Model Program - Interaction Through A Mix of Media

This is a model program that is based on a mix of media - computer conferencing, video conferencing, video tape, audio conferencing, and access to learning resources through the computer. This mix of media is available now. With it all learning styles can be reached. It also includes a component which enables students to become self-directed learners and reduce their sense of isolation.

Over the last several years, some states passed legislation which required an interactive component in distance learning programs. This seems to imply that distance education can only be interactive and thus effective using two-way video and two-way audio systems. However, interaction can be attained through other audio technologies and computer conferencing. Costs have fallen for videoconferencing systems, but some institutions can not afford multiple videoconferencing rooms during the start-up phase of a distance learning program. However they can install as many rooms as their budget will allow and augment and enhance videoconferencing classes with other audio and computer conferencing technologies. Established distance learning programs which need to increase the number of classes offered can also use this model. By adding one new set of videoconferencing rooms and using audio and computer conferencing, they can effectively double or triple the number of classes offered.

Interaction can be accomplished through other technologies. This is a listing of the off-the-shelf technologies available to us now.

Video technologies include broadcast video, cablecast video, satellite video (analog and digital), videoconferencing (two-way video/audio - compressed technologies), one-way closed circuit video (usually confined to a campus), cassettes, video disk, CD-ROM, videotex, and multimedia.

Audio technologies include telephone, audio conferencing, audio cassettes, voice mail, radio, records, CDs, CD-ROM, and multimedia.

Computer technologies include E-mail, computer conferencing, bulletin boards, multimedia, CD-ROM, video disk, videoconferencing, local and national library database and resource access.

There is already overlap in some technologies and we are continuing the trend toward digital fusion where many technologies are becoming digital, and ultimately will be accessed through the computer. The telephone companies are promising access to major bandwidth in a few short years which will support individual learning stations in the home, office, and the campus as well as desktop videoconferencing.

As we move toward this full use of digital technology and all of the resources that will be available to us, it will be beneficial to begin using other technologies that will enable us to fully utilize multimedia technologies when they are available. Because most faculty do not have extensive media training, they will not be able to utilize multimedia technologies in the future if they have not become accustomed to using them now.

from "The Distance Learning Technology Resource Guide," by Carla Lane