Asynchronous Learning Tools - What is Really Needed, Wanted and Used?

Asynchronous Learning Tools - What is Really Needed, Wanted and Used?

James E. Novitzki
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-60-5.ch005
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The concept of distance learning, where the instructor and student remain geographically separated, has been used for almost 150 years, since Sir Isaac Pitman came up with the idea of delivering instruction through the use of correspondence courses (Phillips-Vicky, 1998). Despite this history, the move toward more open learning has been not much more than a trend, and it is unlikely that a teaching professional from 100 years ago would feel uncomfortable in the classroom of today (Papert,1992). Yet, distance learning and asynchronous learning (ASL) in particular are areas of rapid growth. Morse, Glover, and Travis (1997) conducted a survey of 205 schools in 1994-1995. Of the respondents only 26% were involved in distance learning. Three years later Phillips-Vicky (1998) reported that 180 accredited graduate schools and more than 150 undergraduate colleges and universities were supporting distance learning programs, and most schools surveyed would have some form of distance learning programs available in the next one to two years. Distance learning is still not a mainstream educational method, and few institutions have the knowledge and experience to successfully offer full programs in this format. Even the University of Phoenix, which advertises on-line degrees, has only 7,000 on-line students out of a total student body of more than 53,000 (University of Phoenix, 1999). Considering the large numbers of Web-based distance learning products being marketed and the combinations of features offered, it is a monumental task for a school to make an educated decision on which, if any, of these products can meet their requirements. This chapter has several objectives. First, it discusses significant issues for consideration by any institution planning to develop a Web-based distance learning program and identifies the attributes necessary for effective ASL. Second, it identifies some current development tools and what they provide the instructor to develop and administer a course in an asynchronous format using the World Wide Web. Third, it discusses how some of these Web-based tools were employed in a graduate business program, and how students responded to and used them. Fourth, it ends with general observations about the use of the tools from both faculty and student standpoints and recommendations for institutions planning on moving into ASL distance education using Web-based tools.

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