Summary of On-Line Conference, "Technology-Aided Learning"

June 1-26, 1998


Daniel Eisenberg
Professor of Distance Education and Liberal Studies
Associate Dean of Liberal Arts
Director of Graduate Program in Liberal Studies
Regents College America's First Virtual University
Albany New York


Reports the main discussion points from the Internet conference, "Technology Aided Learning" sponsored by the Virtual University Journal and held from June 1 through June 26. Major topics discussed were: the future structure of the virtual university, the fate of the residential campus, the implications for faculty, the development of courseware.


Distance learning, distance education, virtual university, residential, faculty, courseware.


Technology has brought and will continue to bring new options to higher education providers and students, including the disabled. Traditional institutions, squeezed for resources, have looked at these options primarily as a means of reducing costs. Some expressed skepticism about these projected savings.

Participants agreed that only new institutions will have the flexibility, or motivation, to use these new options fully. Existing examples of new institutions were discussed, such as the Technical University of British Columbia and Western Governors University. Yet participants repeatedly expressed a call for "vision", for even broader reform than these institutions offered.

The probable fate of the residential university was explored. One view was that it would completely disappear, and the buildings be converted to other uses. A majority view was that traditional students, fresh from high school, still need the socialization the residential university provides. It is not clear whether a virtual university will be able to supply this. If it can not, the virtual university will be focused primarily on subject matter, and serve the adult learners able to focus on content without the supporting environment of a residential campus. Even so, distant students benefit from an occasional F2F meeting.

The conference also dealt, in passing, with many nuts-and-bolts issues of distance delivery: what courseware packages imply for faculty; how courseware is to be developed and shared (if it is shared at all); how to handle studio art courses; how to provide library services.

Organization of this summary

The point of departure was my article, "College Faculty and Distance Education". This was posted on the conference site as background reading.


The on-line conference has proved difficult to summarize. It dealt with many topics and the threads of messages and responses overlapped. The following chronological structure is somewhat arbitrary.

The summary starts with the five threads of responses to the background article. Then, proceeding chronologically, it takes my opening remarks and responses to them, then each new topic thread, in the order of their first-posting.

Abbreviations used


instructional technology


distance education


distance learning




instructional technology


life-long learning


Background article and responses

My background article called attention to the benefits as well as challenges for faculty in the coming changes in higher education. When students can take courses at a distance, faculty can also teach from a distance, if they wish. The job market will improve, as well as opportunities to teach specialized classes. Faculty need not fear being replaced by courseware packages. Yet faculty need to participate in shaping this emerging field. If not, others will make decisions for us.

Responses to the background article

First thread. What is the new structure of higher education? The first response was from Roger Goodson(5). He agreed with the medieval roots of the modern university, but added that they are:

also based in part on a response to the contingencies of late nineteenth - and early twentieth-century industrial society.

Bringing up what became a major theme of the conference, he asked:

Where do participants in the conference see structural change as necessary? What do people see as the "new" structure for higher education in general?

Second thread. Time pressures limit faculty participation . Dick Benson (10)asked how it would be possible for faculty to participate in the process of development of the virtual universities, given existing demands on their time. Jim Petch (11) pointed out that a possible solution is to spin off a separate corporation.

Third thread. The value of the traditional campus . Bob Green (12) agreed that the change in education is inevitable, our institutions are outmoded and outdated, and faculty and institutions are ignoring calls for their change. The circumstances causing this are "the medieval tenure track system" and the excessive number of colleges, trying to provide "higher education" to too many people. [Ed. note: The "tenure track system" is a product of the twentieth century; see Walter Metzger, "The History of Tenure," in Higher Education Leader, Vol.5, No.1, Spring 1997, online at

At the same time, he asked:

Is being technologically outdated, by today's standards, a bad thing? I mourn the demise of the campus. [My time spent there] may turn out to be the best 4 years of my life. What I learned was not all in the classroom. I made friends, I made love, and I grew up.

This education - on a campus - is "holistic"

Eisenberg (13) agreed with Green that the campus experience, which he also had enjoyed, was valuable and would survive. Yet:

Some, though not all of the functions of a traditional campus will be reproduced in an on-line environment. Students separated  distance will chat with each other, gripe about professors, share old exams, fall in and out of love, even get drunk. It's not going to ever be the same thing, just as looking at a picture on a screen is not the same as seeing, touching, smelling the person in the flesh. But it can and will do a lot.

He also questioned whether online instruction would bring the savings often predicted for it.Gordon Wills (21) said that survival was also what was predicted for "monasteries, Corn Exchanges, churches and old castles." Like the old churches and castles, the buildings that survive may be put to other uses. "Surely you do not really believe we need libraries on all campuses around the world like we have hitherto attempted?"

Eric Sandelands (31) shared the information that in setting up the Marriott Virtual University, to serve up to 200,000 employees, "we are beginning with a face-to-face residential session lasting a week."

Why? Well we think there are aspects of "getting to know" each other in order to bond as a team that are vital and will work well this way. We are looking for rapid knowledge transfer and, rightly or wrongly, believe that this is the best way to achieve it.

Having done so, tutorial, set advising, programme management is virtual, with two more face-to-face sessions planned - acting as major milestones in addition to the online agreed deadlines. We believe in something like a 90 percent virtual/10 percent face-to-face model.We believe that the virtual experience has to be first rate - excellent reliability, responsive to service, etc. For the adult executive educational market, shabby facilities are not an option.

