three different areas of the campus: libraries, computing centers, and faculty development centers. Institutions need to strive to provide access to technology and tools that help members of the campus community reach their goals. In order to gain the knowledge necessary to implement online curriculum effectively, instructors must have the necessary training, mentoring, and support, preferably on the equipment they will use. Faculty training must be considered when institutions plan for an online distance learning program.

Distance education administrators and trainers should be cognizant of this gap and support faculty members in acquiring needed skills to increase the level of interactivity students experience in online courses (Roberson, T., & Klotz, J. 2002). Although academic freedom remains with individual faculty members, assuring distance education programs have integrity is a dual responsibility shared by those who deliver and those who administer such programs (Roberson, T., & Klotz, J. 2002). Robertson and Klotz (2002) supports the idea that students benefit from personal contact and access to the professor and learning is enhanced in courses with high degrees of interactivity among students. The authors suggest effective uses of e-mail, chat, and various Web-based tools to enhance interactivity and a sense of community within the online course. Sample comments are also included from students who have taken courses that employ the strategies described in this paper.

In order to find out the trend and impact that distance-learning providers have had on accreditation policies pertaining to teacher education, this study intends to collect and analyze relevant data from 1994 to 2003.  The outcome of this study is expected to help administrators in higher education with accreditation policy making pertaining to teacher education programs being provided through distance learning methodology.

Background of the Study

The roots of e-learning is highly ingrained in the development of distance learning throughout the centuries. In 1840, the English inventor of shorthand, Sir Issac Pitman, came up with an ingenious idea for delivering instruction to a possibly limitless audience through correspondence courses by mail. His concept was so hot that within a few years he was corresponding with a legion of far-flung learners (Phillips, 1998). Within a few decades, regular, and in some cases, extensive programs were available in the United Kingdom, Germany, the United States and Japan (Curran, 1997).

In the two decades following the opening of the British Open University in 1969, four open universities were established in Europe, and more than 20 were established in countries around the world. There was considerable growth over the ensuing decades. In the United States, by the mid-1980s, more than 300,000 students were enrolled in university-taught distance education courses. In Canada, some 19 conventional universities were active in distance teaching. In Australia, the University of Queensland initiative had grown to some 3,000 students by the late 1960s. By the mid-1980s, some 40 institutions had an enrollment of external students equivalent to approximately 12% of higher education students. In the Soviet Union, where distance teaching was adopted in the late 1920s, all 61 universities eventually offered education by correspondence, and it is reported in the former German Democratic Republic that approximately one quarter of the university and technical college graduates attained their qualification by means of distance education. It is clear that distance education had developed into a substantive sector of higher education in quite a few countries (Curran 1997).

In a number of cases, particular open universities have a student population that is bigger than that of the median-size university in the same country, and in a few cases bigger than the largest traditional university. Nonetheless, in many countries the substantive student population is made up of enrollment in distance teaching programs provided by many individual universities and colleges. The widening over time of the range of programs provided and the kinds of student populations served has, in both cases, reinforced the trend toward further growth (Curran 1997).

Moreover, distance education has also affected the mode of instruction and the manner of teaching. Distance instruction represents a tremendous change in the role of instruction (Clay, M. 1999). In the distance environment, the instructor shifts more toward a mentor or facilitator role (Clay, M. 1999). This requires a great deal of communication, usually through the use of technology. The use of technology, which may be poorly understood by many faculty according to Clay (1999), results in a substantial increase in the time required to develop and deliver a course.

