Administrative and University Role In Distant Education

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Distant Education and Role of Administrative and University

Administrative and University Role In Distant Education

Administrative Support For Distance Education,Role Of The University And University Support.

Administrative Support For Distance Education

    Administrative support is critical to the success of distance education delivery. Policy decisions including teaching loads, faculty development, campus facilities, and technological support must be made with faculty and staff input. The “buy-in” of faculty and staff will vary based on the changing culture in the college and must be considered in the decision to move forward with distance education. 

    When decisions are made to move forward with new teaching modalities, including distance education, adequate resources and support from administration are essential to success. Particularly in the beginning when new initiatives are being launched, faculty will need adequate time, resources, and support services to ensure students and the course are successful. 

    The College of Nursing has a history of strong administrative support for distance education offerings, which facilitated the early initiation of offerings in 1984 and continues today as the college proceeds to meet the future educational needs of nurses and those wishing to pursue nursing in the state of South Carolina. 

Role Of The University And University Support

    As faculty commit to develop various technology-based approaches, they can benefit from guidance and support from instructional developers and instructional technology specialists. Bates (1995) suggested that “instructional designers can play an invaluable role in helping subject matter experts define the various teaching and learning needs of a course, and making sure they are assigned to the most appropriate media” (p. 114). 

    The university provides a wide range of support services to faculty who teach students at a distance, including assistance with course materials development, computer graphics enhancement, and hardware and software training. Instructional developers conduct workshops and offer group and one-to-one consultations for teaching through various distance education technologies.

    In addition to the current support provided to faculty and students by the university, a Teaching and Learning Center is planned for 2005. This center will significantly increase opportunities for USC faculty to learn and use best practices in using various instructional models, share their experiences with Colleagues, engage in inquiry about the impact of technology on the educational process, and explore teaching and learning issues in higher education at large. 

    One of the factors affecting students' success in distance education environments is the availability and quality of technical support provided by the institution (Harasim et al., 1995; Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Palloff & Pratt, 1999). Technical support for students in live televised courses is provided by Distance Education and Instructional Support (DEIS), which maintains equipment on the main campus and at participating viewing sites statewide. 

    If students miss a class session because of problems with equipment or satellite transmission or reception, DEIS will mail them VHS tapes of that class session or will provide a video-streamed version of the class on the Internet. The latter option works well for students who have broadband access to the Internet at home. 

    Technical support for students and faculty participating in online courses delivered entirely or partially through Blackboard is provided by Computer Services. The help desk staff can be reached on the phone between 8 am and 5 pm After hours and on weekends, students can submit a request for help on the USC Website. 

    This arrangement, however, may be inadequate for online learners who often need to access their course materials when immediate assistance is not available. Providing adequate technical assistance for rapidly growing numbers of online learners remains a challenge for the university's information technology (IT) office.

    Other support services for distance learners include delivery of course materials, proctoring exams at distant sites, and returning assignments. Student services coordinators are available to distance students at a toll free number during regular work hours. USC libraries provide remote access to a large collection of online publications and research databases. 

    Advisement and tutoring of distance learners fall within the responsibility of the academic departments.The role of the university in supporting distance education is also critical. At the University of South Carolina, distance education is a major initiative. The university supports a rather large department of DEIS that manages the bulk of responsibilities related to the delivery of distance education courses. 

    One key component of DEIS that is extremely helpful to faculty and students alike is that each department, school, or college within the university is assigned a specific instructional developer from DEIS to handle distance education course management. If a question arises related to distance education services, the faculty, staff, and students know immediately whom to contact at DEIS, which saves time, money, and frustration. 

    An orientation is provided to faculty who are new to the university and to those new to teaching by distance education methods. A very comprehensive handbook also facilitates timely information retrieval related to distance education matters. Faculty members receive a video-taped copy of each class. Students also have the opportunity to meet the DEIS coordinator for their department, school, or college during the first class period when a brief orientation is provided. 

    DEIS sends students materials prior to the beginning of class, which includes information on procedures related to taking a distance education course, the syllabus, contact information, procedures for completing course work, and other course materials. Distribution of additional materials, PowerPoint slides, and most outside of class communication occurs through Blackboard and e-mail. Weekly journals and other assignments are also accomplished through Blackboard when desired by the faculty teaching the course. 

    When technical problems arise, students may request that a videotaped copy of the lecture be delivered to their viewing site. Students can then arrange a convenient time with the site to view the portion of class that was missed. Students may only request a videotaped copy for technical difficulties in producing the broadcast (such as equipment failures and thunderstorms); Requests for tapes because of absences such as illness or work conflicts are not honored.

    Faculty have the option of having students come to class for testing or testing can be accomplished at certain distance education sites where proctors are available. The regional campuses in the USC system, as well as some other sites, offer this option. In addition, with course management software like Blackboard, students can complete various types of exams online, and in the case of multiple choice questions can receive immediate feedback. 

    Results are automatically entered into the Blackboard grade book for the faculty. Blackboard can be set to limit the length of time in which students may take the exam once they are signed in (eg, a 1-hour limit); limits can also be placed on the specific days the exam can be administered and during what hours one wishes to permit students to take the exam. Both of these time features limit the possibility of cheating.

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