Turning the University Inside-Out:
Launching Distance Learning
Penn State University
Dr. Judith V. Boettcher
Ms. Susan Fell
Associate Director of Interactive Distance Learning
109 Westcott Building
Tallahassee, FL 32306 USA
Florida State University
Transformation of curriculum
New educational paradigm
Interactive distance learning
How can an institution meet the learning needs of the knowledge workers and the
upcoming university student cohort with existing buildings, programs and
processes? With distance learning as a catalyst for change, the university is
truly being transformed-an inside-out process in which the core curriculum is
redesigned to better serve the needs of students in the information age.
Just as the demand for new higher education programs for baccalaureate,
graduate, and professional degrees is reaching a critical point; new, powerful
and readily accessible information technologies are emerging. These new
technologies will play an important role in the new educational paradigm,
particularly in distance learning models. Planning and designing new
interactive distance learning programs requires a panoply of people and
resources, including new interactive instructional strategies. How does one
This paper focuses on the vision and goals of the university-wide interactive
distance learning initiative at Florida State. This paper describes the
planning and change management principles of the interactive distance learning
initiative. It also describes the new interactive distance learning paradigm
and how it is being implemented in major interactive distance learning programs
If Distance Learning is the Answer, What is the Question?
How can an institution meet the learning needs of the knowledge workers and the
upcoming university student cohort with existing buildings, programs, and
processes? The education demands of our society have never been greater.
Businesses and organizations are struggling to deal with the information
explosion and the associated needs and requirements of a global workforce in
the knowledge age. It is estimated that the equivalent of 30 credit hours of
learning will be required every seven years for a person to remain gainfully
employed in the Information Age (Dolence and Norris, 1995).
The major growth area in education predicted for the next decade is the market
for professional and graduate degrees and updating. A growing need for
customized interdisciplinary degrees, similar to the skills acquired during
apprenticeships, is emerging. With distance learning as a catalyst for change,
the university truly needs to be transformed from the inside-out to meet this
challenge. Accomplishing this inside-out change process will require changes in
all the aspects of the university, but it will result in a newly evolved
institution that can better serve the needs of our students in the knowledge
The commitment to transform the institution has been made at Florida State
University-at least tentatively. The leadership at FSU understands that a
commitment to an inside-out transformation must be embraced by the entire
university community. And thus our key principles for these changes come from
The question that is often being raised about the new interactive programs is,
"Just what is interactive distance learning? How is interactive distance
learning different from on-campus instruction?" The answer, we think, is that
there is no difference- that the distinction between on-campus and distance
learning is blurring just as the distinction between work and home is blurring.
Strategic planning-to help guide us in where and what we need to do,
Change management-to help manage how we can reach the goal, and
Instructional design-to realize our core mission of providing efficient,
effective educational experiences.
In the Beginning: What is the Goal
In the beginning, a vision is needed. In the beginning, planning is needed. In
the beginning, sponsors are needed.
Before describing the Interactive Distance Learning initiative, a few words
about Florida State and its constituency will help provide the context for this
next evolution of the university. The Florida State University (FSU) is a
public, fully accredited, coeducational institution of the State University
System of Florida, and is the state's oldest active site of higher education.
The main campus is located on 418 acres in Tallahassee. It is one of ten
universities of the State University System (SUS) of Florida. The SUS operates
under the supervision of the Florida Department of Education, and is governed
through the State Board of Regents. The total enrollment of the University is
about 30,000 students.
FSU has a long history of change and evolution-having evolved from a small
seminary in 1857 through its evolution to a large women's college to its
present state as a Research I comprehensive research institution. Recognizing
the need for change, and to better serve the needs of Florida's citizens, is
what prompted the University, in 1992, to begin once again the process of
The FSU distance learning initiative has its roots in a Distance Learning
Committee commissioned in 1992 by then President Dale Lick. This committee
published a report in December, 1993, which established the following goal for
distance learning at FSU.
FSU (through distance learning) will contribute to an educational climate in
which every Floridian will have full access to valid, individually responsive,
and useful learning experiences made available at appropriate and convenient
places and times. The learning will assist them to function continually as
knowledgeable individuals and effective citizens.
