Use of Satellites in Distance Learning

Note:  This is a draft of a proposed plan.   The condition set by Dr. Fischler is getting "a small group" (let's say four students) to participate in the interviews.

As soon as we can get four students together by phone or in person, we can approach Dr. Fischler to follow up with this request for an interview.


Here is Dr. Fischler's response:


I am interested in looking at the area of education,  need and process. I would be happy to meet with a small group of students.



From: Steve McCrea [] 
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2011 6:42 PM
To: Abraham Fischler


Dr. Fischler


In a class that I'm taking about distance learning,  the use of satellites came up...


I mentioned the following in a message to my instructor  (Charles Schlosser)...



Dr. Schlosser, 


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


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. 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, TheStudentIstheClass.comThe 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.


Since there is a time restriction, please go to PLAN B (Lesson about Using Youtube in Distance Learning)

Click here for the Lesson Plan's Instructions

Proposed Lesson Plan:   

The Use of Transmissions via Satellite in Nova University's Early Distance Learning Programs

  1. Goal:  To help the audience better appreciate the early use of satellites in building the distance learning programs at Nova university.

  1. Objectives:   After participating in the lesson...

  1. 1.  Students will be able to name at least two challenges or obstacles that the program faced.

  1. 2.  Students will be able to compare procedures used in early satellite-assisted instruction with today's web-based distance learning.

The lesson will be based on interviews with key people who were involved with Nova University's early use of satellites in the 1970s.

  1. Audience:  Anyone interested in distance learning.  The lesson might have particular interest for students in the Distance Learning specialization, including the current class of students enrolled in EDD 7007

  1. Media and technologies for the lesson:  

  1. (a) Video clips or audio clips from interviews with key people who remember how satellites were used.   Clips will be placed on Youtube and made available for downloading via links to a website.  

  1. (b)  Reproductions of newspaper articles that describe the programs.  

  1. (c)  If available, promotional brochures from the university's archives will be available for students to read.

  1. Activities:  

  1. Since this is a web-based lesson, the activities will be available for members of the audience to go through at their leisure and convenience.

  1. Activity 1:  A short reading assignment with photos to set the scene.  The reading will describe essential components of distance learning as practiced today, then ask, "what was distance learning like forty years ago?"video   a list of activities (that is, what the student will “do” to complete the lesson) that includes a minute-by-minute timeline.

  1. Activity 2:  Clips from interviews will be available for the student to hear.  Transcripts of the interviews will allow hearing-limited students to get the essential information.  Key questions posed in the interviews will be presented on the website so that the audience is primed for identifying answers.

Key Questions (more questions will come from the other students who participate in the session with Dr. Fischler):
  1. The Big Picture

  1. What influences shaped the use of satellite-assisted instruction?

  1. What drove Nova to become a leader in the use of satellite-assisted instruction?

  1. Where did the idea first start for satellite-assisted instruction?   

  1. What was the program first called?

  1. Procedures

  1. Who were key participants in developing and expanding the program?

  1. What training did instructors need to go through to prepare for presenting their lessons?

  1. How difficult was it to find hotels to operate as receivers of the satellite transmissions?

  1. What was the initial feedback from the first students?   

  1. How long did the program operate?

  1. Challenges

  1. What were some of the problems encountered in the program and how did the university respond to address these issues?

  1. Some students have difficulties today switching from traditional classrooms to web-based distance learning.  What difficulties did some students have in adapting to satellite-assisted instruction?

  1. What happened when the course ran overtime (did the transmission suddenly end?)

  1. What did it cost to set up a typical transmission?

  1. What obstacles did the university have to overcome to arrange the use of transmission?

  1. What devices did the university have to invest in to facilitate transmissions?

  1. What limitations were there imposed by the technology?  (Was it easy to hear questions from the audience in another city?   Could students in one city hear the questions asked by students in other cities, or was the audio feed directed only back to the instructor?)

  1. How closely did the transmissions resemble the typical discussions that take place on the web (WIMBA, Elluminiate)?

(more questions will come from the other students who participate in the session with Dr. Fischler):

  1. Activity 3:  Newspaper clippings from the 1970s will be found to provide additional context.   Students will be asked to read articles and prepare for a quiz.

  1. Assessment plan:  There will be a web-based self-test to check the student's comprehension of the reading and interviews.  If the student clicks through to the correct answers, the next question is presented.  IF the student makes an error, then the test starts at the beginning.  

  1. Evaluation plan:  Students will be invited to submit additional questions by email that were not addressed in the lesson.  These questions will be considered when expanding the lesson into a more comprehensive look at the use of satellites in Nova's early distance learning programs.


Potential Resources

Return to EDD 7007

If you are interested in submitting questions to Dr. Fischler, please go here

Peer Feedback about the Transmission via Satellite Lesson Plan

from KP Hagen

Lesson Plan:   The Use of Transmissions via Satellite in Nova University's early Distance Learning programs

    1. (c)  If available, promotional brochures from the university's archives will be available for students to read. Are you going to scan those in?

