Definition of Terms

The term "distance education" refers to teaching and learning situations in which the instructor and the learner or learners are geographically separated, and therefore, rely on electronic devices and print materials for instructional delivery (Keegan, 1983; Holmberg, 1981; Sewert, 1982). Distance education includes distance teaching -- the instructor's role in the process -- and distance learning -- the student's role in the process (Keegan 1982, 1983).

"In the images we hold of American education, none is as prominent as the self-contained classroom. The classroom is an island on which a teacher, a group of students, standardized textbooks and other limited resources determine the educational process. From time to time, the teachers and students make forays into the world outside to do research or take field trips to relevant sites. On the whole, though, the educational process is focused inward on the resources that exist within the classroom and the activities that occur there (NEA, 1991).

"The use of telecommunications technology in classrooms literally inverts the typical locus of educational activities. Classrooms face the world outside rather than the world inside. Instead of islands, classrooms have become links in communication highways transmitting data, video and voice to thousands of other sites. Teachers and students have easy access to vast databases and participate in joint activities that involve classes in other states and countries by traveling on these highways," (NEA, 1991).

A major movement in K-12 and higher education in the United States today is the use of telecommunications technologies to teach students at many sites or at a distance from the campus. The theme that runs through all of the literature about distance education is the contribution that it will make to educational reform. The current crises in funding for education is a long-term change. This calls for a fundamental change in the dominant model and mode of operations of educational institutions. "Fundamental adaptation is needed, as well, in our modes of instruction which, at this time, are neither pedagogically nor financially effective," (Lynton, 1992). Coupled with a responsibility to help practitioners acquire and maintain their competence is the need to change the balance between didactic instruction, self-directed learning and collaborative learning.

The electronically mediated courses which have evolved to serve the student are composed of live and taped video programming which varies in time up to 48 hours and replaces the traditional classroom lecture. The video program is augmented by textbooks, study guides, anthologies, audio tapes, computer programs, computer and audio conferencing, multimedia and other instructional material required by course content. Variations combining media and made available through the Internet are released frequently. Instructors are generally assigned to a course and may require other meetings with the students including laboratories and seminars which may be conducted in traditional ways or by audio, video or computer teleconference.

Delivery technologies for the video program include broadcast television (including public television stations), cable, satellite, fiber optic cable, computers, CD-ROM, CDI/DVI, video disc and radio. Through these technologies, institutions reach learners who are at other sites or are unable to attend campus classes due to distance time, or disability constraints, and make education accessible to them.

An accompanying development is the electronic campus, classroom and dormitory. These rooms and buildings have a wiring infrastructure connected to a central hub delivery system for audio-visual materials, access to learning resources, access to local and national on-line databases, on-line library catalogsand e-mail. Faculty, students and administrators frequently share these systems which can be accessed by computer, modem, telephone and video equipment.

Another development is the delivery of instruction entirely through computer conferencing. Accredited universities and colleges are offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, including the doctorate through computer conferencing. These classes are also augmented by textbooks, study guides, additional readings, audio conferences with the instructor, videoconferencing or face to face meetings. The use of computers may be bringing about a fundamental change in teaching methods at the institutions and in the homes and offices of students.

The establishment and acceptance of the validity and effectiveness of distance education courses, together with the production of more and better course materials, will increase student demand and institutional interest in offering them. The ability of educational institutions to reach more students, wide though it already is, will be multiplied almost beyond imagination by the proliferation of relay technologies, the growth in regional and national consortia, digital fusion and the technical merger of computers to television.

An additional factor in the growth of distance education is the cost of building new campuses and maintaining existing campuses. Distance delivery allows the institution to continue to meet its mission cost effectively. Institutions have decided that there is a need to share courses, enrollment and instructors between campuses, and are able to increase the number of courses being offered without increasing the number of instructors. This allows the delivery of education to the home and the workplace. Without distance education, low enrollments at one site would force the cancellation of the course. With distance learning, that rarely happens as courses can be broadcast to a variety of campus, home and workplace sites, and students can study independently.

