WHY TRAIN TEACHERS TO TEACH ONLINE?
Lois S. Levine-Elman
From hallowed halls to firewalls, online technology as a mode of course delivery is part of a profound revolution taking place in higher education (Kennedy, 1955). The paradigm shift is away from decentralization and the individualization of the teacher to a focus on the needs of the student. Currently higher education institutions exist to provide instruction. In the new mode of operation, colleges and universities will exist to produce learning (Barr & Tagg, 1995).
"This most basic and fundamental unit of academic life--the sanctity of the classroom and the authority of the teacher within it--is about to be turned inside out." (Plater, 1995) Like all revolutions, it is painful to those used to the old ways. Some are said to view the present situation as follows: "Our colleges are in the grip of a professoriate determined to maintain its domain and dominance, unwilling to consider seriously any changes that departs [sic] from those styles of teaching and learning common in the Middle Ages: the professor as actor before students as auditors and audience." (Eskow, 1997a)
According to statistics gathered in 1996 by The American Council of Education, more institutions are considering quality of teaching as a criterion for tenure, in addition to research (Campus Trends, 1996). In the past "good teaching" has been evaluated in terms of performance criteria, not student learning. Many institutions construe teaching almost entirely in terms of lecturing. Students are characterized as passive vessels waiting to be filled. They receive chunks of information that form mental layers that become constructed into concepts.
In addition to developments in technology, economic and demographic factors are driving this change. Considering the fact that one-third of all undergraduate students are at least 25 years of age, higher educational institutions have to find ways to meet the educational expectations of this population in order to remain financially viable (Plater, 1995). In today's universities and colleges, student bodies are academically diverse. More than three-quarters of America's colleges offer remedial courses, and 29 per cent of first-time freshmen take them. Since the 1993-1994 academic year, there does not appear to be a substantial change in remedial education offerings or enrollments (Study, 1996). The "equality" belief--that everyone should be capable of learning through the "same" modality and at the "same" rate--is a notion of the past. In the chaff-wheat model of educational selection, students who have difficulty keeping up are seen as casualties of lack of ability or effort, rather than the product of ossified instructional techniques. This model is falling by the wayside. There is an increasing need for innovative techniques to meet the needs of this increasing diverse student population.
An instructor is typically evaluated on the basis of lecture organization, appropriate material, interest and understanding of subject matter (Barr & Tagg, 1995). In a survey of 33,986 undergraduate faculty members in 384 colleges, male professors favored a lecture mode in the classroom, indicating a possible gender difference in teaching styles. Although small-group activities were labor-intensive, female faculty used student-centered teaching methodologies more often than their male counterparts (Survey, 1996).
In looking at undergraduate education in America, professors Pascarella and Terenzini (1994) identified the assumption that "a good researcher is a good teacher" as a commonly held myth. This popular belief has impeded discussions focused on creating standards of teaching which support productive learning, controlled and operated on by the learner. In this methodology, the teacher designs the learning experiences to provide active participation in holistic, complex, meaningful environments that are organized around long- term goals (Barr & Tagg, 1995). It embraces what psychologist Howard Gardner calls "education for understanding." Having a sufficient grasp of concepts, principles or skills enables the individual to develop mastery of functional, knowledge-based intellectual frameworks rather than the short-term retention of fractionated contextual cues.
