Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Distance Learning : Time Has Come

Greetings from San Jacinto community college in greater Houston. As I discussed while dining with three professors last night, distance learning is a big priority here. A distinguished older government professor told me that she had a much wider variety of students taking her online classes--soldiers in Iraq, single mothers working two jobs, people with disabilities--and that through the anonymous medium of email, she actually got to know her students better. They exchanged more information about their lives. This woman was motivated to master Blackboard and other technologies in order to become a better teacher and serve the needs of her community, and she was trying to motivate her older colleagues to do the same. According to USA Today this morning,

Nearly 3.5 million students enrolled in online classes during the fall of 2006-07, according to the 2007 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, which surveyed more than 2,500 schools and released results last month. Over the past five years, the survey found, online enrollments have grown by an annual average of 21.5%.

This is the way things need to go for better value and more innovation in higher education.
So we need more research on human-computer interaction: What kind of teaching works best online? What doesn't work or can't be taught online? How do you keep students motivated and respond to their questions? How can we combine screentime with experiential learning for the best designed courses of study, most efficiently and at the best price?

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