A recent development in collaboration for distance learning has been the Western Governors' University which includes a number of states. Courses begin in 1998. The WGU won't offer its own courses, rather it will draw from existing institutions and other providers. It will offer certifications and degrees. The local centers "franchised" by the WGU would provide support services and would serve as an access point for people wanting to take advantage of the various educational opportunities offered.

California has set up the California Virtual University which allows residents to take any of the courses offered by distance learning from any of the state's universities or colleges.

During the early stages of distance education planning on some campuses, there was a perception that distance education would replace instructors. This has not been the reality. In fact, through distance education, instructor positions have been saved because once students perceive that the course will be taught, the demand for the course will rise. Distance education adds additional avenues to the education process as it enables the expansion of the campus outreach. Through distance education, many people are taking courses who simply would not have enrolled for a traditional course because of their work, home or distance circumstances.

Once distance learning systems are installed, they also save money on in-service training and administrative conferences by reducing travel time. Systems can be used for instructor certification and a wide variety of other continuing education courses such as real estate certification, IRS training, regional, state and national meetings, fire and police personnel training, and a variety of other community and state needs.

Unwin (1969) suggests that through these technologies we communicate in the idiom of the age and argues that if the development of an educational system is to be in line with the technologies and truths from which it draws its reason for existence, then teachers must reconcile traditional methods of instruction with new ideas by integrating new methods.

Mediated instruction is a new domain. The primary use of mediated instruction has been to duplicate the traditional face-to-face classroom. Some institutions have made or are in the process of a paradigm shift from thinking of mediated instruction as a replacement for the traditional classroom, to thinking about distance education and mediated instruction as a new educational domain. The enabling tools are the technology, a mix of media, and a focus on learner centered learning rather than teacher centered classes. Through the use of self-directed learning methods, the responsibility for learning is shifted to the student and the instructor facilitates the learning by acting as a coach, resource guide, and companion in learning. Through this attitude shift, the student becomes proactive rather than reactive.

The Baby Boom Echo will continue. In 1997, total public and private school enrollment rose to a record 52.2 million.

Between 1997 and 2007 public high school enrollment is expected to increase by 13 percent, while elementary enrollment is projected to increase by less than one percent. The number of public high school graduates will increase 18 percent. About half of the states will have at least a 15 percent increase in the number of public high school graduates, with an 80 percent increase projected for Nevada, 49 percent for Arizona, and 41 percent for Florida. Largely because of the high school enrollment increase, over 150,000 additional public and private high school teachers will be needed - a 14 percent increase;

Full-time college enrollment is projected to rise by 21 percent.

Beyond the year 2007, unlike the decline after the previous baby boom, where births dropped down to 3.1 million in the early seventies, the number of births is not projected to fall off, but remain fairly stable at around 4 million. Long-range projections by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, indicate a rising number of births thereafter, rising to 4.2 million in 2010 and 4.6 million in 2020.

In higher education, we are experiencing dramatic shifts notably toward a move to lifelong learning as a result of the need to retrain individuals whose skills are no longer marketable but will also experience a major enrollment increase due to the Baby Boom Echo. From 1987 to 1997, full-time and part-time enrollment increased at fairly similar rates, 9 and 12 percent, respectively. That situation is projected to change as large numbers of high school graduates enter college during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Between 1997 and 2007, full-time enrollment is projected to increase by close to 21 percent, while part-time enrollment is projected to increase 6 percent (See Table 1.)

Table 1.

Total Enrollment in Public and Private 2-year and 4-year Colleges, by Sex, Attendance Status and Control of Institution: Fall 1996 to Fall 2007
(U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics to 2007; and Digest of Education Statistics, 1997 (forthcoming)





Males Females Full-
Public Private




7,798 6,119







7,911 6,174







8,083 6,227







8,249 6,282







8,469 6,331







8,681 6,370







8,811 6,394







8,954 6,418







9,095 6,448







9,225 6,480







9,382 6,515







9,555 6,556



Although school attendance rates among 5- to 17-year-olds have remained relatively steady over the past 10 years, the proportion of 18- and 19-year-olds attending high school or college rose rapidly from 52 percent in 1985 to 59 percent in 1995. The proportion of 20- to 24-year-olds enrolled in school rose from 24 percent to 32 percent during the same time period.

