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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 8, no. 27 (June 16, 2000).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c June 16, 2000
Challenges to distance edducation in an academic social science discipline : the case of political science / Steffen Schmidt, Mack C. Shelly, [and] Monty Van Wart, with Jane Clayton [and] Erin Schreck.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
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1 of 23 Education Policy Analysis Archives Volume 8 Number 27June 16, 2000ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2000, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education The Challenges to Distance Education in an Academic Social Science Discipline: The Case of Political Science Steffen Schmidt Iowa State University Mack C. Shelley Iowa State University Monty Van Wart Texas Tech Universitywith Jane Clayton Iowa State University Erin Schreck The Eaton Company
2 of 23Abstract This article reports the results from a nat ional survey directed to the department chairs of political science to assess th e current and future state of distance learning in that discipline. The insights of this research are relevant to all social science fields and offer important insights to other academic disciplines as well. Key findings of the study include the low utilization of distance learning courses, a low degree of importance currently attributed to distance learning and modes t expectations of future growth, ambivalent acceptance of a future ro le for distance learning, the common use of Internet-related techno logies, low levels of faculty knowledge and interest about distance learn ing, limited institutional support, and serious doubts about the appropriateness and quality of instruction at a distance. We propose a model of the size and scope of distance learning as a function of three f actors: the capacity of distance learning technologies, market demand, and faculty and university interest in distance learning. The artic le concludes with suggestions of critical areas for future research i n this dynamic, fluid post-secondary environment.Introduction On March 26, 1999, at 6:29 a.m., CNN ran an advertisement for UCLA's distance learning program. It was the first full-blown, nati onal commercial inviting students from around the world to ignore their local, physically accessible college or university and to opt instead for accredited courses taken at a dista nce. This was an important symbolic event because it promoted the "third way" of delive ring higher education with a seriousness that has not been seen before in the Un ited States. The first way is to have students travel to a college or university and live in residence, no matter whether the distance they traverse is near or from the other si de of the world. Generally such students are full-time. The second way is to provide classes for students who commute from local or not-so-local areas. Such students are more likel y to be part-time. The third way is to provide education at a distance, which was pioneere d in correspondence courses and later in public television classes (McIsaac & Gunaw ardena, 1996). The third way has long been characterized b y a tiny share of the student audience, thought to have less serious students, and subject to criticisms about inferior quality (Jaffee, 1997, Noble, online; see Rahm, Reed, & Ryd ell, 1999 for a good review of the challenges). In reviewing the literature on distanc e learning, one quickly discovers both hyperbole and deep skepticism (Schmidt, 1999). Adva nces in technologies, new economic forces, and a changing university environm ent certainly require a reexamination of many of the old assumptions about distance learning (Mingus, 1999). Joseph Hardin and John Ziebarth, at the National Ce nter for Supercomputing Applications, publishing in The Future of Networking Technologies for Learning, suggest that "Â…very soon every teacher and student will need access to the information represented on the Web in order to be competitive i n their work and in their lives" (Hardin & Ziebarth). Further, some experts (for exa mple, the Pew Higher Education Roundtable) suggest that 30 to 50% of all post-seco ndary learning will take place through some form of distance learning. Yet others suggestÂ—including substantial nu mbers of facultyÂ—that this is a passing fad suitable for only a narrow niche of courses, an d that traditional settings will remain
3 of 23the overwhelming method of education (Clark, 1993). The most optimistic predictions of advocates who watched the rapid transfiguration of the communication world by the Internet are likely excessive in both quantity and speed of any market transformation. However, distance learning seems unlikely to be a m ere instructional fad. Examples of the seriousness of the phenomenon are not difficult to find. One of the most impressive manifestations o f distance learning is the establishment of the new virtual universities. By far the most su ccessful major distance education institution is the British Open University, which h as granted 227,000 degrees (Blumenstyk, 1999) since 1971and has an excellent r eputation despite Great Britain's conservative educational tradition. American experi ences are still mixed. Although small, Jones International University has gained ac creditation (Olsen, 1999a). Some of the virtual universities are up and running moderat ely well, such as the Southern Regional Electronic Campus. For most it is too earl y to tell, such as the Western Governor's University (WGU, the Colorado Community College Virtual University, Penn State's World Campus, and the United States Op en University. For all the news and hyperbole of WGU and California Virtual Univers ity, they have underachieved initial expectations (Newcombe, 1999) and the Calif ornia Virtual University had its plug pulled in 1999. Yet this is not stopping new, wellfunded entrants such as Kentucky Commonwealth Virtual University (Young, 1999) and M ichigan Virtual University. These huge education syndicates indicate a willingn ess to devote the considerable resources needed to provide the substantial retooli ng in technology, systems, and personnel that is necessary for large-scale success In the summer of 1999 a new virtual univers ity consortium named Cardean University ( www.unext.com ) was launched partly with financing from former ju nk bond king Michael Milken. It will offer complete graduat e programs. What's important about this venture are the five prestigious universities who are part of the venture Â–the University of Chicago, Columbia University, Carnegi e Mellon University, Stanford University, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. This project looks more promising than some given the highocta ne nature of the participating institutions. Perhaps as important is the adoption of dis tance learning technologies by prestigious universities (Newcombe, 1999). Stanford offers a full engineering degree and Duke offers a full MBA on-line (which integrates oc casional live sessions as do many quality distance programs). Examples of fully on-li ne classes now