Health Communication Program: A Distance-Education Class within the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health Distance Education

Health Communication Program: A Distance-Education Class within the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health Distance Education

Phyllis T. Piotrow, Omar A. Kahn, V. L. Benjamin, Salwa Khan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-878289-60-5.ch017
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The use of distance learning in higher education is not a new concept (Worlock, 1987). Old-fashioned correspondence courses served this purpose for many years, appealing to those who could not attend classes in an institutional setting. Radio learning programs have beamed lessons on mathematics, science and other subjects around the world. The Internet has brought a new dimension to this concept: distance learning now means the opportunity to mirror rather than merely supplement classroom experience (Taub, 1997). Distance learning options encompass a range of delivery options, both synchronous and asynchronous. The synchronous approach can include real-time interaction between course faculty and students, while asynchronous approaches rely more on downloading course slides, audio and video from a Web site, which may be supplemented by e-mail contact (Clark, 1999). In the current environment, it is increasingly common to find courses that mix synchronous and asynchronous modes of delivery. The virtual classroom can include real-time Web-based videoconferencing with teachers and students, Web pages with course slides and content to be reviewed by the user, and the more traditional e-mail and telephone exchanges (Clark, 1999). In addition, the synchronous modes such as videoconferencing are frequently backed up in an asynchronous format, usually as transcripts capable of being accessed by the user after the session has concluded. Along with modes of delivery, the expectations for Web-based learning have grown as well, with today’s users becoming ever more sophisticated. In the U.S. and around the world, individuals and corporations are increasing their spending on high-technology education (Clark, 1999) through a variety of institutions such as traditional universities, specialized institutes, in-house training divisions, and Web-based virtual education programs. The Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health is an acknowledged leader in the teaching and practice of public health. In 1996, the School began exploring ways to reach beyond the walls of the traditional classroom to provide public health education through the technology now widely accessible. As a result of a competitive proposal submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the School of Public Health was one of four schools selected with the purpose of developing a distance-education curriculum, to upgrade the knowledge and skills of mid-career public health staff of that agency. The overall curriculum was designed to lead to a Graduate Certificate in Public Health. This certificate also met approximately one-half of the core requirements for the MPH degree, the most frequently awarded degree in the school.

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