Strategic Planning for Distance Education

Planning for the implementation of a distance education program is basic to the success of the program. One study identified 20 critical factors (Pearson, 1989) which addressed the need for human and fiscal sources, as well as the process of diffusion of barriers. It produced a plan to follow prior to, during, and following implementation. The top ten critical factors are based on human and fiscal resources. Planning for implementation requires time, people and funding.

Serious consideration should be given to the critical factor - identification of the program need. Without the need, an institution should not move ahead. Faculty involvement, incentives, motivation and training were ranked as serious issues. The factors in rank order are:

    1. Identified need (perceived or real) for the program.
    2. Faculty supportive; given incentives for motivation.
    3. Funds for capital costs; production, equipment, facilities.
    4. On-going money for operations and expenses.
    5. Quality of educational content of program (evaluation).
    6. Adequate support staff to produce the program.
    7. Ensure equal learning to remote students.
    8. Enthusiasm and belief by institution in the overall distance education project.
    9. Identification of a visible, spirited key leader/administrator initiating program.
    10. Adequate receive sites, facilities, and staff.
    11. Available equipment to deliver programming.
    12. Sufficient time for careful needs analysis; identify service range and programmatic student needs. Ex: Number of people, course types, ages served, location.
    13. Ensure equal status for remote students: i.e., credit, degree.
    14. Instructional design and TV production: the inter-active components, length, frequency number.
    15. Identification of a marketing plan for the network, system or program. Public relations with the public.
    16. Cost effectiveness: feasibility and justification for delivery system to students and institution.
    17. Identified or gathered support/partners for the program: industry, corporate, legislative, institutional.
    18. Ensure continued credibility of the program with the public, faculty, students, and supporters.
    19. Knowledge of educational administrators, teachers and staff at educational institutions on what distance education is and how to teach and use it effectively.
    20. Ability to accredit courses, offer credit or transfer credit across states or institutions.


Predict & Overcome the Barriers to Distance Education

Implement Distance Education Programs

    1. Systematic Process to Arrive at Consensus
    2. Defined Steps and Factors create a Definitive Strategic Plan
    3. Critical Planning Issues
    4. Follow Specific Adoption Processes
    5. Ensure Success in Distance Education Programs Once They Are Implemented

Human Factors

    1. Require more planning than tech design
      • User Acceptance
      • Sustained Applications
    2. Introduction by an Influential Person Prior to Use
    3. Importance for Adoption & Implementation.  Consider & Develop Simultaneously
      • Human Factors
      • Systems

General Barriers to the Use of Educational Technology

    1. Lack of information about technology
    2. Length of time for widespread use
    3. Inappropriate match - technology and service
    4. Panacea approach with technological solution
    5. Machine mysticism
      • Myth: Tech advance leads progress
      • Myth: Cultural lag occurs everywhere as we try to keep up with technology
      • Use technology to answer new patterns of problems
    6. Lack of money
    7. Lack of faculty commitment
    8. Lack of trained support staff
    9. Faculty Concerns
      • Class size
      • Discussion and face-to-face involvement
      • Lack of faculty support from peers/instructors
    10. Student Concerns
      • Isolation: Access Teachers/Peers/Resources
      • Discipline and self-directedness
      • Technology access and use

Psychological Barriers to the Use of Educational Technology

    1. It's never been done that way before
    2. Suspicion of change
    3. Telephobia - Suspicion of change involving TV
    4. Tele-Nerd - Making a fool of one's self
    5. Video is only hype or show biz. May only entertain rather than inform
    6. TV is a Cold High Tech Medium: Does not transmit personal high touch. Does transmit body language, chemistry, electricity
    7. Audience attention span
    8. Lack of interaction
    9. Institutional: Course content - quality. Lack of central grading, testing, measurement

Conditions for Success

    1. Recognized Existence of Need
    2. Articulation of Purpose and Guide
    3. Identification of Structure
    4. Leadership of the Innovation
    5. Teacher Participation and Support
    6. Appropriate Technology
    7. Evaluation Mechanism
    8. Continuing Adequate Resources


Technological Requirements

1. What is the target audience?

2. What courses must be offered?

3. What technology is currently in place?

4. What technology is available through cable, and ITFS?

5. What existing technology can be opened to students - audio, computer, learning


6. How soon should the courses start?

7. Are the faculty trained in distance education technologies?

8. Are the staff and administrative support trained in distance education technologies?

9. Space for educational technology facilities?

10. Funding?

    • Return on Investment
    • New Sources of Income
    • Need reduced for buildings

11. Other?

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