"Future shock is the dizzying disorientation brought on by the premature arrival of the future." (Toffler, 1970) Not only are college educators being asked to put more emphasis on student learning, they are also being pressured to use online technology as a mode of class delivery and to augment their classroom interaction. Such change is so threatening that many people, even though they are intellectually knowledgeable, deny its existence. Excluding the "ostrich technique" as a method of action, other educators are becoming concerned that they will be called on to teach online, which is outside of their range of experience. Even as recently as January of this year, the following statement appeared as a sidebar in the Chronicle of Higher Education: "While many social-science professors have embraced technology in the classroom, teaching courses over the Internet remains largely the domain of computer scientists and other technologically savvy professors." (Online page sidebar, 1997)
The prospect of teaching courses online is generating anxiety among educators for many reasons. They are being overwhelmed by the rapid release of new versions of software and hardware products. Till recently, the department secretary handled all typing tasks; some educators can't touch-type and barely know how to use a word processor. Some people are technophobic and feel intimidated around machines. Given the continual monetary outlay and learning-curve time it takes to master software and hardware products, professors question if there will be any increased compensation for the upkeep of hardware and the "real estate" space taken up by course-related data on the hard drives of their own computers. Some professors are uncomfortable with the fact that their lectures and materials may be published, in course form _ad infinitum_, by the college or university via the Web, without any compensation or royalties. In plain and simple terms, educators are afraid of loosing their jobs and being replaced by an electronic duplicate of themselves, executed by a graduate assistant or low-paid adjunct (Kaplan, 1997).
This feeling may not be so foolhardy, considering an article that appeared in a recent edition of the Educational Record. Titled "The Academy with Heart & Soul: Let Dignity Be the Watchword in Handling Faculty Reductions," it urges that university personnel who are "downsized" need to be treated with respect so they can heal. The article states, "They may feel a primitive instinct for revenge, unless they come to an understanding that what happened was, for the most part, not done to them, but for those responsible (sic)." (Young, 1996) Pretty words don't make up for the hard fact those academic positions offering full pay and commitments beyond a year are hard to come by. The loss of work means a shift in identity, which can be emotionally painful.
Educators who frequently use the Web know that glitches abound, and anything can go wrong at any time. These experiences do not generate a sense of confidence. Instead these events instill a feeling of unpredictability, that circumstances will occur which are beyond the user's control. "Roy's List of a Dozen Things That Can Go Wrong in a World Wide Web Course or Even Worse" (McGreal, 1996) gives credence to this pervasive anticipation of discomfort. Number 9 describes the following nightmarish experience: "No students have the slightest notion of the Web and what it does. Or: All students have more experience with the Web than the teacher. OR even worse: Half the students are in the former and half the latter group." (McGreal, 1996)
Many individuals who are not technologically knowledgeable feel like Rip Van Winkle. He slept for twenty years and woke to face a world with vastly different challenges (Andrew & Goldman, 1997). In this digital economy, there are several new themes which affect society and consequently those individuals employed in higher education institutions (Tapscott, 1996). Learning is becoming a life-long challenge as work and the constant acquisition of new information become part of everyday adult life.
With tenured professors, teachers who feel threatened by technology, less competition and teaching traditions dating back centuries, many educational institutions have become mired in the past (Tapscott, 1996). In contrast to volatile business environments, the tradition of the university is not in accordance with rapid change. Yet today the ivory tower is as much a business as the little grocery store down the street. In order to avoid putting a "For Sale" sign on the door, universities and colleges are being forced to compete in the "learning" marketplace.
The universal availability of the Web is overriding the once firm monopoly of higher education on the acquisition of knowledge and is creating knowledgeable consumers. Many private corporations are taking advantage of this opportunity to offer non-degree courses that focus on teaching specific, employment- related skills. According to the marketing manager for Hewlett- Packard's professional service organization, "If people aren't sufficiently trained to work with new technologies and products, the tendency is to reject them." (Information Week, 1997) Companies such as Microsoft and Sun Microsystems offer certifications in applications and programming languages. They are creating the new industry standards for employment in the computer field, which are independent of higher education professional degree accreditation.
With the inter-platform, multimedia features and broad- based availability of the Internet and especially the Web, universities and colleges perceive online programs as an opportunity to expand revenues by providing degree courses to a population of students not serviced through traditional classroom education. Reluctant teaching staffs are asking the questions: "How will the institution go about implementing such programs? What happens if I am asked to teach such a course?"
