by Steven Crow // Virtual University
When educators and media commentators talk about online education, debate often heats up over how to evaluate the new Virtual Universities cropping up all over the World Wide Web. Steven Crow knows exactly what's at stake in these debates: as executive director of the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, he coordinates decisions about what should be taught where, and how.
by Frederick W. Nickols // Commentary
The online MBA program at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, doesn't have much in common with its traditional peers?except, perhaps, the corporate affiliations of its students. Heriot-Watt is fully accredited in its region, and mega-corporations like AT&T, Disney, and DuPont endorse its MBA program by offering reimbursements to their employees for taking its courses. Yet Heriot-Watt requires no undergraduate degree or GMAT exam for admission to its online courses, and no exams or thesis for completion of the MBA degree. Fred Nickols offers some commentary on this revolutionary program.
by James Shimabukuro // Case Studies
If you've ever wanted to attend an exciting-looking conference but just couldn't get away to attend it, you'll appreciate hearing about Jim Shimabukuro's online events. Shimabukuro tells about the Teaching in the Community Colleges (TCC) Online Conferences he has organized for the past five years with colleague Bert Kimura. In this issue's first Case Study, Shimabukuro and Kimura have used e-mail, live chat, and other technological tools to create online events with all the usual conference features?from keynote addresses and research presentations to Web tours of Hawaii and even a virtual cafe. They expect the 2000 event, like its predecessors, to provide the excitement of a face-to-face conference with the convenience of an online one.
by Deborah O'Bannon, Jill Scott, Margaret Gunderson, and James S. Noble // Case Studies
The asynchronous learning network courses at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) combine academic study with practical training. When students enroll in these online courses, part of their work consists of connecting with laboratories and local facilities to perform experiments and gain hands-on experience in their local areas. To make these field explorations enriching, MU educators have integrated video materials, lab kits, field trips, local resources, and the World Wide Web into their curricula. Deborah O'Bannon, Jill Scott, Margaret Gunderson, and James Noble report on the challenges and rewards of this process in our second Case Study.
by Gary Brown // Critical Reading
After a critical reading of some recent articles in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gary Brown verbalizes a chilling thought: "In spite of boasts and hopes from many quarters, the window of opportunity for significant instructional change made possible by new technologies appears to be closing." Brown differentiates between simply incorporating technology and successfully using it to transform student thinking. As his critique suggests, educators need to remain committed to developing content and pedagogy as they employ technology, or education may be supplanted by entertainment.
by Mary Harrsch // Faculty and Staff Development
Mary Harrsch may have some answers to the questions raised by Gary Brown. At the University of Oregon, a popular Faculty and Staff Development program trains faculty to use technology to address classic pedagogical issues, such as ensuring that students come to class prepared, generating in-class discussion, and getting shy students to participate. Faculty choose from a week-long summer course option, a lunch-hour option, and even a personal "housecall" option, all designed to show how technology helps to solve existing problems, not create new ones.
by Stephen Downes // Spotlight Site
Spotlight Site section editor Stephen Downes directs us toward The Masie Center Web page, where founder Elliott Masie shares his view of technology trends in the business and academic worlds. The Masie Center site features a description of a new publication as well as past issues of Masie's weekly e-mail newsletter Techlearn Trends, which includes the annual December predictions Downes calls "a must-read for the technology enthusiast." With abundant materials on a broad range of topics, the Masie Center site appeals to professionals involved in many different aspects of integrating technology.