Issues in Distance Education
In this volume, the authors explore the current and future practice of distance education in higher education institutions, including:
developing an initial infrastructure to support course design and development, revitalizing existing structures and processes for distance education, and cutting-edge practices that innovate and lead the field. These topics help guide decision makers as they determine appropriate responses to distance learning opportunities. This is the 173rd volume of the Jossey-Bass quarterly report series New Directions for Higher Education . Addressed to presidents, vice presidents, deans, and other higher education decision makers on all kinds of campuses, it provides timely information and authoritative advice about major issues and administrative problems confronting every institution.
Issues in Distance Education
In 1960, the United States ranked first in the world for undergraduate degree attainment (Lumina Foundation for Education, 2010). It currently ranks sixth (Lee & Rawls, 2010). Despite this, from 2000 to 2009, undergraduate enrollments rose by 34% (Aud et al., 2011). These figures are projected to grow further as 66% of jobs in the United States will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020 (Carnevale, Smith, & Strohl, 2010). Consequently, governments, educational institutions, and organizations have set goals to increase the percentage of college graduates (Lee & Rawls, 2010; Lumina Foundation for Education, 2013).
One means to increase access and completion is distance learning. This includes offering online degrees to admitted students or coursework to millions of users through open educational resources or massive open online courses (MOOCs). Because of disruptive technological change, institutions must determine the extent to which they will develop and offer online programs, which ones, how many, for whom, and why. They must make decisions about development models, design, processes, costs, and support. Related issues include perceptions of quality, lack of faculty support, and competition with for-profit and online institutions.
Scope and Purpose
Distance learning is playing an increasing role in institutional strategic planning (Allen & Seaman, 2013). Campuses have varying reasons for adopting distance learning such as scheduling flexibility, completion, and space constraints. The purpose of this volume is to guide decision makers as they determine appropriate responses to distance learning opportunities. The volume covers a range of topics appropriate to those developing an initial infrastructure, revitalizing existing structures and processes, or desiring to innovate and lead the field.
In Chapter 1, Michael Beaudoin reviews the evolution of distance learning in higher education and identifies three responses-a trend unlikely to have positive or long-lasting effects, an unproven model with questionable quality, and an approach with potentially impressive results. Current threats include profit-focused models, resistance, lack of awareness, and fear. Opportunities involve access, growth, innovation, expansion, partnerships, and learning enhancement. Beaudoin conceptualizes distance learning as a disruptive innovation that accounts for resistance and the need for a directed, strategic institutional response. The chapter identifies characteristics and practices for transformative leadership.
Understanding distance education theory is critical to launching and sustaining effective programs. In Chapter 2, Farhad Saba reviews the origins of distance education as a discipline and the development of theories to provide common ground for decision makers. He defines distance education, illustrates its responsiveness to the needs of individual learners, and explains how dialogue, structure, and autonomy (Moore, 2013) can individualize instruction. Related to the concept of disruptive technologies, he urges institutions to adapt and offer flexible educational opportunities to prepare learners for the innovation needed in their future professions. Saba introduces the community of inquiry model to demonstrate how social, cognitive, and teaching presences interact and overlap.
In Chapter 3, Maureen Snow Andrade leads decision makers in considering structural models for distance education at institutional (macro) and project (micro) levels. She analyzes the advantages and disadvantages of various models and poses guiding questions. Innovations include team-based development and community building among stakeholders. She poses four interrelated leadership frameworks for creating and managing change.
Chapter 4 transitions the focus from broad considerations to specific de