Fourth thread. The need for a framework. A lengthy response to the background article was that of Ronald Kantor (25). According to him,

I can say, with pretty strong evidence that is both empirical and interpretive, that ITV provokes very different social contexts from those we normally associate with face to face instruction. I can also say, based on extensive literature review, that there are literally hundreds of studies which claim, with substantive proof, that there is no statistically significant differences between learning outcomes between most technologically mediated learning environments and those which are taught face to face. So...? We should be considering the pedagogical framework being used to teach the course: lecturism (transmission); constructivism (collaborative); or some other approach in relation to the media being used and the content one proposes to teach. For example, in my studies of secondary courses taught via interactive television, I found that foreign language was one of the most successful content areas for this medium...

Point is: the domain of distance learning is in and of itself and extremely complicated and interactive medium. Faculty that get drawn into teaching in this domain, usually discover quite quickly that the types of skills and materials needed to do so in a successful fashion are very different than in their regular classes. Generally, it is quite unfair to expect a faculty member to teach for the same pay in the same way and get evaluated with the same evaluation forms as they would in a regular class.

If people are interested, I would be willing to lay out a bit of a framework for discussing the subject...but I also don't want to alienate anyone by coming on too strong. I just want to be sure we look more closely at the notion of how policy, learning theory, educational practice and technology all interact in the domain...and don't over-simplify an extremely complex and evolving knowledge domain.

Gordon Wills (26) responded that he would like to see this sketch of a framework "as soon as you can":

My own selfish interest is in the mixed use of distance and F2F sessions. As we now see that evolving in my School, the F2F is primarily a socialisation/reinforcement session at Start Up and dipstick stage rather than a focused learning event although of course it can readily be that too. The content of the occasional F2F is more the overt agenda for what is really going on. So looking forward to a framework please.

Eric Sandelands (28) suggested that the Virtual University Journal would look favorably on such an article. Roy Rada (35) also supported the need for a framework, and compared the state of distance education with that of professional continuing education, as shown in the previous online conference, "Innovation in Continuing Education" (

My own book on this subject can be read for free by following the link from my home page. I'd be interested in working with people to implement a model of a virtual educational organization to consider all the aforesaid. I've noticed in postings from others here that some of you are doing that already and the challenge in part would be to find whether our visions are the same and whether we have complementary skills.

Fifth thread. Distance learning and the disabled . Finally, Tricia Jenkins (43) expanded on a reference to disabled people. Disabled people, all over the world, have serious problems in

accessing education. ... Higher education has to seek new mechanisms to interact with this group of potential students and on-line education offers this. I would argue that we need to ensure that we do not add this group in somewhere down the line -but in fact ensure from that the start that all new developments are REALLY accessible to disabled learners.

Disabled students have a greater need for this technology than any other group. The problems of transport and timing are compounded by issues such as care, control and physical access. Yet disabled people's use of technology is innovative, they have to use it in a way that is developed to suit their own requirements. Technology can be incredibly enabling and many disabled people are becoming increasingly aware of this.

We should not only ensure that we include disabled students from the start of any new project but we should seek how we can learn directly from their involvement. If we can ensure that disabled students are full participants then we will find that our provision has an accessibility which goes way beyond the boundaries of the classroom.


Opening remarks

In his opening remarks (7), Eisenberg spoke further of the changes ahead. Increased delivery options and inexpensive access to bandwidth will bring new competition among institutional and human providers.

In the process, some meritorious people are going to get hurt, some unimaginative people will end up in positions of authority, most will try to manipulate the situation to their own or their institution's advantage. Business as usual. Yet the end result - in twenty years' time,say - will be a restructuring of the educational system as we know it. Remember how almost no one had e-mail five years ago, and yet now it is routine...

At present, though, we are a long way from this vision. On-line instruction is time-consuming for the instructor and places technical demands on everyone. What seems to be happening, at least in those institutions with which I'm familiar, is that faculty avoid preparing and teaching on-line when possible. Those who cannot avoid it - the adjuncts, the tenureless - have it "dumped" on them....

The result is that decisions are being made by support staff, by administrators, and by techies. The purpose of my article was to suggest that abdication by the faculty is not in our best interests, and that distance education also offers opportunities and can make our lives better.

Eric Sandelands (8) responded that national regulatory frameworks for education are unprepared to deal with the internationalization of education through virtual delivery.

When courses and programmes have degree credits attached, how can these be transferred across borders. Perhaps they are, but: Is there a standard emerging? Do we need an international clearing house? Do we need the World Trade Organization to move on to considering frameworks for an international education market?

Other threads

Packaged courseware.Before the conference was formally underway, Brad Meyer (4) brought up the topic of "courseware packages". Such packages can be a valuable preparation for later F2F study.

I can further project the increased potentials for users of the pack to want to take the opportunity (embedded within the interactive pack) to interact with me and my other students. And since this facilitated interaction can be in either real-time or asynchronous time, I can choose how much of the course to deliver personally in real-time and how much to let them learn in their own time.

I find this opportunity extremely exciting. I can imagine how many more students I can reach overall and how much more prepared they can be by the time we work together in "real-time".

I believe that today, distance learning can help me increase both the quality, frequency, depth and breadth of my interactions with students (and other experts) in my field of study.