If a majority of campus faculty do not "buy into" this teaching methodology, chances are that it will not work. Recently, at the University of Maine, faculty protested the addition of a campus in which degrees would be solely granted through distance learning. This vociferous disagreement forced the resignation of the University's chancellor (Kaplan, 1997).
Higher educational institutions are engaging private for- profit companies such as the Electronic University Network to design and administer online degree programs. They even train staff. The Electronic University Network's web page states that they offer complete services including online marketing, registration, distribution of learning materials, and maintenance of the online campus. This statement is an example of their marketing pitch to higher education decision-makers. "We're particularly interested in colleges who see the issues of distance learning -- faculty dialog and voting that might have to go on, the doubtful administration and trustees that might have to be convinced, the matter of assuring that accreditation is respected and strengthened -- as challenges that can be met rather than insuperable obstacles. We can help gird them with the services -- library services, for example, and counseling -- and arguments that they will need for the gatekeepers and influentials of higher education. Join us!" (Eskow, 1997b)
Whether schools decide to implement online programs through corporate partnerships or through internal staff, offering training programs for faculty, staff and other educators will provide a forum to allay the anxiety resulting from the use of this new technology as a mode of course and information delivery.
The following is an overview of suggested topics to be incorporated into a training format for potential cyber-profs. It was written for an audience unfamiliar with this technology and was included in a university grant proposal to develop a training course on the subject of online education.
_Different Course Formats_: In the traditional classroom of physical space, the modalities of learning are predictable. The chairs and desks are bound to the floor by gravity. As long as the student doesn't have stuffy ears, the professor's vocal lectures are perceived through the auditory modality of hearing. Through the modality of vision, the professor can notice a student who is bursting to add a comment. Online it is different. In order to design the course curriculum and present the information, the teacher has to know the format of the software and how it works.
Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) is the linking of independent computers into worldwide connected networks. Through CMC an Online Course can be delivered in a one-to-one or group-to-teacher format through asynchronous or real-time communication over the Internet or through a direct-dial, proprietary, software package. Like post mail, asynchronous messages can be read at any time. In contrast, real-time communication is similar to a phone call where two or more people have to be connected together at the same time. Internet Relay Chat (IRC) formats enables geographically dispersed people who do not necessarily know each other through in-person contact to communicate through the written word as a conversational medium (Rheingold, 1993).
Emulating a correspondence-course style, student and teacher can send assignments and completed work through E-Mail. In a group-to-teacher mode, the course can be interactive using a List or Newsgroup format. The students can relate to each other and the teacher by posting messages that are specifically directed to one person but read by all the members of the class. Both Lists and Newsgroups are asynchronous in structure; the List messages are sent to the student's E-mail address. Newsgroup style messages may be located at a particular URL (Universal Resource Locator) address on the Internet. If the software is designed to run over the Web and be read through a browser such as Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, messages have the potential to contain words that are associative links to other information on the Net. They may also display a variety of data such as graphics, sound and other media.
Computer software packages creating real-time conference structures similar to chat rooms, on popular commercial services, are available. At the time of this writing, video conferencing over the Internet is still in its infancy. The problem is lack of bandwidth. Video files are still too large to funnel down the narrow pipelines of ordinary phone lines.
_New Vocabulary_: Online communication and computer technologies are changing so rapidly that it is difficult to maintain state-of-the-art knowledge in the entire body of knowledge. Familiarity with technical terminology and a historical perspective offers the online educator a baseline on which to build an overall understanding of the technical aspects of the field. For example: At the time of this writing, someone involved in the delivery of online courses should be familiar with how the Internet relates to the terms "Intranet" and "Extranet" and with such diverse neologisms as MMX, Web TV, GIFs, and plug-ins. As a life-long, dynamic process, computer users are struggling to continually assimilate new information into an already formulated knowledge base.