  1. Remember, for this part of the lesson, you also have to include a rationale for why each kind of media was chosen.

  1. Activities:  

  1. I see from your objectives that you want students to be able to compare satellite enabled distance education with web-based distance education. To me it seems that somewhere in your activities you need to either show those differences or remind students to think about what is different about how it was to how it is now.

  1. Assessment plan:  

    Can you disable that feature? It seems like it would be really frustrating to students to have to go back to the beginning several times. Feedback on why an answer was wrong would be better than having to start over again, don’t you think?

  1. Evaluation plan:   I really like the idea of students submitting extra questions. I would also like to see students be able to give comments. You could do a survey with a Likert-style questionnaire (Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree):

  2. 1. I found this lesson interesting.

  3. I learned something I didn’t know before I started this lesson.

  4. This lesson was laid out in an easy to follow sequence. (I’m not entirely sure that’s appropriate because you’re giving students the option to do this lesson in their own choice of sequences, right?)

  5. anyway, you get my idea. I hear from a lot of people that Survey Monkey is a good choice for a free online survey program.

I went back and checked the requirements for this assignment. The timeline isn’t just a good idea, it’s a requirement. I saw one person lay out his like this and I thought it was good:



Student Activity


Introduction to Lesson

Student views video explaining lesson.


Setting the Stage

Student reads a short text block and examines pictures.

You get the idea.

that's the 6-minute video...

Letter sent to my colleagues:

TO:  various grad school students in my classes.

1.  Dr. Fischler has agreed to talk about "need and process" in Education.
2.  He's willing to be interviewed if there is a group of grad students as part of the interview
3.  I would like to include you in the group


You can show your interest by submitting to me at least three questions based on the blog 

Here are the questions (so far).

1.  How do you see teacher education needing to evolve to accommodate your vision?

2.  Some states allow portfolios to be used as part of the assessment process.   How do you see portfolios evolving?  What commitment do schools need to give to accommodate the needs of students who can't maintain an e-portfolio at their home?   What responsibility does the educational system have to give space for teachers to store portfolios that are "in progress"?

3.  What are the headaches that you perceive in getting your vision ready to happen?

4.  Has anyone approached you about the vision?  Is there a zone of K-12 that wants to try your system?  

5.  What were the early obstacles to using satellites in distance education at Nova?  Is there anyone around that I can interview to learn more about the history and achievements of the program?

6. Everything in our education systems is focus on passing “the Test.”  New methods of teaching are still aiming at producing students capable of passing “the Test.”  In fact modern technology and economic developments in Western society has driven a paradigm change which demands a different output from our education systems.  How do we get away from “the Test” and what should replace it?  -- WS


For decades we have been delivering a one size fits all curriculum, most of the content of which the modern student does not need to know.  With information at the end of their finger tips they need to learn how to learn and to be motivated to do so.  Schools are depriving many students of reaching their full potential before they become discouraged, uninterested and in some cases totally depressed about life.  What are the most important and effective steps we can take in order to stop the tweaking of the current system and to produce schools relevant to our students, families and society today?  -- WS

8.  Amongst educational reformers, much is being made of project-based courses, virtual offerings, community-based internships, innovative college courses, and capstone projects.  What universal system, measure, or structure should, or could, be used to provide the future employer with an understanding of the skills, competences, and work ethics of the job applicant?  --WS


Once I have received at least 10 questions, I will arrange for an interview with Dr. Fischler, send him the questions so he can prep, then I'll video the session so you all can hear his answers.  If you can make it to the video session, great.  Your time commitment is your choice.  Let's make this interviewing process easy on Dr. Fischler and flexible to his schedule.   

If he says that he can meet on July 14, for example, I'll set up a conference call with my mobile phone on  and arrange for a phone number for you to call in and listen to the session live.   I can also receive text messages at 954 646 8246 or short email messages to (fewer than 140 characters) if you want to ask a follow up to one of his responses.
I will record the interview and post it on youtube so you can access it (I will arrange for a private channel on youtube).

1.  Please read some parts of his blog
2.  Send me three questions along with a phone number and an email address that I can use to keep you updated
3.  When I have at least three other people and at leas 5 questions, I'm arranging for something 
4.  I will contact you when the meeting time is finalized.

Thank you for reading this far.  I hope I can count on your participation.   There is no guarantee that this interview will take place.

Steve McCrea
SteveEnglishTeacher SKYPE
+1 954 646 8246

for your convenience, I have posted an excerpt from the blog below

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.


Dr. Fischler is President Emeritus and University Professor at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He served as President of Nova University from July 1970 to July 1992. Prior to coming to Nova in 1966, Dr. Fischler was Professor of Education at the University of California, Berkeley. He began his career in education as a science teacher and earned his Ed.D. degree at Columbia University. Subsequently, he became Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Education, Harvard University. After his retirement as President, he served on the Broward County School Board from 1994 to 1998. Dr. Fischler has been a consultant to the Ford Foundation, to various State Departments of Education, and to school districts in a number of states. He has authored many articles and publications dealing with science education and advanced teaching methods. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of numerous other educational and scientific organizations.