Meyer (6) shared Brad Meyer's sense of excitement, but asked:

Should we expect all online instructors to create their own "interactive packaged courses", any more than we expect all faculty to write the textbooks they use in their courses? Doesn't it make more sense to online courseware you can find, developed by other professors with perhaps greater technical and financial resources, and concentrate on the teaching and facilitation both desirable and necessary in an asynchronous course? Then you can focus on the students while relying on the courseware,  a textbook, Web resources, class discussion rooms, etc., etc., to handle the logistics of the class.

Dick Benson (19) seconded that he had proposed sharing of online course materials to a statewide online steering committee, but was rejected, since the committee members wanted to create their own courses. He raised the question:

What is the "state of the art" for finding, adapting, and using courseware developed by other instructors? Is there good shareware available (particularly in mathematics)? What problems do you run into? Will we be able to treat this online courseware as we do texts, i.e. tell the students to get it before coming to class?

John Meyer (23) said that his organization was already making online courseware available like textbooks:

We at ISI [Instructional Systems Incorporated] are state-of-the-art because we find the best true asynchronous online college-level courseware, we adapt for use at schools other than the course creators', and we deliver access to those course on our servers via our licensing agreements. Please note that this is not shareware, since it has taken the course authors months and many thousands of dollars to create their courses. Our licensing fees are relatively low, however. As you say, you could treat the online courseware component of a course much the way you handle textbooks.

Bob Greene (30) said that packages of online class materials were a "natural step in the evolutionary process". From personal experience, he remembered that "creative, exciting, and interesting" professors attracted students; others didn't. We can't expect all faculty to write their own materials: "We can't 'cause they won't.

Geoff Goolnik (53) seconded Benson's observation (19) of lack of collaboration in courseware development:

The historical/cultural influences that pervade some of our Higher Education institutions certainly seem to be holding back advances. There seems to me to be little evidence of institutions collaborating over the development of fully accredited course provision in order to save costs and make best use of available expertise. It's crazy! I come from Scottish Further Education where we have made great advances in the provision of open learning through widespread co-operative development.

Eric Sandelands (54) agreed:

From my Business and Management perspective, if Philip Kotler produced the definitive MBA marketing module, fully accredited and available for online study, why would anyone want to do marketing anywhere else? Kotler is already the text primarily used by marketing professors who then spend time and money devising their own course.

Jodi Servatius (20) called attention to professors' fear of being replaced by courseware:

They see this as the beginning of a pattern of differentiated staffing, with a few superstars creating materials and many lecturers/contractors who actually interact with students. (This is one of the strongest criticisms I hear about the British Open University.) The fear is the degradation of the role of the professorate.

She added that in her experience in the California State University system, flexible time access to courses has attracted more students to online courses than access from a distance.

Eric Sandelands (22) pointed out that "guru-branded courseware" already exists, in the form of the textbook:

With the colleagues I talk to, the issue of "Guru-branded courseware" (or courseware that we assume to be world-beating) equates in large part with that of the text-book.

Many of us claim to be teaching "our course", yet I often see distance learning materials that not only refer to one text book almost exclusively, but delight in directing the user to specific chapters and telling the user to read and interpret.

Mission of on-line education. Eisenberg (17) asked for participants to send copies of mission statements for online instruction in their organizations. None were received, apparently indicating a problem area.

Class bulletin boards . Another query without response was that of Andree Woodcock (24), who asked how one can assess contributions to bulletin boards, and whether the mediator "can or should set the tone for the bulletin board".

The vision of the future university. Goodson (27), noting that no one had responded to his earlier speculation on the future of the university (5), undertook to respond himself.

It seems that the current structure of higher education (often described as organized anarchy, or loosely coupled system) is arranged in a manner in which the subsystems (department, divisions, student life, academic life, etc.) tend to be separated and segregated into boxes with relatively rigid boundaries. Most of the thinking in these boxes goes on in what has been called the reality of "small worlds". That is, the "big picture", or "vision", is not coherently shared by or between the occupants of these boxes. There may be myths of such a shared vision, or larger community, but in reality does it exist? I would posit that it probably does not.

DL/DE creates new forces both within and without higher ed. that make changes in the structure not only possible, but necessary. But without any unified vision (see preceding paragraph), it seems to me that higher ed will be very slow in adapting and adjusting . .. In particular I refer to this slowness in terms of the ability of faculty to respond in ways that make it possible to create a shared vision of higher ed. in any institution. Such a vision will be effective in terms of restructuring higher ed. to meet the demands of the upcoming decades.

What would delegates to the conference see as a vision involving IT, governance, structure, etc. for higher ed. 5yrs, 10yrs, into the future? Do delegates view the faculty as waiting for others to shape the vision? Do delegates believe faculty to be capable of shaping the vision given the current structure of higher ed.? Will higher ed. "stumble" into the future by using old thinking to deal with radically changed situations?

Bob Greene (29) responded unambiguously that:

I for one do *not* believe that universities, as we know them, have the collective will (motivation) within the individual institutions and/or among the universities collectively. There will be a sharp division within this community which will see the more August institutions surviving essentially "as is" and the "also-rans" drying up and giving way to commercial on-line pay as you go schools.

Mindy Machanic (33) called attention to her university, the Technical University of British Colombia, as:

an experiment in developing a new university from the ground up that is mandated to integrate technology into its learning models, with a target of 50% of our programs and classes to have a major technology component, not just a listserv or web page attached to a traditional "sage on the stage" classroom. I believe we are trying to address issues of "shared vision" and integration of IT that you note are usually a myth... The university as currently embodied does not have traditional departments, schools or "faculties", but has programs....

