In 2001, Michele Bunn offered her readers timeless and timely issues in distance education. There were predictions that virtual universities would shift from a teacher-centered to a student-centered learning environment. Although emerging technologies have allowed for more student-centered approaches, university instructors remain a key factor in the success or failure of distance education efforts in university settings. Shifts in technological advances over the past five years have made the term “distance education” less accurate. Learners are not necessarily located away from campuses, but instead choose the flexibility to learn asynchronously. Therefore, we will use the term e-learning, rather than distance education. Timeless issues impacting e-learning typically include the core values of universities in regard to strategic planning, faculty competence, and incentives. Administrative decision-making determines relevant timely issues that tend to fall into three categories: (1) student-related issues, (2) instructional issues, and (3) organizational issues (Bunn, 2001). These three areas will frame our discussion.
According to Bunn (2001), timeless student-related issues for e-learning incorporate the “policies and practices that define how students are treated in the administrative system. These timeless issues include the basic approaches to recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation” (p. 58). Students are viewed as clients or customers with choices for their courses and programs. The view of a student as a customer poses a timely issue in regard to student-centered instructional design and delivery.
E-learning draws on the ability of learners to be self-directed, thus, incorporating adult learning principles (andragogy) in the design and delivery of content (Richards, Dooley, & Lindner, 2004). Andragogy is based on the following six assumptions about the learner: (1) learner’s need to know; (2) self-concept of the learner; (3) prior experience of the learner; (4) readiness to learn; (5) orientation to learning; and (6) motivation to learn (Knowles, Holton, & Swanson, 1998).
Educators, who put their interests and needs (intentional or unintentional) over those of the learners, restrict meaningful learning. The ultimate goal of an educator should be to facilitate learning (Leamnson, 1999). This will require the educator to be a teacher, coach, mentor, facilitator, motivator, and/or authoritarian depending on the learners’ personal characteristics.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Instructional Issues: Determining the instructional needs, resource availability, curriculum design, course development, and faculty capacity and incentives for effective delivery of distance education ( Bunn, 2001 ).
Organizational Issues: Developing infrastructure, technical systems, resource allocations, professional development, and organizational restructuring necessary for the efficient delivery of distance education ( Bunn, 2001 ).
Incentive: Intrinsic or extrinsic motivational factors that impact faculty decisions to participate in distance education.
Andragogy: Design and instructional philosophy based on the following six assumptions about the adult learner: (1) learner’s need to know; (2) self-concept of the learner; (3) prior experience of the learner; (4) readiness to learn; (5) orientation to learning; and (6) motivation to learn ( Knowles et al., 1998 ).
Competence: A measure of perceived level of ability by faculty in the use of electronic technologies often associated with distance education ( Jones, Lindner, Murphy, & Dooley, 2002 ).
E-Learning: “The appropriate application of the Internet to support the delivery of learning, skills, and knowledge in a holistic approach not limited to any particular course, technologies, or infrastructures” ( Henry, 2001 , p. 249).
Vicarious Interaction: A student’s perception of the interactions between others in the learning environment ( Zhang & Fulford, 1994 ).
Learner-Centered Instruction: Any formal or non-formal education that accounts for a learner’s cognitive and metacognitive factors, motivational and affective factors, developmental and social factors, and individual differences (APA, 1997).
Student-Related Issues: Policies and practices that impact the needs of the learner (client or customer) in terms of recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation ( Bunn, 2001 ).