Americans have become more educated. In 1995, 82 percent of the population 25 years old and over had completed high school and 23 percent had completed 4 or more years of college. This represents an increase from 1980, when 69 percent had completed high school and 17 percent had 4 years of college. In 1995, about five percent of persons, 25 years old or over, held a master's degree, slightly more than one percent held a professional degree (e.g., medicine or law), and one percent held a doctor's degree.

Of the 15 million college students in 1994, nearly one in five were age 35 or older, compared with one in 10 in 1974. Adult students now constitute over 83 percent, or 10 million of the nation's 12 million college students. The stereotypical 18-22 year-old, full time, residential college student is greatly in the minority at 17 percent (2 million) of this population. In 1970, older students constituted only 28 percent. United States institutions primarily use distance education to reach the same adult audience that is returning to the campus to complete course work (Daniel, et al., 1982; Frankel & Gerald, 1982; Lewis, 1983). The adult population increase indicates a continued growth in the demand for distance higher education as it better meets the needs of adults (Mayor & Dirr, 1986). Another chapter contains case studies and a discussion of higher education utilization of distance education.

In kindergarten through twelfth grade, distance learning has been embraced by public school systems which can no longer fund the luxury of specialized teachers at all schools. The shortage of math and science teachers has fueled the utilization of distance education technologies for K-12. Other courses are offered nationally, such as German by Satellite and Calculus by Satellite which originate at Oklahoma State University. It is not unusual for K-12 distance education instructors to have 900-1200 students. By year 2004, we will have approximately 55.7 million students going to school, seven million more than in 1994. Teachers will be in very short supply with only one million available for two million teaching positions. The shortage will be most acute in science and foreign languages with rural schools suffering more. Well placed distance education technology will be needed to fill the void opened by the teacher shortage. The Star Schools program has lead the K-12 field nationally in the use of distance technologies.

Sixty-five percent of U.S. public schools had access to the Internet in fall 1996 according to a study conducted by the US Department of Education. This represented a gain of 15 percentage points in each of the last two consecutive years. While 61 percent of all public elementary schools had Internet access, about three-fourths (77 percent) of secondary schools had Internet access.

Large schools were more likely to have Internet capabilities than their smaller counterparts. Eighty percent of public schools with 1,000 or more students had Internet access compared with 57 percent of schools with fewer than 300 students and 66 percent of schools enrolling between 300 and 999 students.

Urban fringe (or suburban) schools reported higher rates of Internet access than schools in rural locales or towns. Seventy-five percent of urban fringe schools were connected to the Internet, compare with 60 percent for rural schools and 61 percent for schools in towns.

Public schools with high levels of students in poverty were less likely to be connected to the Internet. Internet access was available in about half (53 percent) of schools in which 71 percent or more students were eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program and in 58 percent of those in which 31 to 70 percent of students were eligible. In comparison, 72 percent of schools with 11 to 30 percent student eligibility for the lunch program had Internet access and 78 percent of those with less than 11 percent free or reduced-price lunch eligibility were connected to the Internet.

Eighty-seven percent of public schools that did not have access to the Internet had plans to obtain access by the year 2000. Thus, 95 percent of the nation's public schools were expecting to obtain Internet access by the end of the century.

In fall 1996, 14 percent of all public school instructional rooms (classrooms, computer or other labs, and library media centers) were connected to the Internet. This was more than a fourfold increase since fall 1994, when three percent of all instructional rooms had access to the Internet.

In five percent of public schools on the Internet, Internet access capabilities were not installed in instructional rooms (including classrooms, computer or other labs, and library media centers). Forty-three percent of schools with Internet access provided this access in one instructional room (figure 2). Twenty-two percent had access in two or three rooms, 4 percent reported four rooms, and 25 percent were connected to the Internet in five or more instructional rooms.

Among all public schools, 20 percent of teachers used advanced telecommunications for teaching.

Thirteen percent of all public schools reported that training for teachers in advanced telecommunications was mandated by the school, district, or teacher certification agencies. Thirty-one percent of schools indicated that incentives were provided to encourage teachers to obtain advanced telecommunications training, while in about half (51 percent) of the nation's public schools it was left up to teachers to initiate participation in advanced telecommunications training. Support for advanced telecommunications in all public schools was most frequently provided by local school districts.