exist at Oxford and Harvard. The question of broad-scale penetration of distance learning in higher education is less an issue now. Rather, the questio n now focuses on how much penetration, in what specific areas such as politic al science, and how it can be done most effectively. Commercial examples, while different in nat ure, give evidence of the liabilities of adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward new technol ogies. Faculty have seen the college textbook market dramatically transformed by newcome rs such as Amazon.com, VarsityBooks.com and, more recently, Bigwords.com. Traditional textbook wholesalers such as textbooks.com (Barnes and Noble), efollett. com, and ecampus.com (Wallace) have scrambled to get on-line (Kiernan, 1999). The effect of electronic commerce has been devastating for both university-owned and loca lly owned stores. The local university bookseller in Ames, Iowa, reported a 30% drop in sales as the result of a full-page ad that appeared in many targeted college student newspapers and through the use of handbills on campus. Universityowned and l ocally-owned bookstores are beginning to combat this trend in different ways. O ne strategy is a buying consortium with a centralized on-line access point (Carr, 1999 ). Another strategy is for the
4 of 23university to turn book sales entirely over to an o n-line provider such as VarsityBooks.com. The online provider then pays the institution a percentage of the sales and the bookstore ceases to sell textbooks (O lsen, 1999b). Although this commercial analogy should be applied to complex, de gree-granting institutions of higher education with extreme caution, it is interesting t o ponder whether there could be a similar critical-mass shift in higher education dis tance education as well. One important point of difference currently is that quality dista nce education programs are not less expensive in tuition than conventional programs, an d frequently are more costly (Blumenstyk, 1999). This situation may shift in the next few years with technology advancements and increasing faculty experience.Research Issues in Distance Learning: An Overview o f This Article Many issues have arisen regarding the prope r role and effect of distance learning: the globalization of the competition for students a mong institutions of higher education, the pressures for cost-cutting and cost effectivene ss in the new economy, the challenge to traditional institutions of higher education pos ed by virtual universities and by the growth of for-profit universities, concerns among f aculty about job security and the implications for promotion and tenure as well as re ward structures, concerns about the content quality of distance learning, and a series of technical issues such as intellectual copyrights, accreditation, transferability of credi ts across institutions, and the integrity of undergraduate and graduate programs of study. Some of these issues are being addressed at a general level in journals such as The American Journal of Distance Education, Distance Education, ED Journal the Journal of Classroom Techn ology, Kairos and Training and Development Yet we would argue that these big and interesting questions can be understood best by examining where disciplin es such as political science presently stand. This study offers an empirical ass essment of the current scope of, as well as several of the major contributing factors t o, the role played by distance learning in higher education generally and more specifically in political science. To help make sense of the contemporary chan ges occurring in distance learning, we begin by briefly proposing a theoretical construct for the factors affecting the growth of distance learning. This exploratory study provides an empirical baseline for some but not all of the array of factors relevant to a more exhausti ve understanding of distance learning. First, what is the scope of distance learni ng in political science curricula? The answers to several more specific questions of the s cope of distance learning are addressed in our results. How frequently are distan ce learning classes offered? What percentage of credit hours are attributable to dist ance learning classes? What is the level at which distance learning is used? What are the pe rceptions of department chairs (thus indirectly of departments) on the importance and/or faddishness of distance learning? Second, we address the types of technologie s that have been implemented to deliver distance learning classes in political science. Are generational differences among faculty cohorts a major consideration in what methods have been and are being adopted? Do the faculty members participating in distance learning courses make full use of newly available Internet-based technologies? How many rel evant distance learning technologies are used on average by actively engage d instructional faculty? What does the future hold in store for faculty abilities to a djust to rapidly evolving new technologies? Third, what is the profile of political sci ence faculty knowledge about, their interest in, and the incentives for providing distance learn ing? How much do faculty understand
5 of 23the new technologies, what interest do they have in learning more about it, and how much support is available for the opportunity to ex periment with the new technologies? What are the characteristics of the faculty members who are engaged in distance learning? What is the nature of faculty perceptions about the quality of distance learning? What is the appropriateness of distance l earning to the political science arena? How do such methods compare to traditional methods? Finally, in the estimation of faculty, what is the overall effect of distance lea rning likely to be on students, departments, universities, and ultimately, themselv es? After reporting and interpreting the findin gs, this article suggests critical areas for future research in this dynamic environment.Major Factors Affecting the Growth of Distance Lear ning The size and scope of distance learning is affected by three major domains (for an excellent overview of these and other issues in the higher education context, see Boaz et al., 1999). First, it is affected by the capacity of the distance learning technologies If the capacity is relatively weak, the size and scope wil l be more limited. The sheer number of distance learning options is important. A greater n umber of options means that distance learning provides a greater array of opportunities and also allows for a greater degree of synergy among those options. For example, Web-based classes normally are enhanced significantly by using email for individual student instructor conferences and regular mail for textbooks and proprietary materials that c annot be scanned and sent electronically. Another important factor is the tec hnical capacity of each of the options. Clearly the rapid expansion of Internet-related tec hnologies will have a considerable effect on the long-term growth capacity of distance learning. A related factor is the cost of different technologies. Falling or increasing co sts dramatically affect the willingness of individuals