These are being taught at TechBC with a mixed model of online content delivery by a faculty person, and face-to-face small groups for discussion and exercises/projects facilitated by a Learning Assistant (whom we envision as somewhere between a Graduate T.A. and an Instructor). This is just one of our models for teaching and learning, which range from totally independent learning using web and CD, to various mixes of classroom and technology, to totally online classes that are faculty driven. We are encouraging collaborative/cooperative learning and problem-based learning whenever possible in what are more typically and traditionally seen as lectures or seminar courses. We are considering a more comprehensive cross-disciplinary block-course approach to some kinds of content that can be project-focused or theme-based. We will also have various types of laboratories and design studios, some with more traditional face-to-face activities supplemented by online content delivery, and some with primarily or entirely online lab and studio activities. We envision faculty as having virtual/online office hours and an applied focus to their research that takes students out into industry for their project and research work. We are also developing a 3D multi-user world (MUD) which will serve as both a social gathering place and a place where students can take care of some of the processes o normal academic life, such as a doorway to registration or academic advising, where small groups can meet for project interaction or socializing, and eventually where large groups can meet for presentations using streaming media.

Naturally, we are having civilized battles over our approaches to course delivery, both within the new institution and externally. We have to explain their purpose, our approach and point out that these delivery models and methods are not new, but that we are integrating the best of what has been done by others, and are approaching it institution-wide instead of haphazardly. I am also in the process of reviewing faculty development plans from existing institutions to see how they have handled development programs for online teaching, and preparing a "best practices" review for guiding faculty development projects when we actually have faculty on board.

Beginning later this summer, our first faculty will join us and participate in program and course development activities for our own (not jointly provided) courses and programs in the area of IT, management and Media Arts & Design... Our initial faculty are being hired with the understanding that this is expected of them, and they come with either prior experience in online teaching or an interest in doing online teaching. Hopefully, this will avoid some of the problems of resistance to working this way!

Shortly thereafter, and in response to Machanic, Sandelands (49) brought up the question of library resources and access to on-line course materials.

We believe that working with a database publisher is the most effective and cost effective method of unlocking published knowledge, particularly when one is buying in to existing copyright cleared arrangements for full-text access. In management we have embedded searches into courseware that ensures it is updated every month, as the database is uploaded, from the 400 best management journals in the world, together with book reviews and online ordering - i.e. if a module needs information management case studies, then this search can be embedded within the text. An example is at:</A>. To make it work, you can take out a 30 day free trial of Anbar Management Intelligence if your organization does not already subscribe.

The bald statistics are: Management - 70000 entries on the database growing at 18000 per year; Computing - 50000 entries Civil Engineering - 70000 entries. Each constitutes the "best" possible journal library - full-text articles are available for every abstract or review entered, either from alliance partner, The British Library, or instantly online. (You've probably guessed from my tone we're rather proud of it).

This method has been used extensively by us in virtual corporate universities that include Fina, BAA, Sema Group, the forthcoming Marriott Virtual University, and so on.

Machanic (57) replied that:

At this stage, we have not yet even hired a University Librarian; that is in process. We plan on having a virtual library with access to other regional libraries. Your project sounds like something our new librarian/planner will be looking into! However, since you also have embedded courseware with automated updates, this is something we in Educational Technology & Learning might also look into, because it is part of our job not only to develop the theory into implementation, but we also will be involved in developing course prototypes and templates; something like what you have there points at solving the problem of course links that go bad too quickly.

Daniel Eisenberg (37, 46, 47) pointed to the new Western Governors University ( as an example of a new type of higher education structure. This university will not deliver courses nor hire faculty. It is instead a broker between students and affiliated institutions which offer courses. Its degrees will be awarded based on competency examinations. [See note in the introduction concerning Regents College, on which much of Western Governors University is based.]

Roger Goodson (50) returned to the need for vision:

Most of the dialogue here seems to revolve around day to day, philosophical, or prescriptive ideas. I would like to suggest that we may wish to take some time to examine (in fantasy or fiction) ideas about where all of this is headed. I realize that the immediate concerns about "how to", and "where to", and "if" are important. The framework that is also being created is also important. Is WGU the only alternative structure and vision? If so, I, for one, would consider this rather limiting. How will the future university look?

Mandy Machanic (58), in response, referred back to her earlier postings (33, 57) on the new Technological University of British Columbia. Eric Sandelands (51) offered some ideas about where virtual education is headed:

1. For the many, not the few; 2. Initially at least, having the greatest impact on the adult learner; 3. A world of internationally transferrable degree credits (Gordon Wills); 4. Greater emphasis on the individual, rather than the government, as the customer; 5. Corporations acting more like universities as they seek to compete through learning and innovation; 6. Universities having a deeper understanding of the organizational imperatives (I can dream can't I?); 7. Greater respect for corporate learning materials from the university sector, demonstrated in awarding degree credits for comparable materials.

Daniel Eisenberg (62) said that given the lack of hard information, creating a vision was difficult, and we are limited to experimenting.

Clearly the traditional model of education -the educator and the student in a classroom -is both expensive, at least for all but very large classes, and inappropriate or inaccessible for many. The new technology has made many changes possible. Continued declines in cost, expanded bandwidth (the subject of furious construction in the US at present), and growing ease of use of the equipment and software will make even more changes possible. Alternatives are going to be tried and those which provide the best combination of high quality and low cost are going to survive. The others will be restricted to niche markets or disappear.

