ERIC Identifier: ED358841
Publication Date: 1993-06-00
Author: Romiszowski, Alexander
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Information Resources Syracuse NY.
Telecommunications and Distance Education. ERIC Digest.
Recently a growing number of distance education institutions throughout the
world have been utilizing telephone tutorials and audio conferences to
supplement print-based interactions (Parker & Olgren, 1984; Garrison, 1990).
A characteristic of this means of distance education by telephone is that
communication is SYNCHRONOUS in nature. That is, the participants in the
discussion or the tutorial are online at the same time, although they may be
separated by distance.
Recent developments in telecommunications technologies such as fax machines
and electronic mail through computer networks have introduced a new element in
the form of rapid ASYNCHRONOUS communication. This has the characteristic of the
participants being separated in time, even if not necessarily by distance. This
form of communication is destined to play an increasingly significant role in
future distance educational systems (Mason & Kaye, 1989; Kaye, 1992; Soby,
1992; Cheng, Lehman, & Reynolds, 1991).
Another aspect of progress in telecommunications is increasing capacity and
greater standardization of electronic communication media. Increasing capacity
is a result of the widespread availability of satellites for long distance
communication and the gradual replacement of copper wires by fiber optic cables
of greater capacity. Standardization is being promoted by the gradual
implementation of a worldwide Integrated Systems Digital Network (ISDN). The
ISDN network will be capable of carrying all types of messages, whether they are
in the form of audio, video, text, or computer data, through the same channels
in the same digital format. This will enable the messages to be integrated at
end user terminals into multimedia presentations (Brewster, 1987; Malfitano
& Cincotta, 1992; Heler, Cooley, & Reitz, 1993). This is the impetus for
most of the developments in distance education.
DEVELOPMENTS IN DISTANCE EDUCATION
The print-based model of
correspondence education supported by distance instruction through written
messages has survived the test of time and continues to be utilized intensively.
However, as distance education has become more institutionalized, other media
have been applied. A "second generation" of distance education through the 60s
and 70s was characterized by heavy reliance on open broadcast by either radio or
television, supported by correspondence instruction and print materials.
The "third generation" of distance education has been characterized by
teleconferencing systems. These began with audio conferencing but progressed to
more sophisticated audiographic conferencing systems that supported the
telephone audio conference with visual and text material (Barker & Goodwin,
1992). Another parallel development has been video conferencing. Until recently
this was a somewhat expensive alternative to the audio conference, but due to
developments in digital computer-based desktop video, it is now becoming
economically accessible to an ever larger section of the educational community
(Parker & Olgren, 1984; Tremblay, 1992).
We are now entering a fourth phase of development of distance education based
on the integrated use of new developments in telecommunications and computing
and characterized by the integrated use of remote study materials supported by
computer-based multimedia teleconferencing (Steinberg, 1992). Integrated
multimedia computer technology will provide the platform which will most
resemble real-time, interactive instruction.
The various technologies available for
telecommunications-based distance education can be schematized as in the figure
below. In the synchronous communication mode, we are witnessing a development
from predominantly audio communication by telephone, or amplified telephone in
the case of audio conferences, to multimedia interactive real-time
communication, either between individuals or groups. The result is that
virtually all of the activities that can be undertaken in a conventional
classroom situation can also be undertaken over distance, in a form of "virtual
reality" (Hiltz, 1990). In the asynchronous communication mode, the predominant
medium of the past (print) is being supplemented by voice messaging facilities
and other graphic communication potential so that once more we are working
towards an integrated multimedia environment for educational communication.
According to Hiltz and Turoff (1978), Vallee (1982), Kearsley (1985), Grief
(1988), and Wilkinson and Sherman (1991), we are rapidly becoming a networked
society that will adapt to utilizing telecommunications-based communication as
easily as face-to-face communication is utilized in society today.
Conference===>Computer-Supported Collaborative Work
The telecommunications option for education is often
perceived as being expensive compared to either face-to-face education or the
more conventional distance education methods based on print and correspondence
by mail. However, this is not a completely accurate perception. Cost
calculations that include the communication costs as well as the costs of tutor
time in generating feedback messages to students show that
telecommunications-based instruction can be more cost efficient than print-based
instruction (Romiszowski & Iskandar, 1992). The experience of AT&T in
utilizing audiographic teleconferencing has demonstrated cost reductions of over
50% in the real costs of training if these are calculated to include the cost of
transport and accommodations of participants from remote sites (Chute, 1988).
Furthermore, the costs of telecommunication are falling whereas the costs of
educational space, staffing and transport are rising, so that over time the
economical equation will favor the increased use of telecommunications-based
education. One should also remember that over the long view it will not be
necessary for educational systems to invest in the basic infrastructure for
telecommunications as this is a requirement for society and business in general
(Zuboff, 1988; Johansen, 1988).
