Several questions need to be answered before
someone selects how a distance education course will be presented, such as:
What is the intended delivery format? Will the instruction be synchronously or
asynchronously delivered or will a combination be used?
In addition, the preferences of the
instructor and program will impact the answers to these questions, as will the
technology capacity of the institution and/or unit. For example, the decision
on whether to use synchronous or asynchronous delivery may already be
answered if the course is part of a degree program delivered by a specified
technology, such as the Internet or two-way videoconferencing.
Once the delivery format is selected, technology "tools" need to be selected
based on several considerations, including:
- Instructor’s expectations: Developers should determine what
the instructor wants students to master in the course. What are the
desired learning outcomes? The desired learning outcomes will help
determine the appropriateness of the available technology
- Expertise of the instructor: Developers should consider the
instructor’s past experiences with the delivery format selected and
the technology involved. For example, if the delivery format is to be
Web-based, what are the experiences of the instructor in working with
Web-editing software packages or in working with hypertext markup language
(HTML), the predominant "language" of the Web? Or if the
delivery format is two-way televised course, has the instructor prepared
visuals appropriate for such delivery?
- Available technology: The technological capacity of the institution places
limits on what tools will be used in delivering a course because of
equipment, software, and/or support provided. For example, an institution
might have a license for a learning management system, such as WebCT or
Blackboard, and not provide direct central support for open source,
stand-alone departmental systems in delivering a Web-based course. The
technology will also vary within institutional units; some will have limited
capacities while others have a variety of technologies and support
available within their units. (More about institutional capacity will be
provided in Destination 8: Technology
Development at Institutions.)
- Support available: Will the instructor develop the course alone, or will
there be others available to assist the instructor? Ideally, support will
be available, but realistically that might not be the case. The support
that is available will guide the "tools" that can be used.
- Learner’s access to technology: Developers should be aware of the
characteristics of the intended audience before selecting technology
"tools." For example, a Web-based course should select tools
based on off-campus students’ Internet connection speeds, rather
than what is available on-campus. A developer cannot build a course using
"tools" that require a high-speed connection if the majority of
students will be accessing the site using a 56-kilobit modem.
- Subject matter: Course content makes a difference. The nature of the
subject matter helps determine the "tools" that can be employed.
The tools or the way they are used might be different in social science
disciplines compared to biological or physical science disciplines.
Entry-level courses differ from graduate-level courses.
what about keeping up with how fast technology changes?
Destination 6: 2