_Understanding How The Software Works_: In order to design the delivery of course curriculum in an online environment, it is necessary that the teacher have a clear understanding of what the software can or cannot do. In an "on-the-ground" classroom, a teacher wouldn't think of using slides without assuring the availability of a slide projector. In the online classroom, taking stock of equipment means establishing its parameters, how it works and under what circumstances.
Just as termites can undermine the internal structure of a building, bugs in the software are renegades of code eating away at the structure of the program. An alteration in code can result from an error in the program or a problem in an individual's computer. If a building housing a university course crumbles, the course cannot take place. Likewise, a program containing a faulty piece of code can cause a computer to crash and prevent the student or faculty member from fully participating in the course. Prospective online instructors need to learn how to recognize these problems and suggest productive strategies to solve each dilemma.
Whether group interactive software works over the Internet or through a dial-up connection, there are certain features that these programs have in common. Although some messages have a subject statement or thread, not all group conferencing programs cluster related messages together. Most programs allow the user to read and write off-line. Some packages provide users with the ability to create their own sub-conferences that branch out from existing ones. In addition, some programs that run on the Web and are viewed through a browser, let users post, in addition to text, graphic images such as pictures. At this time, not all programs have these features.
Prospective online teachers need to be exposed to the variety of conferencing software packages used by different online teaching institutions. They should also be exposed to the platform variations of various pieces of software. Individuals, who have little or no experience on the World Wide Web, do not realize that web page features display differently depending on: the computer platform (Macintosh, Windows or Unix), the type and generation of browser (Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer 2.0 or 3.0), and the font settings.
"The dog ate my homework" is a common school joke that makes fun of student "excuses." One problem with using vast complex systems like the Internet or phone lines is that they get overloaded or break down. "I wasn't able to get my homework assignment posted because my modem kept getting a busy signal. I couldn't sign onto the system" may be a valid excuse. Educators need to have an understanding of how these systems work so that they can establish alternative solutions to very real technical problems.
_Sensory Limitations_: Throughout the history of schools, teachers in the higher education and K-12 system have taught students in real time, on-the-ground settings. When the instructor stands up in front of the room, students in the class give many behavioral cues. Without being aware, teachers read the silent speech of body language. Facial expressions communicate a host of reactions and voice tone becomes an added accessory to a conglomerate of emotional cues.
In written and verbal communication, individuals assume the role of speaker and receiver. The speaker or writer sends out words made up of sounds and letters organized, into a grammatical context. Together the words form concepts whose meaning may emerge only when the words are joined together by the listener or reader. The meaning of a sentence is always subject to interpretation by the listener or reader.
At the time of this writing, online courses are usually taught in a text mode, but may include some graphic displays. With words written in a text context, the online educator and students lack the ability to read the subtle reactions of each other and obtain immediate feedback. With this missing piece, there can be many misunderstandings and bruised feelings that interfere with learning the course material. Lacking non-verbal cues, teachers and students in the online environment, have to be hyper-aware of how their communications will be interpreted by others.
_Misunderstandings_: "Flaming" or E-mail messages, which accuse the author of another message as being insulting and abusive, are common on the Internet. Without visual, tactile or auditory contact, some people have difficulty perceiving that there is a live human being behind an E-mail message. In a cyber-classroom, where students never have sensory contact, it becomes easier to objectify others without any regard for their feelings. Prospective online educators need to learn how to set guidelines for communication and clearly state them in writing to students.
_Reading Text_: Since the written word is the dominant mode of interaction in an online course, teacher and student are required to do an immense amount of reading including text and reference materials. The online educator would benefit from having an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the comprehension of visual input of electronically-generated and paper-bound text.
In order to minimize the stress of constant reading, the online educator needs to be aware of how different message formats cause eyestrain and affect comprehension. For example: When writing a response to a previous message, it is common to cite that portion of the message connected to the response. Sometimes students cite the whole message and then respond by a statement such as "I agree" or "Me too." Meanwhile the reader has scanned the whole prior message only to find that the new message has no content. When the whole text of the previous message is cited, the reader has to guess how the former message relates to the new one. The reader's time is needlessly taken up with re-scanning previously read information.