Given the technological scenario for the
future that has just been painted, it is fair to ask whether such future systems
are capable of delivering an appropriate level of quality of education. Research
on distance education by and large has shown that, when appropriately planned,
distance education can be as effective as conventional classroom based
education. While there are some exceptions in terms of certain types of content
or certain groups of students, the move towards integrated multimedia networking
may be expected to extend the range of effective distance education applications
(Collis, 1991; Steinberg, 1992; Kaye, 1992).
One potential benefit of such integrated networks in distance education is
that they may be "user driven." Groups of students may form naturally because of
common interests at a given point in time, largely independent of decisions made
by any single educational institution. A program of study might be composed of
modules of materials pulled in from various institutions as required by the
particular individual or group. Potentially, such a development offers the
promise of overcoming a major weakness of conventional educational provision,
namely the long reaction time required by institutions to adapt curricula and
content to the changing needs of society. To extend the currently popular
hypertext/hypermedia jargon, we might look forward to the hyper-school or
hyper-university, a network of the world's educational institutions that may be
browsed at will by a student interested in planning and following through an
individual program of study.
Barker, B. & Goodwin, R. (1992, April).
Audiographics: Linking remote classrooms. THE COMPUTING TEACHER, 19(7), 11-15.
Brewster, R.L. (1987). TELECOMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY. Chichester, UK: Ellis
Cheng, H., Lehman, J., & Reynolds, A. (1992, November). What do we know
about asynchronous group computer-based distance learning? EDUCATIONAL
TECHNOLOGY, 31(11), 16-19.
Chute, A.G. (1988). Learning from teletraining. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DISTANCE
EDUCATION, 3, 55-63.
Collis, B.A. (1991). Telecommunications-based training in Europe: A
state-of-the-art report. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION, 5(2), 31-40.
Garrison, D.R. (1990). An analysis and evaluation of audio teleconferencing
to facilitate education at a distance. AMERICAN JOURNAL OF DISTANCE EDUCATION,
Grief, I. (Ed.). (1988). COMPUTER SUPPORTED COOPERATIVE WORK: A BOOK OF
READINGS. San Mateo, CA: Morgan Kaufmann.
Heler, J., Cooley, V., & Reitz, R. (1993, May). America School 2000
Project: Westfield's technology initiative. T.H.E. JOURNAL, 20(10), 83-86.
Hiltz, S.R. (1990). Collaborative teaching in a virtual classroom.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE THIRD SYMPOSIUM ON COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION (pp.
37-55). Guelph, Ontario: University of Guelph.
Hiltz, S.R., & Turoff, M. (1978). THE NETWORK NATION: HUMAN COMMUNICATION
VIA COMPUTER. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Johansen, R. (1988). GROUPWARE: COMPUTER SUPPORT FOR BUSINESS TEAMS. New
York, NY: Free Press.
Kaye, A. (1992). Learning together apart. In A. Kaye (Ed.), COLLABORATIVE
LEARNING THROUGH COMPUTER CONFERENCING (pp. 1-24). Berlin Heidelberg, Germany:
Kearsley, G. (1985). TRAINING FOR TOMORROW: DISTRIBUTED LEARNING THROUGH
COMPUTER AND COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
Malfitano, R., & Cincotta, P. (1993, May). Network for a school of the
future. T.H.E. JOURNAL, 20(10), 70-74.
Mason, R., & Kaye, A. (Eds.). (1989). MINDWEAVE: COMMUNICATION, COMPUTERS
AND DISTANCE EDUCATION. London, UK: Pergamon Press.
Parker, L.A., & Olgren, C.A. (Eds.). (1984). THE TELECONFERENCING RESOURCE BOOK: A GUIDE TO APPLICATIONS AND PLANNING. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Science Publishers B.V.
Romiszowski, A.J., & Iskandar, H. (1992, November). USE OF VOICE-MAIL
TUTORING IN DISTANCE EDUCATION. Paper presented at the ICDE World Conference in
Distance Education, Bangkok, Thailand.
Soby, M. (1992). Waiting for Electropolis. In A. Kaye (Ed.), COLLABORATIVE
LEARNING THROUGH COMPUTER CONFERENCING (pp. 39-50). Berlin Heidelberg, Germany:
Steinberg, E.R. (1992, Spring). The potential of computer-based
telecommunications for instruction. JOURNAL OF COMPUTER-BASED INSTRUCTION,
Tremblay, W. (1992). Telecourse utilization in American research
universities: Institutional context and instructional innovation. JOURNAL OF
INSTRUCTIONAL MEDIA, 19(3), 191-207.
Vallee, J. (1982). THE NETWORK REVOLUTION: CONFESSIONS OF A COMPUTER
SCIENTIST. Berkeley, CA: And/Or Press.
Wilkinson, T.W., & Sherman, T.M. (1991, November).
Telecommunications-based distance education: Who's doing what? EDUCATIONAL
TECHNOLOGY, 31(11), 54-59.
Zuboff, S. (1988). IN THE AGE OF THE SMART MACHINE: THE FUTURE OF WORK AND
POWER. New York, NY: Basic Books.