I don't think we know enough yet about any of this to think a lot about the future. What segment of the population will be willing to pay for campus-based education? In what subjects (if any) is campus-based education a necessity? What is the minimum educational quality that will meet needs? How much active interaction with the educator will provide optimal results? Will there be universal Internet access, similar to the nearly universal access to television, or will it remain more restricted?

Lacking this information, hard information, all we can do is keep trying what seems best at the time, knowing we are bound to make mistakes. External changes will continue to tax us at the same time they offer us new opportunities.

Devil's advocate: why do many students reject distance education? Eisenberg (36) asked how to explain the phenomenon that at "a campus that I know well", students with a choice strongly prefer F2F classes. Is there anything the school can do to make technology-mediated classes as attractive to their students as conventional ones?

Ed Cooper (38) responded that distance learning courses "will never be embraced by all students, nor should they be... Students who have taken the online classes love them but others are wary of this new method. Fine, we will be here for them when they are ready". Gordon Wills (39) pointed out that socialisation is important to some students; only time will tell whether this can be accomplished through "virtual reality".

"We are getting caught up in believing that universities and colleges are primarily about teaching and learning... What they represent to students may well be something quite different", remarked James Atherton (41), who was seconded by Scott B. Barnett (42). Mature students are more able to focus on the subject matter than young undergraduates.

For many undergraduate students, attending university is a rite of passage: they enter the marginal status of "student" for three or four years as a marker of their transition from adolescence to adulthood. What matters to them (and perhaps to society at large) is just as much about leaving home (where possible), making new friends, joining societies, experimenting with life-styles and relationships, doing part-time jobs, struggling to manage time, helping each other and getting help, and so on. The content of the courses is more peripheral!

These student cultures evolve and develop from the bottom up. Not only is RBL [resource-based learning] largely a top-down initiative, and very focused, but it takes no account of its users as anything but learners. Until the virtual community is as compelling and involving, and even as emotionally engaging, as the face-to-face one, it can never be more than a poor substitute in the eyes of the "normal" undergraduate.

Need for international credit framework; need for balance. Kevin Donovan (55) introduced to those from outside the U.K. the Further Education college, of which there are 500 in England and Wales, with four million students. The closest North American equivalent would be the community college. The FE college is devoted to lifelong learning, on any vocational or academic subject, at any level, full-time, part-time, or at a distance.

Donovan brought up two points to the conference:

It's very difficult to make progress in any major, international and progressive way without some agreement on what we call a credit framework -a common way of describing coherent sets of learning outcomes by size and level -which can span the various types of qualification routes.


Sometimes, in our enthusiasm for technology, we forget the other factors. At a very simple level, unless we maintain a balance between resource/technology development (how we deliver/support learning and teaching), staff development (how we operate as professionals and feel about the technology in particular), and curriculum development (what we learn and teach and the contexts in which this happens) -and devote equal energy to each point of this delicate triangle -we upset a delicate balance. The rhetoric and reality of technology-related and distance learning are very powerful and "change is coming". But we need to maintain the pedagogical balance (and not forget all the lessons of previous waves of "educational technology").

Eric Sandelands (56) replied, asking

1. What sort of agency is needed to expedite this? Is there an existing one that could take this up, or is it something wholly new needing new structures? 2. Can a learning outcomes approach be internationalized?

Daniel Eisenberg (62) opined that:

The globalization of certification is so impractical at present that it's not even worthwhile to speculate on it. In the U.S. we are struggling to even come up with national certification. The degree programs exist but there is a lot of skepticism, publicly expressed by some elected officials, about the validity of degrees awarded based on credit hours. Partly this is due to the fact that there is no consensus on what the goals of education are. What does it mean to be "an educated person"? Even within technical fields there can also be a lot of divergence about what a certification means. For example, M.D. degrees are awarded by many countries, but here in the U.S. we require all foreign medical graduates to take our own national test. Many fail, some repeatedly. Different countries have different standards.

Dick Benson (64) expressed the view that a new model for the university was not required.

Believe new model is not required. "Distance learning" (homework) is a standard activity of all our courses. Future uses of new communication technologies can be viewed as simply an improvement, or adjunct, to the old technologies (textbooks, etc.).

With this view, rather than trying to create new bureaucracies, future development of Internet use, etc. could follow the following simple paths. First priority for use of scarce funds should be to support instructors in the development and use of online course materials that would augment their present courses. If material proves so effective that F2F contact hours can be reduced, then let instructor determine how to use this "profit" in F2F contact time. (Cover extra material, hold extra seminars, assist students having difficulties,....., teach another class :-).)... Second priority should be to develop and use the technology to improve present correspondence courses for those truly unable to come to F2F sessions.

Not only would new structures not be necessary, but the possibility exists that vast new resources would become available by eliminating all the positions of Vice Chancellor of Distance Learning around the country :-).

Ordish (60), noting that most examples of technology-mediated teaching and learning have been text-based, asked how the studio environment of art and design courses can be accommodated in that environment:

Rather than be "left behind" and forced to accept a model which is found to work for science subjects, it is vital that art and design education develops a strategy for its own future through collaboration, identifying areas of strength and good practice which are fundamental to the teaching and learning experience, including being prepared to radically harness the creative possibilities of IT.

Mandy Machanic (61) discussed the thinking taking place on this point at the Technological University of British Columbia.