Eighty-three percent of public schools reported that the school district provided funds for advanced telecommunications. Funds from state or federal government agencies helped support advanced telecommunications in 38 percent of public schools, and 18 percent reported that parents or other community members provided monetary support for the schools' advanced telecommunications.

School access to the Internet was examined by the level of poverty in the school as defined by the proportion of students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. Schools with higher proportions of students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program were less likely to have Internet access than those with smaller percentages of students eligible for this program. About half (53 percent) of schools in which 71 percent or more students were eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program had Internet access and 58 percent of those schools with 31 to 70 percent of eligible students had Internet access. In comparison, about three-fourths (72 to 78 percent) of schools with smaller proportions of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch had Internet access.

Schools connect to the Internet in a variety of ways. Although modems remained the most common means of connection, use of higher speed connections had increased since 1994. In fall 1996, 74 percent of schools with Internet were connected by modem. Twenty percent used higher speed SLIP or PPP connections, 12 percent had a T1 connection, 11 percent had a 56Kb connection, and four percent connected to the Internet with an ISDN. This represents a change from 1994 when data were first collected. In 1994, 97 percent of schools with Internet connected by modem; three to four percent used each type of high speed connection such as a SLIP/PPP (3 percent), T1 (3 percent), or 56Kb (4 percent).

Through the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and the landmark decision in May 1997, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to fund Universal Service to schools, libraries and rural medical facilities. This ruling provided the funding and policies to implement the Snow-Rockefeller-Exon-Kerrey amendment of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The amendment requires that schools and libraries be provided access to telecommuications services for educatinal purposes at discounted rates. This will provide everything from a telephone at a teacher's desk to computers which are networked throughout the school and linked to Internet. The 1934 Communications Act did not include schools in the provisions for universal access; 60 years later, this has had a major impact on providing telecommunications to educational organizations.

The e-rate (its nickname) ranges from 20-90 percent off the lowest negotiated non-residential rate available on all commercially available telecommunications services, Internet access and internal connections. The level of the discount depends on the collective economic disadvantage of the students using the school or library and whether it is located in a rural or urban area. Post-secondary institutions were excluded.

Schools and libraries are required to participate in a competitive bidding process in order to apply for discounted services. The FCC Web site has details or

Corporate and business educational programs are also using distance learning to make their programs more accessible and cost effective, and to increase the timeliness of delivering new information. Where traveling trainers used to take six months to a year to deliver training sessions to their sites, one trainer can deliver the same information to all sites (national and international) in one day. Utilization of distance education technologies by business for training is an enabling factor in maintaining global competitiveness. Institutions are confronted with the need to deliver more educational activities despite shrinking resources and the increasing cost of delivering services with traditional methods (Meierhenry, 1981). Economic considerations will continue to act as a force on post-secondary institutions to find ways to use telecommunications. In the mid `80s, the Carnegie Commission stated that if higher education does not integrate telecourses, the private sector will. Galagan (1989) and Bowsher (1989) liken this to the situation in industry where economic considerations forced companies to cut training costs and utilize distance education techniques. Designing courses with advanced technology is more cost effective than traditional courses. Distance education is an economically feasible way for post secondary institutions to confront shrinking resources and the increased cost of delivery of educational services by traditional methods.

As the pace of technology change continues to increase and employees are constantly faced with new ways to process and distribute information, it is changing the process of work. The way that learning occurs has changed due to technology. Even the way that information and knowledge are maintained and disseminated has changed. The changes in skills required to work in the information workplace are dramatic. Employees must learn technical skills and critical thinking abilitities that allow them to integrate technology into the organization's work and their own personal work processes. Never has it been more important that the use of technology become seamlessly transparent to the user.

Technology has become the work process. The work has become mediated just as learning has become mediated.

Just as we have learned to use learning styles and technology because of the inherent way in which they bring a synergy to learning that touches all learners, we are moving toward increasing uses of on-the-job training (OJT) and just-in-time training (JIT). As the technologies become increasingly easy to use because of their sophistication, and as workers learn how to learn and become self-directed and independent in their learning, learning will increasingly become part of work. We have long been in the information and communications age, but we have seldom paused to recognize how learning has become part of our daily work. Companies have moved to become learning organizations and knowledge-based organizations, yet the employee's role in this has been lost in the process of change.