The use of metaphor becomes important in turning descriptions from a string of words into mental pictures. New concepts are easier to build into long-term memory if they can be assimilated into familiar higher order mental functions. Since communication of subject matter is dependent on the understanding of written language, it is important that educators be aware of how different styles of written text can influence student learning in this medium.
_Hypertext_: Print on paper is made up of configurations of symbolic forms adhered permanently to a surface. The fixed nature of this medium has given meaning to events; creating a sequential narrative which adds the glue to experience. In printed books, letters and notes, the author controls the sequence of concepts being conveyed to the reader. Up until recently, readers were using linear construction and sequentially to "contextualize" experience. The medium of print allowed readers the expectation that the written information on a specific page would remain uniform each time they returned to that particular page (Gibson, 1996).
In contrast hypertext is a non-linear, electronic format in which the narrative structure contains links to associative blocks of text. It organizes information allowing the user to navigate through electronic texts stored on individual computers and networks. "Hypertext is unique to computers because it uses the technology to enable readers to pick and choose blocks of text by interacting with the machine." (Barnes, 1994) Vannevar Bush, who published an article in a 1945 issue of the _Atlantic Monthly_, proposed the original concept of hypertext. This format of associative, relational organization of information was conceived of to assist scientists deal with the increasing numbers of articles being published in their discipline. In order to assist with the expanding demands to assimilate increasing amounts of information, Bush conceived a device called a Memex or memory extender in which individuals could store all of their books, records, and communications. It was designed to be mechanized and could be accessed with speed and flexibility (Bush, 1945).
By interacting with this technology, users were able to pick and choose what they wanted to read. It is unique to computers and has no parallel application in the real world. Moreover, it is a way of organizing information and navigating through electronic texts stored on individual computer networks. The Memex provided three new ways in which the reader could interact with text; through associative indexing or links, through the trails made by successive use of links and through sets or webs made by the cluster of trails (Landow, 1992).
If courses are being taught in a Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) environment, cyber-profs need to be familiar with how this change in the basic organization of text impacts on cognition and the way in which information is assimilated and remembered. By enabling students to pick and choose topics, they are presented with multiple points of view. Readers are transformed into active explorers controlling the pace and subject matter of their own experience. No piece of hypertext ever sings solo; part of a cacophonous choir, it is joined with all of the other nodes of the network forcing the reader to make critical choices of what to access next (Fowler, 1994).
_Learning Styles_: As part of teaching online, the cyber- educator should be knowledgeable in how to use other equipment to assist students in using a variety of sensory modalities. For example: There are some individuals who learn more efficiently by listening to a lecture or discussion. Even though that kind of feedback is essentially missing online, it is possible to obtain voice-generated software that can equip the computer with spoken language so that it reads text and responds to voice commands. At first listening may be more time consuming than reading the text but with practice, it may be possible to increase the speed of the text depending on the program.
Some students can benefit from recording parts of the textbook and other readings onto a tape which they can play in the car or when washing the dishes. Other students find that having some tactile feedback, such as physically writing important information onto paper and then reading it out-loud, is still the best way for them to learn.
Through an understanding of the variation of learning styles, the cyber-instructor will be able to help students maximize their knowledge of the subject matter of the course.
_The Economy of Attention_: Most students have limited amounts of time in which to focus on schoolwork. With the increased amounts of printed and electronic text, they become overwhelmed and distracted. Part of facilitating a course in this new educational modality involves coming up with strategies to cope with fatigue as a result of information overload.
There are students who thrive on the fact that they don't have to cope with any other stimulus except the written word. They find going to school online is less distracting because they don't have to deal with those extraneous elements, such as the pressure of socializing, which takes them away from their schoolwork. Consequently they become more focused and productive.