and institutions to experiment with and to institutionalize distance learning options. A second important domain is market demand How eager are students for distance learning options? Which students, and how many stud ents, are interested in distance learning exclusively, and which students are intere sted in distance learning for selective purposes? Another important aspect is the competiti on among the universities themselves. If universities fail to provide many op tions, and those options are limited in scope and quality, then distance learning will rema in a small part of the market. However, even if only a few universities provide st rong national and regional options, they can stimulate great competition because of the ir ability to penetrate distant markets at little or no additional cost. A third domain is the level of faculty/department/university interest (Brigham, 1992). The level of technical support will affect t he scope of distance learning. So, too, will the incentives used to encourage departments a nd individual faculty members. An indication of the attitudinal barriers and institut ional constraints confronting successful implementation of distance learning is provided by the results of a 1998 survey of professors by the American Association for History and Computing (on-line, 1998, Trinkle, 1999). The evaluation by 65% of the respon dents was that their institution's technology policies were misguided or insufficient. Of course, the knowledge of faculty about distance learning options also is critical. W e believe that the generational age of faculty members also will have an effect, since old er faculty members typically are less apt to adopt new technologies and to change their t eaching styles radically, as distance learning often requires. Finally, the perceptions o f faculty members (and their institutional units) about the quality of distance learning are crucial as well. For
6 of 23 example, if large or important groups of faculty fe el that distance learning is fundamentally inferior and if they thereby largely ignore such options altogether, then distance learning is likely to have a slow, tough p ath even if technical capacity (such as bandwidth) grows dramatically. See Figure 1 for a g raphic representation of these relations.Figure 1: Factors Determining the Size and Scope of Distance LearningCapacity of Distance Learning Technologies Number of options Technical capacity of options Cost XMarket Demand Competition among traditional universities Competition among for-profit and non-traditional schools Eagerness of students XFaculty-Univ. Interest in Distance Learning Technicalsupport for distance learning Financial support Knowledge of faculty about distance learning Age offaculty Perceptions of quality of distance learning =Size & Scope of Distance Learning Number of courses usingdistance learning Percentage of credit hours Number offaculty using distance learning techniques Research Methods and Results The Survey Instrument In the fall of 1998 a national survey instr ument with 21 questions was designed and field-tested to explore the extent and perceptions of distance learning in political science departments in colleges and universities throughout the United States. Following appropriate adjustments, the survey was mailed to 8 12 political science departments representing both undergraduate and graduate educat ion programs in the United States. A total of 296 useable questionnaires were returned for an overall response rate of 36%; the functional response rate for certain questions was less because of their nonapplicability to portions of the respondents. Th e questionnaires were sent to chairs of departments since it was felt that they would have the best overview from which to answer the questions posed. We speculate that respo nders would be slightly more active in distance learning on average than nonresponders. Thus, it seems likely that to the degree that there is any respondent distortion in o ur findings, it would exaggerate the results, leading us to report in this study that th ere was slightly more activity in distance learning than there is in fact. Respondent Characteristics Although only three-quarters of the respond ents completed the requested
7 of 23 demographic data, the characteristics of the respon dents seem to reflect the breadth of the field of political science, with the bulk of th e respondents coming from institutions with enrollments under 10,000 and from departments having 10 or fewer faculty members. See Table 1 for a breakdown of respondents by size of student body and political science faculty.Table 1 Characteristics of Universities and Colleges Survey edUniversity Department Student Body Size % Faculty Size% Under 5,00044.92-643.35,000-10,00020.77-1020.710,000-15,00012.911-1514.215,000-20,00010.716-2516.9Over 20,00010.7over 254.7Findings Size and Scope of Distance Learning Perhaps the single most important set of da ta was captured in Table 2, which summarizes responses to the question: "Does your de partment use distance learning technology for any of its courses?" Note that the b road wording allowed some respondents to include classes that were primarily face-to-face but that use supporting distance learning technologies. (Note 1) Nonetheles s, a substantial 57.5% of the responding departments do not use distance learning technology for any of their courses. (Note 2) One-third reported using some distance lea rning in one to three classes. Approximately 10% reported the use of distance lear ning in 4 or more classes.Table 2 Use of Distance Learning in Political ScienceDegree of Usage% None57.5 1-3 classes32.0 4-8 classes 7.1 More than 10 classes 3.4 A related way of examining the scope of dis tance learning is to assess it as a proportion of the department's full credit-hour usa ge. When responding to the question "Approximately what percentage of your students' cr edit hours are distance learning this semester?" fewer than 5% of the reporting departmen ts indicated that 10% or more of the department's total credit hours were generated by distance learning. Only 22.1% of departments reported the level of distance learning usage at 1% or more of student credit
8 of 23 hours. See Figure 2 for the breakdown of distance l earning usage by credit hours. Clearly the number of institutions that are completely unin volved is very high among respondents, and it is likely that the nonrespondin g members of the surveyed population have an even lower proportion of distance learning utilization. Further, of those institutions that do utilize distance learning tech nologies, the number that make extensive use of them is very small. Although the usage of distance learning may be relatively limited, in what part of the political science curriculum is that use most c ommon in undergraduate, graduate, or training courses? Respondents could choose multi ple answers; thus the sum of percentages across all response categories may be g reater than 100%. In the programs reporting the use of distance learning technology t he bulk of such utilization is concentrated in undergraduate classes. At this leve l, utilization is split fairly evenly between lowerand upper-division undergraduate cou rses (in 58.4% and 66.4% of responding departments, respectively). Departments engaged in distance learning identified graduate classes 32.8% of time, and trai ning programs were selected by only 6.4% of the responding departments. Several questions surveyed the degree to wh ich the department chairs thought that distance learning was an important component of the ir department's curricular offerings. These findings reflect not only the relatively low utilization rates, but also perceptions about a low level of importance attributed to dista nce learning at this time. Three-quarters of the respondents strongly disagreed that distance learning was a major component of their curricula, and only 8.8% moderat ely or strong agreed that it was. See Table 3 for results.(Note 3)Table 3 Perceptions About Distance Learning as a Major Curr iculum ComponentDegree of Agreement Responses to "Major Componentin Curriculum" %
