Vol. 15 : No. 3
Drs. Don and Elizabeth Perrin, Managing Editors
Education is everybody’s business and has a pressing and global mandate. There is dissonance between the needs and a broad worldwide distance learning perspective. We continue to apply measures at the beginning of the 21st century that date back almost 100 years. In the first decade of the 20th century Taylor brought time-study methods to accelerate production lines, and education introduced the Stanford-Binet and related instruments that would measure classroom learning for the next hundred years.
There have been numerous changes in industry since them. Industry moved into systems, automation, and computer networks. Deming introduced collaborative ways to increase quality and productivity. Quality was the primary goal. By reducing errors, assigning responsibility to teams, and sharing the results of success, a new industrial era began. In this same period, education introduced the behavioral objective, individualized education programs (IEPs), and multi-media learning technologies to support individual as well as group learning.
Assessment moved away from the multiple-choice, or so called “objective” tests, to student performance measured against benchmarks and standards. There is increasing emphasis on relating subject matter to other disciplines and to real world applications. Better trained teachers enable us to move up Bloom’s taxonomy from learning – and regurgitating – knowledge, to conceptualization, application, problem solving, and the ability to create, synthesize and evaluate the outcomes in real world environments.
In education we still have tensions between assessment by “recall” and assessment of performance. Parents exacerbate the problem by wanting to know their children’s scores. Multiple-choice tests, if well designed, can distinguish between “right” and “wrong.” They often have statistical reliability without telling what we need to know about what is learned. Performance-based assessment measures degree of success. Performance assessment fits better with “learning by doing,” “activity curriculum”, and “demonstrating” what is learned in real-world environments. It also fits better with the concept of continuing learning and growth. Rubrics provide a simple means of evaluating student progress toward a learning goal.
Today the entire K-12 curriculum is defined in terms of content, performance standards, and benchmarks. There are national standards and state standards. Many professional groups are involved in their development. But even as standards are drawn up, and teachers are learning how to use them, the world continues to change.
The Information Age brings a new set of challenges. Students and teachers must be competent in using the tools – computers, operating systems, programs, printers, and networks. They must learn to apply their imagination and problem solving skills to increasingly complex tasks. They must have increasing levels of education to deal with their environment and to be competitive in a global economy. Rote and drill-and-practice learning are challenged by hundreds of television channels; large group presentation technologies compete with interactive learning from multimedia; and the local library is in competition with a billion pages on the Internet that can be accessed from any networked computer. Knowledge per se is becoming rapidly obsolescent, so skills to acquire, process and apply new knowledge are essential for every learner.
Continuing education and distance learning in its many forms – live and recorded, broadcast and online, synchronous and asynchronous, one-way and interactive, accredited and not-accredited, and combining text, voice, images and multimedia – will play in increasing role in our personal and professional development. It is now impacting schools K-12 to solve problems of education in the new millennium. You will find many aspects of this development reported here in Education at a Distance Magazine and ED Journal.
John Witherspoon and Sally Johnstone have provided a milestone paper on globalization, quality, and online learning for this issue. Ms. Primo has a clear vision of needs in the Pacific Islands. These needs resonate throughout much of the distance-learning world. In Facing the Challenges, Getting the Right Way with Distance Learning, S. T. Marina provides insight into solutions sought in Indonesia – a useful model for distance learning technologies, integration and implementation.
Cindy Ruman, Jay Gillette, and their team at Ball State University provide excellent research through a University-Industry Partnership. We close with Dr. Bensusan’s insights using evocative distance learning technologies.
and Elizabeth Perrin, Managing Editors