_Building Community_: The anonymity of this mode of communication allows some people to become more open in expressing intimate details of their life and thoughts. As facilitators, online educators learn techniques that encourage students to bond into small cohesive communities and form relationships which last beyond the course. The idea of a Virtual Community becomes a shared mental picture that has its conceptual roots in real-time experience. In traditional communities, people usually have a strong sense of place and physical surroundings. In virtual communities, ties are fostered through interest in a subject or emotional support through written dialog (Rheingold, 1993).
_Team Interaction_: Building team interaction using asynchronous computer-mediated communication can be frustrating as well as productive. In understanding how to facilitate communication between students who have never met in-person, the teacher can use specific techniques, such as assigning ambiguous questions and asking group members to arrive at a solution on which they can all agree. The purpose being to foster dialog and negotiations between team members.
Sometimes individuals with the loudest voices or most intimidating manners dominate in-person meetings. In online groups, everyone has an equal ability to participate. In an asynchronous mode of communication, all the participants can post their messages at the same time without waiting their turn. "The exchange of electronic messages reduces conformity and convergence as compared with face-to-face group discussion. In contrast, if a decision requires consensus, an electronic group has to work harder to get to it than a comparable face-to-face group does." (Sproull & Kiesler, 1991)
Sometimes students are afraid to be the first one to post a message causing a "wait and see" stalemate. In these instances, it becomes necessary for the instructor to assist in getting a dialog started. Since it is becoming more common for groups of people to reach joint decisions in interactive environments not bound by space or time, as a student, learning how to facilitate the development of group projects as a "coordinated team effort" becomes a productive skill.
_New Literacy_: With the development of computer technology using icons (graphic pictures), multimedia (sound, video etc.) and hypertext, the meaning of literacy is undergoing a subtle change. With the integration of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs), pictures, designs and graphic formats are being integrated with text to communicate the context of the message. Images can be dynamic or static augmenting the text with added meaning. Forms, that segment pages like pieces of a sliced pie, display text and graphical images in varying relationships. In a study from the early 1990's, students who worked on a Mac with a GUI interface were more concerned with what their paper looked like than perfecting the prose. They tended to use short sentences with uncomplicated grammar. This was not true of their fellow DOS users. It seemed to researchers that the computer technology had a significant impact on the quality of writing (Barnes, 1996).
With the coming of Windows software and the Web, being able to evaluate graphical configurations as pieces of information linked to the written word is changing the old-fashioned assumption of literacy being only related to the reading of text. The use of "sound and visual bites" in music videos, TV advertisements as well as GUI interfaces has primed individuals for this new literacy. Cyber-profs can be at the forefront in maximizing the use of online technologies to facilitate the learning of important subject concepts. As the literature on online education unfolds, this course can become an important forum in discussing how to shape teaching techniques in accordance with technological advances and student needs; the goal being to maximize student learning.
_Epistolary structure_: Years ago, people communicated through letters which were written and sent to each other. They developed formal conventions such as a "salutation greeting" at the beginning of the letter, which was considered good etiquette. In order to communicate through the written word, the writer had to be able to put thoughts into words that were organized into acceptable grammatical syntax.
With the coming of electronic communication, these written conventions have been altered to fit the new medium. Some students who come into online programs have not been taught how to write, are not familiar with online etiquette, and are at a loss to clearly express themselves online.
Since text is currently the main mode of communication in online courses, cyber-teachers need to begin to learn how to assist students to become better writers and adjust their styles to fit the variety of interactive and responsive formats. For example: public E-mail such as messages written to a List are generally written like office memos. They are short, composed in a chatty style (in the first person), and use expressions familiar to the individuals who will read the message. These communications are executed in a different style than assignments or papers written in a more formal style (in the third person).
In online classes, students can come from the same geographic location or from different parts of the world making it Standard English the preferred mode of communication. Cyber- profs have to decide and clearly communicate to their students acceptable language parameters regarding slang and colloquial expressions.
