Improving Hybrid and Online Course Delivery Emerging Technologies

Improving Hybrid and Online Course Delivery Emerging Technologies

Nory B. Jones (University of Maine Business School, USA) and Christian Graham (University of Maine Business School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-853-1.ch014
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Abstract

As educational budgets continue to shrink, colleges and universities have turned to online course delivery as a means of increasing enrollments. In addition, with the proliferation of Internet-based course management and other software that facilitate the learning experience, many traditional courses are adding an online component, creating hybrid courses in different formats. In this chapter, the authors explore different strategies and technology solutions to help instructors develop rich, dynamic courses, whether they are completely online or hybrid courses that use online tools and technologies to augment the traditional class. This chapter covers the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid courses, technologies and practices available for them, emerging technologies such as Second Life™, social networks, dense wavelength division multiplexing, telepresence, satellite networks, and the use of texting in the classroom.
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Background

Distance Education Today

Distance education is often defined as instructional delivery where the student is not in the same physical space as the instructor and other students. Most distance education today is delivered via Internet technologies. Distance courses can be completely synchronous where the instructor and students meet together in virtual environments such as live chat, video, or audio streaming at the same time. They can also be completely asynchronous where the students and instructors use web-based technologies such as discussion forums, blogs, wikis or social networking tools to communicate at different times and on their own schedules. Courses can use a blend of synchronous and asynchronous communications and technologies to enhance the total experience, which we refer to as hybrid classes. In addition, hybrid classes can mix a traditional face-to-face class with different online technologies. For example, many university courses use information systems like Blackboard/WebCT for course management. It is also not uncommon for a live class to be broadcast via streaming Internet video and also archived for later Internet viewing.

The value of distance education continues to grow in importance. In 2007, it was estimated that at least 2.3 million students were enrolled in online classes in the United States (Smathers, 2007). According to the GAO (2007), enrollments in higher education distance classes have almost quadrupled since 1995. The Sloan Consortium reported that over 3.9 million students nationally took at least one online course in the fall 2007 semester. This represented a 12% increase over 2006 statistics (Heck, 2009). Distance courses and programs in higher education represent a real avenue for growth, expanding opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students. This represents an opportunity as well as a reality for most institutions of higher education. With the cost of tuition rising and economic downturns across the country, providing an alternative means of educational delivery benefits everyone. Less time and cost in traveling, more potential course availability, and greater access and convenience all contribute to the value of distance classes (Jackson & Helms, 2008).

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