In lieu with the change in the system, the accreditation of these institutions is highly relevant in order to determine the effectiveness of distance education and in effect the change in the governmental policies that governs and regulates such system. Accreditation system has served as an important vehicle for quality assurance in higher education in the U.S. In the Middle States Proposed Guidelines for Distance Learning, it states that enrolled students have reasonable and adequate access to the range of student services to support their learning. According to Gellman-Danley (1997), "distributed learning is a force that requires a fundamental reexamination of policies and procedures that define the business of higher education" (p.81). Where policy and procedures change, so will the systems that are needed to support the functions of that institution. This will require on-line support capabilities that current administrative systems and institutions are not designed to support. Gellman-Danley (1997) also states that support service issues including advising, counseling, libraries, marketing and access to course resources are an area that needs to be reexamined by the accreditation system. In a virtual university, students, faculty and staff, learn, instruct and administer in a virtual space rather than brick and mortar buildings.


Statement of the Problem

This study aims to analyze the impact that distance-learning providers have had on accreditation policies pertaining to teacher education in the United States from 1994 to 2003.  Specifically, the study aims to answer the following questions:

1.      What are the changes in the role of teachers in the traditional classroom and distance learning?

2.      How did selected United States’ Universities offering education courses respond to the changing nature of education in terms of curricula and training?

3.      What are the changes, if there are any, in the US accreditation policy from 1994-2003? Specifically, what are the changes in the provisions of teacher education for state accreditation, quality of distance learning and the qualification of teachers?

4.      Can these changes, if there are any, be attributed to the proliferation of distance-learning providers? How significant were the effects or influence of the distance learning providers in the policy-making?


            This research study will test the following null hypothesis:

1.      There is no significant impact that distance-learning providers have had on accreditation policies pertaining to teacher education in the United States from 1994 to 2003


Purpose of the Research

This study aims to identify the impact that distance-learning providers have had on accreditation policies pertaining to teacher education in the United States from 1994 to 2003. Specifically, this study seeks to trace the changes in the quality of teacher education on distance learning, the curricula of selected Universities and the effect of the distance-learning boom in education. From the findings of this study, the researcher will be able to determine the influence of an education trend such as distance learning on policies of the government. This in turn will be critical in the molding of both distance learning and accreditation policies for the benefit of the students aspiring for quality education.


Significance of the Study

            This study will assist both the legislative arm of the government, in formulating calculated and planned policy measures that is both useful and effective in answering the needs of the students, and the distance learning providers who must fit their education quality with the needs of the students and the provisions in the government. Moreover, this study will clarify the relationship of the government accreditation policies and that of the distance-learning providers, and how one affects the other. More importantly, this will be beneficial to the distance learning education students and teachers by providing them with an in-depth analysis on their role in the accreditation policy and analyzing the capabilities and the requisites involved in distance learning.


Scope and Limitation of Research

            This research study shall be able to provide a rejoinder between accreditation policies and the impact of distance learning providers in its formulation in the United States. Specifically, the change in the teacher education to fit such change in mode of instruction shall be evaluated.


Definitions of Terms

The following are the terms that are vital in understanding this study:

Administrator.  Persons involve in planning and influencing the distance learning program.


Data.  Computers send and receive information electronically. For this reason, the term "data" is used to describe this broad category of instructional tools. Computer applications for distance education are varied and include:


Distance Learning.  Refers to the scenario when a teacher and student(s) are separated by physical distance, and technology (i.e., voice, video, data, and print), often in concert with face-to-face communication, is used to bridge the instructional gap.


Facilitators.  Refers to the person who acts as the bridge between the instructor and the students.


Faculty.  Refers to the person who has the task of assembling course content and developing an understanding of student needs.


Interaction.  Is the face-to-face interface communication between the student and

the instructor.


Print.  Is a foundational element of distance education programs and the

basis from which all other delivery systems have evolved. Various print formats are available including: textbooks, study guides, workbooks, course syllabi, and case studies.


Video.  Instructional video tools include still images such as slides, pre-produced moving images (e.g., film, videotape), and real-time moving images combined with audio conferencing (one-way or two-way video with two-way audio).


Voice.  Instructional audio tools include the interactive technologies of telephone, audio conferencing, and short-wave radio. Passive (i.e., one-way) audio tools include tapes and radio.



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