_Policy for Responding to the Needs of Students With Learning Differences_: Online programs attract a variety of students some of whom have difficulty organizing or transposing their thoughts into the written word. Servicing these students raises many ethical, educational and administrative questions that should be discussed as the program is being designed. For example: Should all students be screened for reading and writing ability prior to signing up for any online coursework? If so what kind of assessment measures should be used and how would they be administered? As a cyber-prof, how do you treat a student who can't write.
Since schools need to provide reasonable accommodations to students with disabilities, online educators need to be aware of how this requirement will impact on how they treat students and carry out the policies of their educational institution.
_Writing a Syllabus_: Writing a syllabus for an online course is different than developing one for an on-the-ground class. In the online environment, everything the educator would say informally in the classroom has to be clearly stated in written text. For example: In on-the-ground courses the school sets policies for attendance. The professor can write the policy in a handout or discuss the requirements with the class. In an online course, the details of this policy would have to be clearly stated in the syllabus, which should be posted at the beginning of class.
The syllabus has to contain every requirement of the course ranging from those related to course reading to a description on how grades are calculated. This document will be used as a reference incase there is a disagreement with a student. Part of preparation to teach online is learning to write documents which cover all facets of the course so that there can be no misunderstanding between teacher and student.
_Building Curriculum_: Although a course taught in cyberspace is built in a text modality, the online educator assumes the role of a facilitator. Using text to develop lectures and pose questions, the tendency is to emulate a text book style. Converting on-the-ground class notes into written lectures is difficult because so much of what is communicated is spontaneous developing out of student questions and references to writing by other experts in the field. In the asynchronous mode of communication there is a delay between the time a question is posed and the student responds. This lack of immediate feedback takes some getting use to.
_Developing Outreach and Course Materials_: According to Vicky Phillips (1995), CEO of Lifelong Learning, an adult education and distance learner's resource center, there are five essential rules for designing distance degree outreach materials. These principles apply to the development of course materials as well. Since there are many individuals over twenty-five attending distance learning programs, it is important that course materials and assignments affirm the fact that learning is not age bound. Examples and practical approaches to problems hold more interest.
When designing course assignments, financial and time limitations need to be considered. Most students in online programs want to know how theoretical assignments and readings can be translated into fostering career goals in the real world. In the absence of personal contact, the time it takes the teacher to respond becomes a significant link in maintaining student interest. Therefore it is important in creating assignments, that the instructor realistically estimate the time it takes to grade papers, communicate in class and have personal interactions with students via E-mail. Since online programs attract students from diverse geographic and cultural backgrounds, their experience and preparation in subject areas will vary.
_Intellectual Property Issues_: In an on-the-ground class discussion, the teacher may talk about the works of noted colleagues and read some pages from their writings. In order to include these pages in an online lecture, the cyber-educator, in effect, has to publish parts of the works of other colleagues. Is this a violation of copyright law?
These and other issues are burgeoning questions brought about by changes in the interpretation of the Federal Copyright Law in response to the rapid development of online technology. In order to protect themselves, prospective cyber-educators need to have familiarity with the ongoing copyright questions and their current interpretations.
"All technological change is a Faustian bargain. For every advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage." (Postman, 1995) Through distance education, specifically online courses, colleges and universities are increasing their revenues and bringing educational opportunities to a population of potential students who otherwise would not be able to attend a degree program. Teachers in higher education settings have been traditionally the masters of their own classrooms. With the delivery of subject matter through online connections, there is a growing anxiety on how electronically mediated communication will impact on their work and academic lives.
It cannot be assumed that academics necessarily have experience communicating on lists, using newsgroups or even accessing the Internet. In changing physical walls into electronically generated mental structures, educators need to be participants in training programs that can provide a training forum for the technical, psychological, social and educational complexities of teaching through this new medium.
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