Practices and Tools in Online Course Delivery

Practices and Tools in Online Course Delivery

Nory B. Jones (University of Maine Business School, USA) and Christian Graham (University of Maine Business School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3930-0.ch015
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Education continues to evolve to meet changing educational needs, budgetary pressures, and evolving lifestyles of different students. Distance and online education has become a greater force in the portfolio of products offered by colleges and universities. This chapter reviews recent trends in the courses and methods of delivery offered to meet the changing needs of students.
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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. A recent study, “Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011,” reports “that more than 6.1 million students took at least one online class during fall 2010—a 10.1 percent increase over the year before” (Lytle, 2011). While this represents a slowdown in online course growth, it still far exceeds the growth in traditional higher education. Furthermore, with the continuing 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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