Class Section 3

The Class Section discussed the five generations of distrance learning

1  Correspondence schools

2  Broadcast versions
1920s  radio
1930s TV
1970s Satellite

3  Open univerisity
University of South Africa's open university
The influence of Charles Wedemeyer (1964-68) who spoke in England in 1968 and inspired the start of the UK Open University now based in Milton Keynes (halfway between Oxford and Cambridge).
websites to look at   Open University in UK   Canada   South Africa

4  audio and video conferencing

5  Internet-based Instruction (at distance)


Email related to CS3, the history of distance learning

Dr. Schlosser,

You asked us to reflect on the content of the presentation.

a) Open University: Indeed, fascinating that the open university in South Africa was integrated. Also interesting was the location of the Open University of England, between Oxford and Cambridge.

b) The role of satellites in Nova University's evolution: I found the following item on Nova University's website: In 1972, the university introduced its first off-campus course of study in education. Soon, Nova became nationally recognized for its innovative distance-learning programs. Today, field-based programs are located throughout Florida, in 23 states, and at selected international sites.

I've had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Fischler about a project (to pull together quotations to inspire teachers to make classes that are designer more around projects and less based on lectures). During one of our sessions, he told about how the university bought time on a satellite and worked out a way for students in Nevada to hear what the professor was saying in Florida. I haven't found anything more on the history of the use of satellite transmissions for Nova.

As a side note: I have been talking with Dr. Fischler to learn more about the content of his blog, The first entry, dated July 2006, is a must-read for advocates of effective use of technology in the classroom, or for anyone who wants to see effective school reform. For your convenience, I'm reproducing the “Vision” section here.

What is my vision and strategy for educational change?

I believe that we in education must make the investment to do the same for our clients, i.e., each student. What investment is needed?

There are three modes of instruction: 1) self-paced or CAI, 2) project or problem-solving and 3) discussion. Self-paced or CAI requires that each student have access to a computer and modem and access to the curriculum on a server on a 24/7 basis. Projects and problems should be relevant to students so they can relate to the given subject area.

For English and Math, we should implement CAI in the 1st grade (and continue thereafter). The reason English and Math are chosen is that these are the two cultural imperative languages. If you know these two languages and are motivated as a self-learner, you can teach yourself almost anything you want to learn. And, one of the goals of education is to create self-learners.

For all other subjects, the teacher can pose a project or problem that is relevant to the student. Once the problem is defined, the class can be broken down into groups of 4-5 students in order to research the solution to the problem. If complex, each of the groups may study an aspect of the problem. With these subjects, the student uses the computer as a research tool (after having learned to read). Students are taught to use search engines such as Google or Yahoo as well as the intranet made available by teachers gathering information relevant for the students.

Students working in a group learn cooperation, shared responsibility and communication (face-to-face as well as e-mail). Having produced a written solution to the problem utilizing the computer (power point) as a tool, they can then present to the class for discussion. They can also use email or a written report to other students as well as the teacher.

Arbitrary learning within fixed time periods would be eliminated, i.e., no 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. grades. Instead, students would be grouped chronologically with materials appropriate to their learning level and style using the CAI approach for English and Math, and the project/problem/discussion modes for other subjects. The projects given to the students match the level of English and Math competencies and are related to the students (their interests and their lives). For example, in 3rd grade, how would you study the amount of water that a plant needs to grow? I would utilize the students’ Math knowledge (learned through CAI) for science learning. Likewise, rather than studying history through memorization and chronology, it can be studied through problems based on the immediate environment for younger children and more abstract concepts in later grades.

What do we need to make this happen?

In order for this to be implemented, what do we need?

1) We need the people on board – parents, teachers, community leaders, etc.
2) We need the hardware – computers with modems and Internet access for each student.
3) We need the management system (many existing solutions can be adapted).
4) We need the curriculum – Computer Assisted Instructions (CAI) for Math and English and creative, relevant problems and projects for other subjects.
5) We need teacher training.

In order to begin to implement change, we need all of these things in place. In 2007, I would like to see a group of elementary and middle schools, and the high school into which they feed (a demonstration ‘zone’) of some size agree to adopt a vision where time is a variable and mastery what is expected from each student. A computer company can be found to donate (or the zone can buy) a laptop with a modem for each student. The zone needs to build an integrated management system in order to be responsive to what students do and how they learn. Part of the management system is administrative, part is the CAI component, and lastly, the management system needs to record and reflect the student’s learnings in non-CAI instruction (‘student portfolios’). The CAI component must be self-correcting and use artificial intelligence so that the component improves as more students utilize the program for English and Math. Teacher training is critical and must be done during the summer prior to implementation.

from Dr. Fischler's blog  dated 29 July 2006

Dr. Fischler frequently talks about the need for making "Time a variable" in education.  Upon reflection, I hope that my participation in this class will be possible as I try to make up for lost time -- thanks to the technology that allows for review of the class sessions that were delivered weeks ago.