One of the delivery models (as we are calling them) is for a design lab (studio) model that incorporates technology. We see it in either of two manifestations: one more traditionally face-to-face classroom-based with most content presented and discussed online but with hands-on work and critique done F2F, and one much more technology based, possibly entirely online with course management software that allows online group work via a whiteboard, simulations, etc. We are trying out software for this, and we are also developing a VRML-based 3D world with avatars, meeting spaces and streaming media, so we anticipate being able to use this, or even the online classroom, for presentations of projects, assuming students have desktop video cameras, which are now cheap enough they can be required along with other materials and technology for students.

What she requested of the readers are suggestions for a rationale by which "VIP-types" can be persuaded to permit experiments. Ordish (63) made several suggestions:

In Europe, we are discussing an Internet project with partner institutions in a number of other countries. (The political implications and PR being very attractive to VIPs.)

In our School we have recently run a questionnaire to all FT students asking about external access to computers... We were really surprised at the results, the figure and usage being far higher than was expected for the UK ... This is very useful material to present at various relevant Boards or Committees, if not least to demonstrate that the students themselves (as well we know) are using IT in such a matter-of-fact way and for "everything" -a situation which is not reflected in the delivery of course material.

Some institutions actually publicise all their on-line course material with free unprotected access. The logic being that if the material is incorporated into the School WWW site, it is good publicity...

Intentionally, I have not touched on financial incentives, savings, resource implications -these are often so dependent on unique governmental policies or particular sponsorship arrangements, and so obviously vary from area to area. However, a rationale can be further supported through involving partnership liaisons with local communities, e.g. short courses, LLL, public exhibitions. This is perhaps one of the most exciting areas for development in the future, particularly for creatively and visually rich subjects concerned with art or design.

Concluding remarks and documents . Dick Benson (65) called attention to a letter sent to the Governor of the state of Washington, signed by 800 faculty at the font-family: University of Washington. Eisenberg posted the text of this letter (70) and a New York Times article on it (71). In it, faculty expressed their dismay at politicians' view of:

education "without bricks and mortar", of education by CD-ROM and Internet... [We have] the impression that the planners are bent on replacing face-to-face classroom teaching with...the "brave new world of digital education". Governor Locke himself, in a speech to graduating high school seniors, has anticipated the obsolescence of the University as we know it, saying that in the future there will be no need for "designer label" educations at prestigious institutions...

In addition there is a growing fascination with "digital education". In his April 27 speech Governor Locke made the surprising claim that the research university and its national prestige are *irrelevant* to a coming "Information Age" in which Washingtonians will simply buy their "knowledge" in "bite-sized" chunks through private technology... One of the problems with the newest crop of distance-learning institutions is that they are motivated entirely by profit...

Far from obsolete, the University of Washington is a vibrant, living community wherein diverse individuals blend an extraordinary range of skills and motivations. Its public spaces are unique: the classroom, the seminar, the student union, the lecture hall, even the corridors. Education, moreover, is not reducible to the downloading of information, much less to the passive and solitary activity of staring at a screen. Education is an intersubjective and social process, involving hands-on activity, spontaneity, and the communal experience of sharing in the learning enterprise.

Eisenberg (72) thanked all for participating, called attention to this summary which would appear in the Virtual University Journal, and posted a thought piece by Philip Agre on "The 'global academic village' and intellectual standardization". Agre calls attention to changes already underway, "beneath the radar screens of most faculty, much less the broad public". The trend toward better articulation between institutions, so that students can choose their courses from a menu of hundreds of institutions offering comparable "products", has a "significant cost in intellectual diversity":

If the internal modularity of degree programs must be coordinated centrally, or at least negotiated among numerous independent universities, then the result will be less flexibility and greater uniformity. Power over fine details of the curriculum will inevitably shift in the direction of accrediting organizations, university administrators, and other professional coordinators. Faculty may effectively lose the ability to write their own syllabi. The diversity of thinking and teaching at universities has long been important to the health of a free society. That is, for example, why professors get tenure once they have proven their abilities by passing through many levels of competition and testing. And it may be tempting to stereotype universities as having become dominated by one or another unpopular tendency as a pretext for standing by as the institution drifts into greater uniformity. But I think that would be a terrible mistake. We need to preserve the institutional conditions for a diversity of intellectual approaches.

As we decide how to use information technology in higher education, we face choices that follow a pattern. In the "old days", various important values --in this case decentralization and diversity - were guaranteed, or at least encouraged, by the limitations of the physical world. Universities were numerous and spread out, it was relatively difficult to transfer people and practices between them, and so different universities evolved along somewhat independent paths. Now, however, we only get that independence, that separate evolution and diversity of educational approach, if we actively choose it. We will make some of our choices out in the open. But we will make other choices implicitly, tacitly, as a seeming consequence of simply following through the logic that information technology imposes on us.

We have been disserved, I think, by "cyber" claims that information technology inherently and inevitably brings decentralization and diversity to the world. If my own argument has the slightest merit then this is not so, and indeed the opposite might be closer to the truth... Let us not permit the technology and its customary practices to dictate important, value-laden changes in our institutions. And when the situation calls for it, let us develop new technology, or else wait until somebody develops it for us. The whole point of technology is to serve human purposes, but the burden of technology is that we must choose what those purposes are.


Note: some items were deleted from the server for technical reasons; others are not included in the following list because they were duplicates, dealt with "housekeeping" or technical matters, or were off topic. All the messages I have omitted from this summary may still be consulted at the address, replacing # with the number of the posting.