9 of 23 Strongly Disagree174.4 213.3 3 3.5 4 2.8Strongly Agree5 6.0 All of the questions thus far have evaluate d the current scope and perceptions about the importance of distance learning in departments of political science. What about future use and importance? When asked if "distance learning will be used to some extent in every course in our department," the respondents were still relatively pessimistic. This statement was softened by the terminology "to some extent," which includes the Web-based technologies that are likely to become su bstantially more pervasive, but also was made more stringent by the term "every." The de partment chairs' perceptions of future growth of the use of distance learning were surprisingly modest. The proportion strongly disagreeing with the statement of future u se of distance learning was 62.7%, while only 13.7% agreed strongly or moderately. Tab le 4 reports these findings.Table 4 Future Extent of Distance Learning in Political Science CoursesDegree of Agreement Responses to"Future Extent" % Strongly Disagree162.7 215.1 3 8.5 4 4.9Strongly Agree5 8.8 Respondents also were asked if they thought "distance learning is largely a fad." This question was meant to elicit information about the future of distance learning again, only using different language. The responses, howev er, did not mirror the results for the preceding question. Only 21% of responding departme nts strongly or moderately agreed that distance learning was largely a fad. On the ot her hand, 44.3% strongly or moderately disagreed with the statement. In other words, altho ugh political science department chairs reported relatively low use of distance lear ning currently and were not much more optimistic about increased usage in their own depar tments in the future, they did not feel, as a group, that distance learning was transi tory in the field. This would seem to indicate a perception (or perhaps resignation) that some departments or entities in the field would become major providers, but that most d epartments would be modest users of distance learning. See Table 5 for a summary of the results.Table 5
10 of 23 Perceptions of Distance Learning FaddishnessDegree of Agreement Responses to"Largely a Fad" % Strongly Disagree120.0 224.3 334.6 414.6Strongly Agree5 6.4 Type of Distance Learning Technologies Used Another important question had to do with t he type of distance learning technology that actually was used by political science faculty members. Ten choices were provided in a menu, with an eleventh option of "other." Resp ondents were asked to circle all technologies that applied in their respective depar tments. The percentages reported here are for distance learning users only; however, it m ust be remembered that distance learning users represent only 42.2% of the total po pulation of respondents for this question. By far the most popular methods were Inte rnet/World Wide Web delivery (58.4%) and email interaction with remote student s (54.4%). Other common methods employed were: multiperson computer interactions (3 2.8%); fiber optic, fullmotion video, and two-way audio (32.0%); physically having the instructor at an off-campus venue (29.6%); correspondence by mail (25.6%); and telephone conferences (22.4%). Less common were public television class delivery, satellite delivery, and other methods listed on the questionnaire or filled in voluntaril y by the respondents. User respondents indicated the use of three distance learning techno logies on average. See Table 6 for a comparison of the usage rates of the different meth ods. It is interesting to note that the most commonly used methods also are the newest; tha t is, they are all Internetrelated technologies.Table 6 Types of Distance Learning Technologies Used (Multiple Responses Allowed)Type of Distance Learning Technology % of Distance Learning Users Internet/World Wide Web delivery58.4E-mail interactions with remote students54.4Multiperson computer interactions (E.g., chat rooms, simulations, etc.)32.8 Fiber optic full motion video and two-way audio 32.0
11 of 23 By physically having instructor at off-campus venue 29.6 Correspondence by mail25.6Telephone conference22.4Public Television class delivery15.2Satellite up/downlink12.0Satellite downlink only 6.4Other 11.2 Faculty-Department-University Interest in Distance Learning If faculty members are not knowledgeable ab out distance learning alternatives, they will not be able to use them. Respondents were aske d, "How much knowledge about distance learning does the average member of your f aculty have?" Seventy-five percent of the respondents said that the average faculty me mber has no or very little knowledge of distance learning on a 5-point Likert scale. Onl y 5% were quite knowledgeable. Another 20% were moderately knowledgeable about som e aspects of distance learning. See Figure 3 for the results. When asked about the level of interest in u sing distance learning techniques in the future, the response rates were similar to the ques tion about levels of knowledge and the overall mean was identical. The specific question w as, "How much interest in using distance learning techniques in the near future doe s the average faculty member in your department have?" A surprisingly large majority (68 .1%) reported a definite lack of interest (a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale) among facult y and active interest (a 1 or 2) was expressed by only 12.0%. Only when a longer time frame is assumed ar e the respondents inclined to think that usage rates will increase substantially. In re sponding to the statement, "distance learning is a growing interest in our department," only 22.0% are inclined to agree either