We are at a door where we'll pause to redefine work and the worker, and perhaps have the time to consider how early childhood education, K-12 and higher education can be reworked through technology to create generations of learners who enjoy not only the process of learning and thinking, but see how it moves them towards creativity and growth in their chosen field.

Media and technology can provide the packaging and delivery of educational programs. Knowles (1983), Galagan (1989) and Bowsher (1989) conclude that by the end of the 1990s most education will be delivered electronically. It is likely that through the National Information Infrastructure (NII) these early predictions may become reality, but at a slightly later date.

Adult educators (Moore & Shannon, 1982) reported that their interest in video was due to programming availability, video's ability to expand the service area, reusable videotapes, and its being less expensive than traditional classes. In 1989, 66 percent of American homes had at least one VCR and industry projections forecast 90 percent by the late 1990s (Ladd, 1989).

Fiber optic cable installed in homes will vastly expand phone company services to include information, video, education, and other developments we cannot even imagine. With the FCC ruling in July 1994, approval was given to Bell Atlantic to offer interactive television service for 38,000 homes in New Jersey. Video transmission to homes is the big promise of the next two decades. At press time,the FCC was expected to act on a backlog of 21 similar requests from other regional Bell companies that would cover millions of homes nationwide. Cable companies have filed a blizzard of objections against their well-financed would-be rivals.

Flanigan (1989) predicts that fiber optic cables will be the industrial highways of the information age. Brey's (1988) study showed that broadcast television is the most important delivery system but video tape and cable would soon overtake it. New types of services which are most likely to be available nationally and internationally include access to local, state, national and international libraries and databases, pay per view on demand, full news text, community information, banking by mail, global e-mail, and video dial tone which will allow the wide use of video telephones and/or desktop videoconferencing and document sharing. All telecommunications plans include the ability to provide voice, data and video. Education is a part of the new communications systems, but of the 500 cable channels that may ultimately be offered, it is unclear whether there will still be only one educational access channel or if there will be many. Cable in the Classroom has made dramatic inroads to rearrange the public image of cable, but the local cable operators will have to provide more educational access and support to make cable truly viable for community service.

Because of the move toward distance learning, research has led to findings on the nature of learning. Experts in education agree that there is a need to reinvent education in America. The reasons are twofold: Academic performance is inadequate, and our understanding of how people learn has shifted dramatically. We now perceive learning as a transformational process where the student is changed as opposed to mimetic where information is merely transferred or distributed to the student.

To a great extent, the Goals 2000: Educate America Act passed in 1994 will add to the impetus to use new instructional methods and new educational technology tools. The Act is the most sweeping educational legislation that has been passed in America.

The thrust in this paradigm shift in learning theory is that education means two-way communication, both inside and outside of the classroom. The typical classroom today is cut off from other academic environments. It does not have access to knowledge centers such as museums, universities, libraries or other databases and it is isolated from the working world. The majority of classrooms are not equipped with a telephone, computer, television or any other means to learn about the outside world. The challenge in transformation learning is to help students make intellectual, social, emotional, and physical connections to make knowledge meaningful.

During the last two decades, theorists and researchers have developed a new understanding of the nature of learning. Here are some of their insights (Gomez, 1992):

    1. Learning is transformational. New knowledge is built on previous knowledge and on intuitive, informal experiences. Students need to acquire facts, principles and theories as conceptual tools for reasoning and problem solving in meaningful contexts.
    2. Learning is enhanced when students can interact and perform authentic tasks. Meanings, the building blocks of knowledge, are best learned through two-way communication supported by props which include gestures, models, sketches, white boards, computer screens, and other vehicles for expression.
    3. The classroom is an opportunity to expose students to people who apply knowledge in practical, professional contexts. Learning is a process that should facilitate the eventual transition of the student into a professional community and into the community at large. Two-way contact with representatives from these communities can give students a clearer understanding of the mapping between classroom work and real-world applications of that work.
    4. The central mission of teaching is to support learning, not simply to deliver information. Conversations are the means by which people construct a common ground of beliefs, meanings, and understandings. Teachers should create classroom communities in which thinking and problem solving are supported by extensive interaction with people and information.