The notes on "responds to" and "responses" have been revised from the original threads.

0.   Eisenberg, Daniel, "College Faculty and Distance Education". Virtual University Journal, No. 2, 1998.
      Responses: 5, 10, 12, 25, 43

1.    None

2.    None

3.    Christie, Anne. "2nd Virtual University Journal Conference". 26 May 1998

4.    Brad Meyer, "Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors". 28 May 1998
       Responses: 6, 30

5.    Goodson, Roger. [Response to background paper; asks where university change is necessary.] 30 May 1998. "Re: 2nd Virtual University Journal Conference".
       Responds to: 0

6.    Meyer, John. "Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors". 31 May 1998.
       Responds to: 4.
       Responses: 19, 30.

7.    Eisenberg, Daniel. [Possible future scenarios. Western Governors University.] "Welcome!!" 2 June 1998.
       Response: 8.

8.    Sandelands, Eric. [How to handle degree credits in an international environment.] "Re: Welcome!!" 2 June 1998.
       Responds to: 7.

9.    Omitted.

10.  Benson, Dick. [Impracticality of faculty providing input to decision-makers.] "Faculty input to decision-makers". 2 June 1998.
       Responds to: 0.
       Responses: 11.

11.  Petch, Jim. [Possible solution to intrauniversity problems: university setting up non-profit corporation.] "Re: Faculty input to decision-makers". 3 June 1998.
       Responds to: 10.

12.  Greene, Bob. [Probable survival of traditional campus.] "Response to Dr. Eisenberg's Paper". 3 June 1998.
       Responds to: 0.
       Responses: 13, 31.

13.  Eisenberg, Daniel. [Traditional campus will survive and may not be more expensive.] "Response to Bob Greene's comments". 3 June 1998.
       Responds to: 12.
       Responses: 14, 21.

14.  Benson, Dick. [Virtual courses funded with vision of reducing costs.] "Re: Response to Bob Greene's comments". 3 June 1998.
       Responds to: 13.

15.  Omitted.

16.  None.

17.  Eisenberg, Daniel. [Lack of mission for online education.] "What is the mission of on-line courses?" 4 June 1998.

18.  Omitted.

19.  Benson, Dick. [Inquiry about locating good courseware. Lack of collaboration.] "Re: Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors" 5 June 1998.
       Responds to: 6.
       Responses: 32, 53.

20.  Servatius, Jodi. [ California administrators believe, erroneously, online ed. will save money; professors feel their role will be degraded.] "Just joining and some reactions" 5 June 1998.
       Response: 22.

21.  Wills, Gordon. [College buildings may find alternative uses.] "Re: Response to Bob Greene's comments". 5 June 199

22.  Sandelands, Eric. [Guru-branded or guru-driven courses?] "Re: just joining and some reactions". 9 June 1998.
       Responds to: 20.

23.  Omitted.

24.  Woodcock, Andree. [Inquiry about experience using bulletin boards; how t0 assess bulletin board participation; role of mentor.] "Hi - bulletin boards". 8 June 1998.

25.  Kantor, Robert J. [Differences between ITV, web-based, and traditional instruction.] "Too many interacting factors and the lack of a workable framework..." 8 June 1998.
       Responds to: 0.
       Responses: 26, 28, 35.

26.  Wills, Gordon. [Requests framework. Role of F2F is socialization.] "Re: Too many interacting factors and the lack of a workable framework..." 9 June 1998.
       Responds to: 25.

27.  Goodson, Roger. [Seeks visions of how IT will affect universities.] "Visioning IT in the University". 9 June 1998.
      Responses: 29, 33.

28.  Sandelands, Eric. [Suggests Kantor write article on framework for Virtual University Journal.] 10 June 1998.
       Responds to: 25.

29.  Greene, Bob. [Universities unable to respond to challenge of IT. Many will be replaced by for-profit schools.] "Re: Visioning IT in the University". 10 June 1998.
       Responds to: 27.

30.  Greene, Bob. "Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors". 10 June 1998.
       Responds to: 4, 6.

31.  Sandelands, Eric. [Combination of face-to-face contact and high-quality online contact at Marriott Virtual University.] "Re: Response to Dr. Eisenberg's Paper". 11 June 1998.

32.  Meyer, John. [Instructional Systems Incorporated's approach to courseware.] "Re: Re: Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors". 11 June 1998.
       Responds to: 19.

33.  Machanic, Mindy. [Technical University of British Columbia example of new university responding to IT challenge.] "Re: Visioning IT in the University". 12 June 1998.
       Responds to: 27.
       Responses: 49.

34.  Omitted.

35.  Rada, Roy. [Work on framework; FREE BOOK ] "Re: Too many interacting factors and the lack of a workable framework..." 13 June 1998.
       Responds to: 25.

36.  Eisenberg, Daniel. [Why do students, given a choice, reject distance ed.?] "Devil's Advocate". 13 June 1998.
       Responses: 38, 41, 42.

37.  Eisenberg, Daniel. "Western Governors University: a new university model". 14 June 1998.
       Responses: 45.

38.  Cooper, Ed. [Distance learning not for all students.] "Re: Devil's Advocate". 14 June 1998.
       Responds to: 36.
       Response: 39.

39.  Wills, Gordon. [Can virtual reality take the place of F2F? ] "Re: Re: Devil's Advocate". 14 June 1998.
       Responds to: 38.