12 of 23 strongly or moderately. See Table 7 for a summary o f the results from this question. An even more dramatic indication of the long-term pres sure is the comparison of those who strongly agree that there will be a short-term upsw ing in interest with those who think there will be a long-term increase. While only 2.1% see a strong surge in short-term interest, 8.4% see a long-term interest. This fourfold increase may be due partially to familiarity, but it also likely is due to the integ ration of younger faculty members who are significantly more apt to be familiar and comfo rtable with distance learning. It also may be due to perceptions of technology improvement s, access, and cost reductions.Table 7 Growing Interest (longer term)Degree of Agreement Responses to"Growing Interest" % Strongly Disagree128.2 226.8 323.0 413.6Strongly Agree5 8.4 Although the average current and near-term level of interest was perceived to be very low, another aspect of distance learning diffu sion is the presence of distance learning "pioneers" among the faculty. A pioneer is a person who is willing to take risks and try new and experimental technologies and to se ek improvements in their application. Pioneers often are important in the wi despread incorporation of distance learning technologies in an academic department bec ause they act as both champions for the concept and role models of successful applicati ons. The ability to identify a resident expert among the faculty is an indicator of a stron ger distance learning prospect in the future. One interest in conducting this study was t o establish a cohort of those who are perceived as pioneers or leaders in the area, for f uture study and support. When asked if there is "a person in your department who would be considered well informed or highly interested in distance learning?" and asked to iden tify that person, 47.1% responded affirmatively and provided a name. What types of encouragement and support do faculty get to change old habits and invest the time and energy in new delivery techniqu es, some of which are inherently more labor-intensive and more demanding than tradit ional instruction? When asked "Are faculty pursuing distance learning with any as sistance? (Circle all that apply)," 37.3% responded that they did not get any assistanc e whatsoever. Of those who did get assistance, 55.2% indicated some technical support, 23.3% indicated financial support, 28.7% indicated equipment support, and 5.4% indicat ed "other." These rates of response tend to indicate broad technical support from the d epartment; interestingly enough, the reported rates of support were significantly greate r than the reported rates of distance learning usage. However, when asked if the specific faculty members received "special incentives or compensation," 69.2% responded negati vely even though recognition was one of the affirmative options. Thus, the response rate for specific faculty incentives (30.8% of all respondents) is significantly less th an the reported rate of overall distance
13 of 23 learning usage (42.5%). Financial support for facul ty was the most common means of encouragement and support, reported by 21.3% of all respondents to the survey (and by 75% of those responding affirmatively to this quest ion). Of those who responded that special incentives or compensation were available t o faculty members (less than one-third of the total respondent pool), the source of support was identified as the university by 63.3% of respondents, while 33.3% ide ntified the college and 15.5% identified the department or other sources.The Perceived Quality of Distance Learning What are the perceptions among faculty chai rs regarding the quality potential of distance learning? Overall, those perceptions are n ot good. When asked to agree or disagree with the question, "distance learning is g enerally not an appropriate way of teaching political science," nearly three-quarters of all respondents agreed with the statement. Nearly half of those strongly agreed (a 4 or 5) and the other half were in general agreement (a 3). Only 7.9% strongly disagre ed with the proposition that distance learning was a generally inappropriate way to teach political science. See Table 8 for results.Table 8 Appropriateness of Distance Learning in Political ScienceDegree of Agreement Responses to"Distance LearningNot Appropriate" % Strongly Disagree116.1 221.1 337.6 417.2Strongly Agree5 7.9 Are faculty chairs more favorable when aske d about distance learning at its best? When asked to agree or disagree with the question, "distance learning can be as good or better than conventional teaching," only 20.6% agre ed strongly (a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale), and another 33.1% moderately agreed. Howeve r, 46.2% felt that distance learning was incapable of ever being as good as conventional teaching, even when distance learning was at its best See Table 9 for results. These two questions, tak en together, indicate widespread and profound reservations about distance learning as a quality medium for educational delivery in political scienc e. This finding goes a long way toward explaining the relatively small scope and ro le of, and the very modest interest in, distance learning.Table 9 Distance Learning as Good or Better Than Conventional Teaching
14 of 23 Degree of Agreement Responses to"As Good or Better" % Strongly Disagree118.1 228.1 333.1 414.6Strongly Agree5 6.0 A series of four questions in the survey in quired about the effects of distance learning on the quality of education regarding stud ents, faculty, department programs, and colleges or universities. The perceptions of fa culty chairs in three of these areas on the educational process for students, faculty, and departmental programs follow a similar pattern and have identical mean response le vels. Approximately 40% of responding department chairs are neutral about the effects of distance learning on the quality of education, indicating they believe that distance learning will neither improve education nor diminish it. Approximately an equal n umber feel that the educational process will be diminished. In these three cases, t hen, those who strongly feel it will diminish the educational process outnumber those wh o strongly feel it will enhance it by a 2-to-1 margin. The respondents are significantly more positive, on average, when the question relates to the educational effects on the college or university; however, those who strongly feel that the effects will be negative still outnumber those who strongly feel that the effects will be positive. See Table 1 0 for the responses to these four questions.Table 10 Positive Effects of Distance Learning on Various Co nstituenciesDegree ofAgreement ResponseOptions Positive Effecton Students Positive Effecton Faculty Positive Effecton Departments Positive Effecton UniversitiesStronglyDisagree110.2%10.2%12.6%10.5% 228.030.727.724.2 343.739.440.337.1 414.617.715.821.9StronglyAgree5 3.5 2.0 3.6 6.3Discussion It was proposed here that the size and scop e of distance learning are affected by three major factors. This relationship could be rep resented by the following formula:
