Baker and Gloster (1989) in formulating a strategic plan for academic computing for California Polytechnic State University, reported that technology can benefit learning when it takes into account the student, teacher, and support aspects needed to effectively implement such an endeavor. The following section describes a similar effort in developing an approach for distance learning within a school of business.
The Distance Learning Task Force
A task force representing faculty from all departments within the School of Business was appointed by the Dean to develop and recommend guidelines for providing distance learning. The task force reviewed the literature, visited university and corporate distance-learning sites within the region, investigated the various technologies used, and envisioned possible issues that we could face as we implemented this new system. Our purpose was not to provide a technology specification checklist but to provide a general understanding of the impact of any technology chosen for our school. After many months of meetings, reviews, visits, and debates, the task force developed a vision and guidelines for distance learning. What follows is a discussion of the vision and guidelines.
Vision and Guidelines
Our interpretation of the vision for our approach to distance learning is this: The School of Business will use interactive video and multimedia technology to ensure effective two-way communication in our distance-learning programs.
The vision statement represents an orientation that can enhance the communication process by allowing for two-way interaction, thus potentially increasing the level of understanding on the part of both the faculty member and the student for the topic, concern, or problem at hand in real time. Our purpose was to provide a classroom experience for those students who could not attend the on-site course, allowing for as much participation and interaction as possible. Given this vision and purpose, we then developed the following guidelines to meet this orientation.
1. Distance learning should include two-way interactive video and audio communication. The communication technology and setting between faculty and student should allow for interaction as needed during class time. This access must be uncomplicated and unobtrusive. Interaction should allow for multiple sites with all participants having real-time communication. The faculty member should have control over the transmission of this interaction to and from all locations.
The design of the facility in regard to acoustics, lighting, seating, camera, and instructional equipment must be considered at the outset. Faculty input should be sought for effective presentation of the information, given the nature of this communication environment. Our task force consulted experts from Bell Atlantic Maryland, Inc. regarding the video-distance characteristics of a classroom. Students should have access to computer conferencing during these sessions to augment the materials presented. This would impact the design of the facility.