40.  Omitted.

41.  Atherton, James. [Resource based learning only deals with instructional component of university experience.] "Re: Devil's Advocate". June 15, 1998.
       Responds to: 36.
       Response: 42.

42.  Barnett, Scott B. [Agrees college is also social phenomenon. Technology appropriate for only some purposes.] "Re: Devil's Advocate". 15 June 1998.
       Responds to: 36, 41.

43.  Jenkins, Tricia. [Disabled people have greater need for this technology than any other group.] "Response to Daniel Eisenberg's paper - disabled students". 15 June 1998.
       Responds to: 0.
       Responses: 52.

44.  Omitted.

45.  Sandelands, Eric. [Queries about Western Governors University.] "Re: Western Governors University: a new university model". 15 June 1998.
       Responds to: 37.
       Response: 46.

46.  Eisenberg, Daniel. [Comments on WGU's model and planned benefits.] "Re: Re: Western Governors University: a new university model". 16 June 1998.
       Responds to: 45.

47.  Eisenberg, Daniel. "WGU's fees". 16 June 1998.

48.  Omitted.

49.  Sandelands, Eric. [Library resources for online school.] "Re: Re: Visioning IT in the University". 16 June 1998.
       Responds to: 33.
       Response: 57.

50.  Goodson, Roger. [Asks for thought about vision rather than day-to-day details.] "More on Vision/Structure". 17 June 1998. Responses: 51, 58, 62.

51.  Sandelands, Eric. [Principles towards a vision.] "Re: More on Vision/Structure". 17 June 1998.
       Responds to: 50.

52.  Sandelands, Eric. [Requests more information about the disabled and DE.] "Re: Response to Daniel Eisenberg's paper - disabled students". 17 June 1998.
       Response to: 43.

53.  Goolnik, Geoff. [Lack of collaboration on courseware.] "Re: Re: Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors" 18 June 1998.
       Responds to: 19.
       Response: 54.

54.  Sandelands, Eric. [Collaboration on courseware.] "Re: Re: Re: Re: Packaged courses as promotional vehicles for professors". 18 June 1998.
       Responds to: 53.

55.  Donovan, Kevin. [Need for international credit framework; need for pedagogical balance.] "A sideways view from the triangle..." 18 June 1998.
       Responses: 56, 62.

56.  Sandelands, Eric. [What sort of agency is needed? Can outcomes be internationalized?] "Re: A sideways view from the triangle..." 22 June 1998.
       Responds to: 55.

57.  Machanic, Mindy. [Library plans at TechBC.] "Re: Re: Re: Visioning IT in the University". 22 June 1998.
       Responds to: 49.

58.  Machanic, Mindy. [TechBC as a model.] "Re: More on Vision/Structure". 22 June 1998.
       Responds to: 50.

59.  Omitted.

60.  Ordish, Nigel. [How will DE handle studio courses?] "Teaching and Learning with IT in Art and Design". 24 June 1998.
       Response: 61.

61.  Machanic, Mindy. [Media and design at TechBC.] "Re: Teaching and Learning with IT in Art and Design". 24 June 1998.
       Responds to: 60.
       Response: 63.

62.  Eisenberg, Daniel. [Unanswered questions on DE future; lack of data.] "An unknown future". 24 June 1998.
       Responds to: 50, 55.
       Responses: 64, 67.

63.  Ordish, Nigel. [Multinational projects in Europe.] "Re: Re: Teaching and Learning with IT in Art and Design". 25 June 1998.
       Responds to: 61.

64.  Benson, Dick. [DE an extension of present practices; more funding highest priority.] "Re: An unknown future". 25 June 1998.
       Responds to: 62.

65.  Benson, Dick. [University of Washington faculty protest to Governor concerning= distance learning.] "New York Times article - font-family: U. of Wash. - Digital U".
       Response: 70, 71.

66.  Omitted.

67.  Donovan, Kevin. [Concluding remarks.] "Re: An unknown future". 26 June 1998.
       Responds to: 64.

68.  Omitted.

69.  Omitted.

70.  Daniel Eisenberg. "Text of font-family: University of Washington Letter".
       Responds to: 65.

71.  Daniel Eisenberg, "New York Times article on font-family: U. of Washington letter".
       Responds to: 65.

72.  Daniel Eisenberg. [Concluding remarks; The "global academic village" and intellectual standardization.] "Phil Agre (U Calif. San Diego): The "global academic village" and intellectual standardization". June 27, 1998.

Author indices

By order of first posting

Eisenberg, Daniel. 00, 7, 13, 17, 36, 46</A>, 47, 62, 70, 71, 72

Christie, Anne. 3

Meyer, Brad. 4, 6, 32      

Goodson, Roger. 5, 27, 50

Sandelands, Eric. 8, 22, 31, 45, 49,51, 52, 54, 56

Benson, Dick. 10, 14, 19, 64, 65

Petch, Jim. 11

Greene, Bob. 12, 29, 30

Servatius, Jodi. 20

Wills, Gordon. 21, 26, 39

Woodcock, Andree. 24

Kantor, Robert J. 25

Machanic, Mindy. 33, 57, 58, 61

Rada, Roy. 35

Cooper, Ed. 38

Atherton, James. 41

Barnett, Scott B. 42

Jenkins, Tricia, 43

Goolnik, Geoff. 53

Donovan, Kevin. 55, 67

Ordish, Nigel. 60, 63

Works of Daniel Eisenberg Home Page: