30 Years Ago (1982) -- a landmark in distance education

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Thirty Years Ago:  Distance Education vs. Bricks and Mortar

A Watershed Moment for Higher Education (and Distance Learning) in the USA

 

30 years ago A Landmark Event for Distance Education

          The growing use of the Internet in both K-12 and higher education might lead current online students think that "learning at distance" equals "web-based schooling."  Over 25 percent of undergraduate students (nearly 5 million) took at least one online course in 2008, up from 10 percent (1.6 million students) in 2002 (Allen & Seaman, 2010).  Some students under the age of 30 might be aware that distance education a century and more ago meant sending homework through the post.  But they might not know how satellite transmissions, telephones and air flights laid the foundation for today's environment of distance education.   This article describes how one of the important impediments to the spread of online distance education was removed.

         

The court's decision was the necessary legal element in the foundation for distance education. 

Submitted for consideration for publication:  29 November 2011


Thirty Years Ago:  Distance Education vs. Bricks and Mortar

A Watershed Moment for Higher Education (and Distance Learning) in the USA
 
          The growing use of the Internet in both K-12 and higher education might lead current online students think that "learning at distance" equals "web-based schooling."  Over 25 percent of undergraduate students (nearly 5 million) took at least one online course in 2008, up from 10 percent (1.6 million students) in 2002 (Allen & Seaman, 2010).  Some students under the age of 30 might be aware that distance education a century and more ago meant sending homework through the post.  But they might not know how satellite transmissions, telephones and air flights laid the foundation for today's environment of distance education.   This article describes how one of the important impediments to the spread of online distance education was removed.

Thirty Seconds about 30 years

          Before the Internet allowed us to learn online, there was a time when universities fought over students in court.   The legal conflict emerged because out-of-state, “multi-campus” institutions like Nova University changed the paradigm for higher education (Alger, 2001).  Brick-and-mortar universities offered graduate level degree programs for educators in the traditional face-to-face classroom on a university campus.  For some potential students in larger states (Texas, North Carolina, Nevada), long commutes to get to the nearest campus often meant not enrolling.  
Classes in a rented meeting hall
          Innovative institutions like Nova University met the growing need for graduate-level courses for teachers and principals by adjusting the time and place for the classes.  First,  coursework that traditional universities offered one night a week over 16 weeks could be concentrated into a weekend once a month for three or four meetings.  Second, the classroom could be moved closer to the students being served.  If the campus was too far from you (the graduate student), the professor could come to a rented space (a meeting room in a local hotel) near you, either by flying to your city or via satellite transmission.  As today, consultations at distance between teacher and students took place by telephone.  
 source of slides:  FDLA presentation by Dr. Fischler
Looked at through the lens of the 21st Century, those courses in the 1980s were similar to distance education as we know it today.  Four components make up a widely accepted definition of distance education:  a) the program is based in an institution; b) the teacher and student are separated by distance;  c) technologies are used to connect students and teacher; and d) resources are shared to create learning experiences  (Simonson et al., 2012).  Thirty years ago the courses involved face-to-face interaction between teacher and student, but the classes met away from the sponsoring institution and involved teacher-student contact by telephone.  The elements of distance education were in place in the 1980s for instruction to occur in part at distance.
Needed:  Legal standing
          A cluster of inventions is often needed before an innovation can take hold and diffuse widely (Rogers, 2003).  When we think about the changes that took place in distance education between the 1980s and today, we can list a number of necessary technologies that are now in place:  modems, cheaper and faster computers, sophisticated classroom management software, video transmission and compression, widespread fiber optic networks and broadband speed.  But these technologies were not sufficient to create the open environment that embodies distance education today.  One final piece was needed:  the legal standing for "borderless" universities to offer courses in locations where they had no physical campus (Farrington, 2001).
          In 1979 Nova University applied for a license to offer its graduate programs in North Carolina, like any other in-state
university.  The Board of Governors for the University of North Carolina denied the license. Nova sought relief in the court system and the issue was argued before the state Supreme Court in the spring term of 1981. The key issue:  Could an out-of-state university be regulated through the licensing procedure?  The larger (hidden) issue was economic:  Would the state's highest court favor the Board of Governors and protect the University of North Carolina from out-of-state competition?  
          The thirtieth anniversary of the court's decision (issued 3 March 1982) is an opportunity to take stock and appreciate how far the business of e-learning has evolved.  Overall, the state of higher education is better in many ways because there is robust competition via distance learning.   A look back might prompt us to give thanks to those who laid the foundations that we often don’t think about.  We might use a different classroom management system now compared to thirty years ago, and the telecommunication storage and retrieval capacities of audio and video resources allow for asynchronous teaching and learning, but the elements of distance education remain the same.  The legal precedent of Nova v. Board of Governors established the right of "cross-border" universities to compete with in-state universities.  The result:  more choices for students.

  What if the case had been decided differently?  If state university systems had been allowed to restrict competition, then "cross-border" universities would have offered online courses to only a selection of states. Even after the North Carolina decision, other states continued to resist "borderless" universities.  "Texas did not back off," recalls Abraham Fischler, who was president of Nova University in 1982.  "Nova and Texas came to a mutual compromise. Our clusters were place-bound and we could remain, but not move our clusters.  When one cluster finished, we could recruit again for another cluster in the same location. We were not able to expand to another area"  (personal communication, July 14, 2011).
That’s the legacy of the Nova v. Board of Governors decision:   The court's decision was the necessary element in the foundation for free-range distance education.
  Online coursework was more than fifteen years in the future, with full video sharing and capabilities for discussion boards brought by the Internet.  But no amount technology would have been sufficient to create the open environment that many of us experience today (outside Iran, North Korea and other locations that limit Internet access).
Every university that offers online programs ought to observe a day of appreciation (Distance Education Day, or "DE-Day") for the team that argued for open access.  The next time you sit in front of your computer monitor or laptop screen, why
not take a moment and think back to the business climate and legal issue that faced those judges three decades ago?  Without that courtroom decision (or one similar to it), online students would not have the growing number of out-of-state (and international) degree programs to choose from. 
 
References
Alger, J. (2001).  Legal issues in e-learning business.  Retrieved from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/EDU0105.pdf 
Allen, I.  & Seaman, J. (2010).  Learning on demand:  Online education in the United States.  Babson Survey Research Group
Farrington, D. (2001).  Borderless higher education:  Challenges to regulation, accreditation and intellectual property rights.  Minerva 39, 63-84.
Rogers, E. (2003).   Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.).  New York:  Free Press. 
Simonson, M., Smaldino S., Albright, M.  & Zvacek, S.  (2012).  Teaching and learning at a distance (5th ed.).  
Boston:  Pearson Education.


Steve McCrea is a second-year graduate student at Nova Southeastern University.  He is studying the various processes that institutions have used to introduce innovations in distance education.   
Phone  954 646 8246  2314 Desota Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301   EDDSteve@gmail.com

 

ABSTRACT  (Volume 9, Number 1, Distance Learning)
Thirty Years Ago:  Distance Education vs. Bricks and Mortar
A Watershed Moment for Higher Education (and Distance Learning) in the USA
ABSTRACT:  The growing use of the Internet in both K-12 and higher education was aided by
a legal decision that took place in March 1982.   This article looks at the business environment facing borderless universities like Nova University, whose legal fight led to the landmark decision that gave a green light to international access to students.  The author calls for a day of appreciation for the team that fought to break the monopoly held by brick-and-mortar universities that blocked expansion of multi-location classes held at distance.


Let's make this day special...





On the other side....

The Board of Governors of University of North Carolina was represented by Schillar and Schillar.  Here's a paragraph from the "ABOUT US" page of Schiller and Schiller:

    Marvin Schiller has received unsolicited praise from a wide spectrum of jurisprudential thinkers. Retired Chief Judge S. Gerald Arnold of the North Carolina Court of Appeals stated that Marvin's brief was "excellent" in State v. Sanders, 33 N.C.App. 284, 235 S.E.2d 94 (1977). Retired Chief Justice James G. Exum, Jr. of the Supreme Court of North Carolina noted Marvin’s "vigorous and able representation" in Nova University v. Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina, 305 N.C. 156, 287 S.E.2d 872 (1982).  




Comment by Dr. Fischler

“Other states were trying to keep us out,” said Dr. Fischler (personal communication, October 2011).  “When the North Carolina court ruling came down, other states backed off and our programs were able to expand.”

A powerpoint presentation from the FDLA confernce in September 2011 by Dr. Fischler  fischler@nova.edu  (954) 262-5376
Click here if you have difficulty opening this presentation, or please send me an email message and I'll send  you the document directly.  You can also find it at SLIDESHARE.net.  

FDLA Conf ASF Show WITH TEXT ADDED



For more information about the history of distance education at Nova University, please contact Steve McCrea.

His proposed dissertation is on the subject of how schools can learn from the process (history  or diffusion of innovation) that Nova endured to become an online institution.  He can be reached at (954) 646-8246 or EDDSteve@gmail.com.

He seeks people to interview who were distance education students in the 1970-1992 (pre-Internet era) at Nova University. 

More photos from Dr. Fischler's FDLA presentation in Sept. 2011:

   The slides that appear on this webpage come from a presentation that Dr. Fischler gave at the Florida Distance Learning Association conference in September 2011.

The slides were provided with the assistance of Hillary Howrey, assistant to Dr. Fischler, Emeritus.






This page is maintained by Stephan McCrea, a member of USDLA


I am also a student member of AECT and FDLA.

I seek dialog with others who wish to applaud the legal team that brought Nova University into North Carolina.

I invite you to join the ITDE Facebook group at Nova University if you care to discuss the intricacies of our profession.   The 3 March 1982 project was launched in this group.
I invite you to the SystemicChange.wordpress.com site as well as the project to record videos (promoted by supporters of Dr. Charles Reigeluth's work).    See the Distance Education Day facebook page, please and support >>>    The Thirty Percent Manifesto


Do you have what it takes to become an online student?
Look at these useful links
what traits should teachers have to teach online?
What characteristics and skills should students develop to learn online?

Please also visit abe.TheStudentIstheClass.com   

Distance Education Day 2012

This video is nearly 3 minutes long.   If there is additional information, please call 954 646 8246.

Dr. Fischler is available for reporters who want to learn more about the background of the historic 1982 court case.   
(954) 262 5376.