15 of 23 Size and scope of distance learning = (capacity of distance learning technologies ) X (market demand) X (faculty/university interest in d istance learning). This study has examined intensively only th e dependent variable in this model the size and scope of distance learning and one of the three elements of successful distanc e learning. Department chairs are well situated to pr ovide information and opinions about the size and scope of distance learning, as well as the level of interest in distance learning among their faculties, departments, and un iversities. However, we did not investigate either the capacity of distance learnin g technologies or the nature of market demand because academic department chairs may not b e particularly well situated to provide more than impressionistic data in this area Nonetheless, the data supplied through this study provide an important baseline an d the means to design some hypotheses about those areas that have not been stu died directly. First, the size and scope of distance learn ing in political science are small from any perspective. For such low size and scope, according to our model, all the contributing factors must be relatively small. Furthermore, the size and scope of distance learning in political science are projected to stay small for s ome time. In our survey, the only item indicating that department chairs may see possible long-term growth in this area of the field is the question related to faddishness. That is, most chairs do not see distance learning as a fad, even though little or no shortterm growth may be projected. Certainly the level of interest in distance learning demonstrated by the chairs of political science departments was low overall. The average level of knowledge was quite low, the extent of near-term interest was very smal l, over half of the departments failed to have an identifiable pioneer, and specific suppo rt and financial incentives were not the norm. Also, faculty chairs as a group were very skeptical of the quality of distance learning, with significant blocks of them harshly c ritical of distance learning, even at its best. These data are important because they indicat e that if future growth is likely to occur in distance learning in the field of politica l science, it is unlikely to come from institutions and faculty as educators Institutional push from within is unlikely to be the chief promoter of distance learning. Technical capacity was not studied directly here. However, one question the type of distance learning technologies employed did provide indirect information. Numerous methods are already in use. It remains to be seen whether many of these methods are going to play a small role, as methods of distance learning have done in the past, or whether they are a beachhead and provide a launching point for substantial future expansion. The Internet does provide genuine ly new and affordable distance learning options, although the software and experti se are still limited across the higher education landscape. Because the Internet already h as reconfigured other enormous industries such as mail and telephone, and because it is beginning to make gigantic inroads in commerce itself (book sales were the exa mple used earlier in this article), it does seem that higher education is wise not to assu me that new technologies are merely a fad. Nonetheless, issues of quality and faculty i nertia must be overcome by continued growth in user-friendly technological improvements if significant increases in distance learning are to be seen in the short-term or medium -term. Neither was market demand examined directly in this article. However, some indirect evidence on that point is provided by the results of certain questions in the national survey of political science department cha irs. There were no suggestions in
16 of 23these data that distance learning competition is si gnificantly affecting political science departments at this point, and only 10 institutions (3.4% of the sample) indicated that they offered 10 or more distance learning classes. Although it would seem likely that market demand will increase, it is impossible to pr edict with any accuracy how quickly demand will increase and to what degree. The data p resented here suggest that most political science chairs are not gearing up for gre ater demand in the nearterm. Yet at a broader level some established institutions seem to be gearing up nationally with significant incentive and program enhancements, and the new virtual universities are still ramping up. Although it has been found that o ver 90% of all universities with enrollments over 10,000 and 85% with enrollments ov er 3,000 have some distance learning classes (McGlynn, 1999), individual depart ments are far less consistent and supportive. It is simply too soon to tell just what this will mean for higher education generally, and for political science specifically.Future Research Although it is customary for researchers to call for more study in their area of interest, that is more than a pro forma recommendat ion in this case, given the exploratory and incomplete nature of the research t o date on distance learning in political science. We believe that there are at lea st three critical areas to examine in more detail. First, it is important to provide a baselin e on two of the contributing factors. Of the elements of the model that we propose, which id entifies three elements that in combination lead to the growth of distance learning we were able to study in depth only the result (current size and scope) and one contrib uting factor (faculty/university interest) because of the nature of the audience sur veyed. Two elements (the capacity of distance learning technologies and market demand) a re not studied here directly. Such study requires an examination of the specific techn ical capacities of distance learning related to political science courses, perhaps throu gh case studies, and an examination of demand factors, perhaps by investigating the leadin g competitors, surveying various types of students, and scrutinizing related discipl ines. Second, one aspect of the faculty/universit y interest factor that desperately needs further exploration is the highly negative percepti on about the quality of distance learning. Are there any relevant examples of high-q uality distance learning in each of the different distance learning domains (two-way intera ctive video, Web-based, correspondence, etc.)? If so, what are the factors that lead to the high level of quality? What structural problems need to be overcome or min imized? What are the structural opportunities on which to capitalize? What are the common problems encountered in implementing distance learning, and how can communi cation be encouraged to share knowledge about what would be necessary to overcome them? Clearly, political science chairs, as a group, perceive that there are problem s with distance learning. The most immediate utilitarian question is: What can be done to minimize the legitimate concerns about distance learning? Following from the answer to that question is the other essential query: What can be done to change the per ceptions about distance learning that construct barriers to its successful implementation ? These questions need to be addressed with the goal of achieving practical prog rammatic assessment, perhaps along the lines suggested by Banta, Lund, Black, and Obla nder (1996) and the American Association for Higher Education (1992). Third, it is important to track the baselin e data longitudinally. We intend to repeat this survey after two years to see what changes hav e occurred with our targeted audience, political science department chairs.