Other research has indicated that interaction may be either synchronous (in real-time) or asynchronous and still be successful.

Audioconferencing and audio technologies are greatly underutilized for delivery of instruction. Audio conferencing is an efficient way for instructors to communicate with students in real time and at a distance. By having a set agenda, encouraging interaction, sharing of information and experiences, it provides a class situation without having the students and instructor physically in one place. It is also cost efficient to use audioconferencing instead of the more costly videoconferencing when the course content does not require visual contact or visual demonstrations.

Voice mail (also called voice messaging), has become one of the most important business productivity tools and can increase productivity by as much as 30 percent because it lets people communicate with other people in their absence. Industry studies indicate that 60 percent of all calls can be completed without a two-way conversation. Voice messaging allows information to get to the recipient quickly, accurately, and with the nuances of voice inflection intact.

Interactive voice response (IVR) technology allows people to talk with a computer via a touch tone telephone. The IVR unit answers the call, greets the caller, and guides the caller through possible responses with a series of voice prompts. The desired information is provided via prerecorded voice fragments (words) or computer-generated speech.

Inexpensive new computer software programs now allow the user to dictate messages and memos to the computer. This also will lead to a voice command interface with the computer. It has long been possible for the computer to speak the words appearing on the screen and this has been used well in literacy programs such as that provided by the Outreach and Technical Assistance Center (OTAN)

Computer conferencing is another grossly underutilized distance education technology. It will support a number of students asynchronously and can be quite interactive when appropriate methods are utilized in the instructional design process. It is an easy and convenient method to use for messaging, homework transmission, and grading. For adult students who must travel, laptops have been a boon which enables them to interact with classmates and communicate with their instructor from any part of the world. Instructors who have taught in the medium feel that the level of interaction is superior to traditional classroom interaction for two reasons; students are required to participate and cannot hide behind the class stars who easily assimilate information and whose verbal skills enable them to shine. Computer conferencing is a significant way to orchestrate class discussion where all are able to participate equitably. Teachers often fail to plan the use of video, and effective ways to support instructional objectives with video (Gueulette,1988), audio or computer. Since the decision to use distance education usually rests with administrators and faculty who are unlikely to have media expertise, there is a need to train them in media selection and utilization.

New versions of the electronic classroom are being created regularly. University Access, a new online university working with California State University at Hayward and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is using a program called ICHAT. This allows the instructor to present PowerPoint slides on the right side of the computer screen, and chat with students in real time on the right side of the screen.

The University of Phoenix Online Program, widely recognized as the prototype model for full degree programs offered online, uses a program called Convene. Convene uploads and downloads from a variety of mailboxes created for each class, then allows the student to respond to the new material when it is convenient. This method of asynchronous class delivery has been well received by UOP's 3000 online students.

Bates argues that institutions should define overall objectives for integrated media at a program level including how programs affect students and how students can easily integrate programs into their mode of learning.

Improved media selection procedures can change the current situation (Sive, 1978, 1983; Niemi, 1971; Teague, 1981). An adoption process which includes an evaluation instrument for distance education based on media selection methods would ensure that adoption personnel evaluate materials using the best available media selection methods to help ensure the selection of resources that will make genuine contributions to student learning (Teague,1981). Many educators maintain that we are just beginning to learn how to use media for educational purposes (Knowles, 1983; Hewitt,1982; Lane 1989).

In its 1979 report on the future of public broadcasting, the Carnegie Commission stated, "Television and radio have great unused potential for learning, and new technologies are on the verge of greatly enhancing this potential. We believe it is time to launch new efforts to tap the power of broadcasting and the new telecommunications media for learning" (Carnegie, 1979, pp. 255-256). The report concluded that, "It is clear that with careful planning, skillful execution, and thorough evaluation, telecommunications will play an increasingly fundamental role in the learning processes of Americans of all ages" (p. 273).

Two national studies (Lane, 1989, 1990) developed media selection and evaluation models.

from "A Technical Guide to Teleconferencing and Distance Learning," 3rd edition