Needs Analysis for Electronically Mediated Learning

Research indicates that successful media-enhanced and distance learning programs result when organizations implement a total program including process integration. The implementation and installation of the technology is not enough. People and support services who are directly associated with the technology must be trained to integrate technology into the education process. This phase pinpoints the needs and concerns of those individuals who are involved in supporting and teaching the programs via the new technology being installed.

The needs analysis and planning for faculty and staff support is designed to prepare the critical people with the information and techniques they will need to enhance the teaching of courses. Faculty, administrators, staff and support services personnel need to be involved to enhance the overall understanding and commitment to implement the program successfully. As new distance learning instructors are added, they should also be formally trained.


Electronic Campus

The electronic campus is wired so that video, audio, and data is available in all classrooms, offices, and dormitories. The electronic campus can also connect branch campuses, unofficial student housing and faculty residences. The key to this connectivity is an individualized system designed for the campus which provides the necessary highway to enable the institution to provide all the services that students, faculty and administrators require. Added services include voice mail, electronic mail, campus security systems (video surveillance, fire alarm and protection, campus emergency phone systems), local and wide area networks (LANs and WANs), computer or phone registration, video teleconferencing, audio conferencing, computer conferencing, distance learning, library database and resource access.

Electronic Dormitories: Many institutions are experiencing space problems, but the funding to build new classroom buildings is not available. When wiring is expanded to the dormitory, each student room becomes a learning center. Live or taped lectures can be delivered to the dormitory. It makes sense to install satellite receive dishes so that the dormitories can receive traditional cable programming as well as a variety of programming either produced or adapted to college curricula. Educational programming in the areas of foreign languages, business administration, medicine, journalism, music, drama, and much more is available through satellite technologies. A charge back system to the students for cable programming will pay for the expense of wiring each dorm room to support personal computers and access to campus library resources, personal telephone, and cable television. The cable distribution system can be used to transmit announcements, pre-recorded lectures, guest speakers and live sports events campus wide.

When the dormitory is used as a learning unit, students purchase their own computers, provide their own televisions and pay for their telephone line use. These are expenses that are no longer borne by the institution in the form of rapidly expanding computer labs or new classrooms, or learning centers in the library. Students can access the library database electronic card file and access a growing number of interconnected libraries throughout the world for abstracts and full text. This not only cuts down on the clerical help in the library, but opens up worlds of information to the student that the on-campus library can't afford to support.

Through computer conferencing programs, students and instructors can interact through messages and assignments. A choice of software services that best fits the curricular demands of the institution can be selected. A student tool kit provides facilities for word processing, database manipulation, spreadsheets, telecommunications, interactive library services and distance learning programs. Voice mail for students and faculty provides another communication mode.

Electronic Classrooms: The electronic classroom is a technology and service package that allows educational institutions to expand the boundaries of classrooms far beyond the traditional bricks and mortar which have encompassed them in the past. They allow educators to access and utilize a wide variety of available electronic resources to strengthen the impact of the curriculum being taught. The resources can range from a video tape located at the school's library to a live multi-point connection to broadcast an expert lecturer to various distant campuses.

The successful integration of video, audio, and computer transmission techniques, coupled with educational applications, form the backbone of the electronic classroom. During the design phase of an electronic classroom, many factors should be taken into account: specific classroom application(s); the make-up of the class; size of the classroom; transmission requirements; level of the curriculum; video, audio and computer applications; information expansion; budget and vendor financing; and future needs - upgrades and enhancements.

Educational Video Access: Educational video access is designed to give educators the ability to access remotely stored multimedia material (VCR, CD-ROM, etc.) and display it in a fashion to complement the lecture. This allows for a myriad of information sources to be at the educator's or the student's fingertips. It also includes the ability to connect to resources through audio and computer conferencing abilities.

Computer Access to Resources: As campus libraries move to computer based electronic card catalogs, students and faculty can access the catalog from offices, dormitories, or their homes. This provides 24 hour a day access. As the use of CD-ROM technologies increase in libraries, these systems can also be accessed through campus computer networks or by a computer and modem from remote sites anywhere in the world. Students need access to library electronic card files and full text in order to do research and write papers.

Connection to Remote Campuses: This system is designed to allow the educator to connect to a remote campus to deliver video for the purpose of teaching and interacting or to receive video for the purpose of learning and interacting. It also encompasses audio and computer conferencing technologies.

Computer Conferencing: Computer conferencing allows faculty and students to conduct components or entire courses asynchronously. With a computer and modem hookups, some schools have discovered that they can reach students who never would enroll in a traditional class because of unusual working hours, extensive travel schedules, disabilities, or other obstacles. Entire degree programs including masters and doctoral programs are being offered. Several institutions have national and international student bodies, and some colleges with local computer conferencing classes have realized that they have a new market of students available to them. One college in Los Angeles is applying for funding to their local environmental office as a means of not only providing education, but as a significant way to reduce auto traffic and reduce emissions. Institutions that are pressed for space can provide new classes to students in their dormitory rooms or in their homes or offices without building a new building or maintaining a parking lot.

Conferencing and telecommunication programs have been developed and several have been in use long enough to have track records of dependability. IBM and Macintosh platforms are supported. The software takes care of log on, uploading and downloading files, log-off and filing. For campuses that are already interconnected with wide band transmission lines, desktop video conferencing is a reality. Videoconferencing groupware products provide a motion picture of the participants and access to documents on which they can work. Prices range from $2500 to $5000 per computer station now, but prices will drop soon.

As the telephone companies provide wide band lines and video dial tone, institutions using computer conferencing now will be in the forefront of the move to multimedia. Instead of text, students will have a full array of learning resources available to them that will include video, audio, text, videoconferencing, video messages, collaborative group work and a multitude of resources that haven't been created yet. Courseware will be developed for multimedia and a true electronic university will be launched that will meet the needs of the American work force as it competes in a global marketplace. Just as the idea of just-in-time training has become a reality in the workplace, educators to will be able to provide education when it is needed, and where it is needed at the convenience of the instructor and the student.

Evaluation: For programs to continue to succeed, improve and grow, student and faculty response to the technology must be analyzed. Measuring satisfaction, outcomes, retention, and overall indications of student learning is imperative. Faculty satisfaction and support are critical to the support of the program. The visibility of the organization, internally and externally, as well as the industry of distance learning is contingent upon the continued reporting of the success and outcomes of the program. Recommendations for continued evaluation include: faculty end-of-course surveys on the new technology; student end-of-course evaluation surveys on the new technology; evaluation of new courses and instructors; systematically planned expansion to targeted geographic areas and information services; inter-institution cooperation; and annual meetings to conduct an evaluation and to provide recommendations for continued improvement and workshops for instructors to achieve standards of excellence.

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