17 of 23Conclusion In many respects, the results of th is survey provide sobering reminders of the difficulties and complications associated with the adoption and diffusion of new instructional technologies (see, e.g., Rogers, 1995 ). Political science faculty (and their departments), as with many academic disciplines, se em to lag rather far behind in the adoption of innovative distance learning technologi es. Incentives for faculty members to participate in distance learning are at best sporad ic and uncertain. Levels of interest and participation in distance learning cannot be expect ed to increase appreciably until there are clear and sustained benefits for faculty member s to take part in what often is a major drain on their time and intellectual energy. Public ation requirements for promotion, tenure, merit increases, and honorific recognition may not coincide with outlets available for publishing the results of scholarly studies on distance learning. Also, the time and energy commitment required to get innovative distan ce learning courses off the ground may detract greatly from what it takes to be a full y functional academic professional in a discipline like political science. It would be of g reat interest to know if other disciplines evidence similar characteristics of career opportun ity structures. Addressing the perceived quality of distanc e learning courses is essential in any effort to get faculty members to commit themselves to the evolving instructional possibilities associated with instruction at a dist ance. It is imperative that distance learning not be seen as a poor stepchild within the broader departmental curriculum, nor that it be seen as providing watered-down versions of on-campus offerings. To achieve the objective of integrating distance learning with in departments of political science in particular and within any other academic department issues of course quality and curricular integrity cannot be ignored. As with any innovation (Rogers, 1995), several stages of progression toward widespread adoption of distance learning will be followed, with varying degrees of success. There is likely to be a high level of resistance in the academic context arising from a combination of indi vidual and institutional impediments that raise barriers to adoption. James J. Kaput of the Department of Mathema tics at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and Jeremy Roschelle at the University of California, Berkeley indicate in regard to implementing digital education initiatives that there exists in traditional education "Â… an entrenched layer-cak e, formalist-oriented curriculum that prevents most students from seriously engaging with important ideas. This curriculum is held in place by powerful interlocking forces and d eeply institutionalized habits that allow space for innovation and growth only at the m argins" (Kaput & Roshelle, on-line). A powerful demonstration effect may be achi eved by disseminating exemplary case studies of how to do distance learning right and by evaluating how best to link distance learning with the more successful aspects of higher education curricular innovations such as learning communities. Overall, an emphasis on holistic approaches to higher education, rather than on the development of specif ic course-based competencies, would seem to be a necessary prerequisite for enhancing p erceptions of the quality of distance learning (Leip, 1999). How to achieve that holism i s not obvious, but a reasonable starting point might be to establish specific recog nition (for example, faculty teaching excellence awards) of outstanding performance in di stance learning and thereby provide institutionallysupported targets toward which all can aspire. More general reward structures that enhance the opportunities for promo tion, tenure, and advancement certainly need to take into account the special req uirements imposed by a commitment to distance learning. Failing that, it is difficult to see how disciplines such as political science can be expected to join other fields of stu dy in expanding and maintaining a
18 of 23commitment to distance learning. The proposed guide lines for Information Technology in Political Science drafted by an ad hoc committee of the Computers and Multimedia section of APSA is a good start in this direction. (On the Web at http://www.public.iastate.edu/~sws/ ). Ferdi Serim has put the dilemma we face nic ely, The symbiosis between education reform and the inte gration of technology into learning is profound: technology requires the rich learning environments envisioned by reformers; reform demand s the power of technology to put people at the center of their own learning. Systemic adoption of reform will take a critical mass of edu cators, who must await the realization of the promises of technology to tr anscend isolation and join in collaborative professional growth. We who are concerned about the future and d irection of education face a scalability problem: reform requires these educators to rise to the level of performance typically encountered in master teachers. This realization ca n invoke a sensation of paralysis. The resulting inertia mirrors the way that fear of tech nology prevents many of our peers from having the experiences which would enable them to e mbrace, then direct, the potentials that technology-savvy educators rhapsodize about." (Serim) In the end, we agree with Dennis Trinkle (1 999, p. A60) that "the reality of distance learning is complex, and we must give it the measur ed consideration it demands." With Trinkle, we believe that distance education is a me ans to an end; hence the end must be measured by student learning outcomes and by instit utional and programmatic academic integrity.Notes(c) 2000, Schmidt, et. al.The authors wish to thank the Iowa State University College of Liberal Art and Sciences and SAS Consulting (http://www. doctorpolitics.com) for generous support in conducting this survey. Narrower wording might have stated: "Does your depa rtment have classes that are primarily distance learning based?" 1. Reported response percentages for individual questi ons are based on those responding; nonresponses for individual questions a re excluded. 2. An alternate question asked for the same type of in formation but used the opposite perspective: "Distance learning is a marginal part of teaching in our department." The results were nearly identical and therefore are not reported here. 3.ReferencesAmerican Association for Higher Education. (1992). Principles of good practice for assuring student learning Washington, D.C.: American association for higher education.American Association for History and Computing. (19 98). Found at http://mcel.pacificu.edu/JAHC/JAHCII1/ARTICL ESII1/ Trinkle/trinkleindex.html
19 of 23Banta, T. W., Lund, J. p., Black, K. E. & Oblander, F. W. (1996). Assessment in practice: Putting principles to work on college cam puses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Blumenstyk, G. (1999), Distance learning at the Ope n University: The British institution's success has inspired imitators in the United States. The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, pp. A35ff (Information Technology section ). Boaz, M. et al. (1999), A handbook for instructors Mission Viejo, CA: League for Innovation in the Community College. Brigham, D.E. (1992). Factors affecting the develop ment of distance education courses Distance Education An International Journal, Volume 13, Number 2, on line at: http://www.usq.edu.au/dec/DECJourn/v13n292/b righam .htm Carr, S. 1999. Independent bookstores plot counteroffensive against chains, on-line sellers. The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 29 (online daily news, Headlines news section).Clark, T. (1993). Attitudes of higher education fac ulty toward distance education: A national survey. The American Journal of Distance Education, 7 2, pp. 1933. Guernsey, L. (1999, September 2). Click here for th e ivory tower. The New York Times p. D1.Hardin, J. & Ziebarth, J. Digital technology and it s impact on education, [National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign] The future of networking technologies for learning. U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, found at: http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures/hardin. html Jaffee, D. (1997). Asynchronous learning: Technolog y and pedagogical strategy in a distance learning course. Teaching Sociology 25 (October), 262-277. Kaput, J. & Roshelle, J. Connecting the connectivit y and the component revolutions to deep curriculum reform. The Future of Networking Technologies for Learning U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Tec hnology, found at: http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures/kaput.h tml Kiernan, V. (1999). On-line bookstores use marketin g and scholarship donations to attract students. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, August 27 (online daily news, Information Technology section).McGlynn, A. (1999, July 15). Earn a degree, no comm ute. Des Moines Register pp. 1M, 4M.McIsaac, M. S. & Gunawardena, C. N. (1996). Dista nce education. In The handbook of research for educational communications and technol ogy edited by D. J. Jonassen. New York, N. Y.: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 403-437.Newcombe, T. (1999). Virtual universities: Revoluti onizing education or just digital
20 of 23diploma mills? Government Technology, 12 10, 20ff. Noble, D. Digital diploma mills. Found at: communic ation.ucsd.edu/dl/ddm1.html. Olsen, F. (1999a). Virtual institutions challenge a ccreditors to devise new ways of measuring quality: As technology makes inroads in h igher education, critics warn of approving 'experiments.' The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 6, pp. A48ff (Information Technology section).Olsen, F. (1999b). On-line bookseller signs deals t o handle textbook orders for 2 college stores. The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, p. A38.(Information Technology section).Rahm, D., Reed, J. J., & Rydl, T. L. (1999). Intern etmediated learning in public affairs programs: Issues and implications. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 5 (3), 213-223. Rogers, E. (1995). Diffusion of innovations (4 th ed.). New York, N.Y.: The Free Press. Schmidt, S. (1999). Distance education 2010: A virt ual space odyssey, a paper prepared for the conference Teaching with technology: rethinking traditions Serim, F. Building virtual communities for professional devel opment in The future of networking technologies for learning U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology, found at: http://www.ed.gov/Technology/Futures/serim.h tml Trinkle, A. (1999, August 6). Distance education: a means to an end, no more, no less. The Chronicle of Higher Education p. A60. Young, J. R. (1999). Kentucky's virtual university aims to help students and institutions The Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, August 13 (online daily news, Information Technology section).About the Authors Steffen W. Schmidt University Professor of Political ScienceIowa State University Email: email@example.com Steffen W. Schmidt is co-author of American Government and Politics Today ; 2000-2001 (Wadsworth), Issues in Iowa Politics (Iowa State University Press) with Lee Ann Osbun, Friends, Followers, and Factions (University. of California Berkeley Press) and numerous scholarly articles. He has writ ten extensively on information technology (IT) and chaired an ad hoc committee of the APSA Computers and Multimedia Section that recently recommended a poli cy statement on IT to the APSA. He is the Political Science Editor ofStudentAdvantage.com.( http://www.studentadvantage.com ) Mack C. Shelley
21 of 23 Professor of Political Science and StatisticsCoordinator of Research in the Research Institute f or Studies in Education at Iowa State University.Professor Shelley's publications include American Public Policy: The Contemporary Agenda (Houghton Mifflin) with Steven G. Koven and Bert E Swanson, and the forthcoming Redefining Family Policy: Implications for the 21st Century (Iowa State University Press) with Joyce M. Mercier and Steven Garasky. He is co-editor of the Policy Studies Journal He also is a co-author of American Government and Politics Today, 2000-2001 (Wadsworth) Monty Van Wart Director of the Center for Public Service Texas Tech University.Dr. Van Wart's most recent book is Changing Public Sector Values (Garland Press). His research on education includes Training and Development in the Public Sector (Jossey-Bass). He teaches distance education classe s every semester. Jane Clayton Materials Sciences and Engineering Iowa State University.Jane Clayton is conducting ground breaking work in the area of assessment of learning in Engineering. She was Project Team Coordinator fo r Analysis of the survey data for this study. She is the co-editor with Steffen Schmi dt and Mack Shelley of the book Readings in American Government Third Edition, 2000, Wadsworth Publishing. Erin Schreck The Eaton Company Cleveland, Ohio. A graduate in Public Administratio n from Iowa State University, Erin Schreck conducted the pre-tests of the questionnair e used in this study and was the coordinator of data entry and coding.Copyright 2000 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-0211. (602-965-9644). The Commentary Editor is Casey D. C obb: email@example.com .EPAA Editorial Board
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