(FSU Distance Learning Committee, R. Kaufman, Chair, 12/27/93, p.4)
Dr. Roger Kaufman, who chaired this committee was the ideal person for this
task. He is internationally known for his approaches to strategic planning and
visioning, which incorporate a spectrum of approaches, from the micro level to
the mega level. In Kaufman's model, one looks not only beyond the immediate
micro environment of the university, but beyond that to the macro environment
of the state and its needs, and further yet, to the mega environment of the
society's needs, and to the ideal vision that we would like to design and
develop. Thus, from the beginning, distance learning was conceptualized as part
of a much larger framework. (We needed to ask the question, just what business
are we really in.?)
The distance learning committee evolved first into a task force, and then
finally into a university-wide Council, composed of about 20 individuals with
significant responsibilities and vested interests, such as deans, directors,
and other key stakeholders. This created a group of strong sponsors not only
for distance learning, but also for the change process. This group is a
visionary group, encouraging the movement toward not only distance learning,
but a new teaching and learning paradigm.
The Beginning Continues: What is the First Step?
The council recommended that the only way to move from the plan to the
implementation was to establish a university-wide office for distance learning.
This was accomplished in the Summer of 1995 with the hiring of an associate
director, followed by the hiring of a director in late October of 1995.
With the establishment of this office, there was good news and bad news. The
good news was that it existed; the bad news was that few resources had actually
been committed. And there was much to be done, including the purchase of
computers and the installation of networking, creation of a space for
demonstrations, and the formation of a work team with new graduate students.
Counting graduate students, the office was started with a team of two
professionals, a student office assistant, and four graduate Ph.D. students. In
addition to just getting an office operational, there was the challenge of
building a university wide consensus and support for what was basically a
In the midst of all the beginnings the distance learning council developed a
white paper that fleshed out the ideas of distance learning and what the first
steps of the implementation plan would be. Early on, there was much discussion
about distance learning and whether that was a good name, given the goal to
transform the university. An early decision was to rename the office to the
Office of Interactive Distance Learning, thus conveying an implicit and
explicit message that we would focus on the design of distance learning
programs that increased, rather than diminished, the interaction and dialogue
We also built on the definition from the distance learning council and
developed this definition of interactive distance learning (IDL).
Interactive distance learning is an educational philosophy for designing
interactive, responsive, and valid information and learning opportunities to be
delivered to learners at a time, place, and in appropriate forms convenient to
Interactive distance learning focuses on the belief that communication and
dialogue are the key components of learning, wherever, and whenever it occurs.
Interactive distance learning is designed around these three types of dialogue.
The dialogue between faculty and students,
the dialogue between students, and
the dialogue between the student and a rich array of media and other learning
Thus, we envisioned that interactive distance learning programs would assist in
the following goals for teaching and learning at Florida State:
Interactive distance learning is likely to evolve rapidly over the next decade.
For now, some of its key characteristics can be summarized in the ACCEL model.
Expand access to higher education so that FSU students can learn anywhere,
anytime and at any speed with valid and useful learning experiences. This
expanded access can be accomplished by offering extensive professional
development and life-long learning educational experiences by IDL on-campus and
Focus on programs that will create and deliver transformed courses both
on-campus and off-campus.
Achieve these goals by use of the current and emerging interactive information
Impact the full spectrum of the Florida State University's academic functions
from the recruiting and admission processes through the full teaching and
learning experiences including the support systems such as student life and
library information services.
Encourage faculty to incorporate components of IDL technologies and principles
in their on-campus courses as appropriate
ctive. Learners participate in a variety of new forms of learning that include
thoughtful and engaged activity.
ollaborative. IDL includes and facilitates discussion and exchange among
ustomized and accessible. IDL fits the needs and requirements of students in
terms of time, career goals, levels of preparation, and learning styles.
xcellent quality. Courses are designed with a learner- focus, enabling learners
to achieve desired goals and objectives. This type of learning generally will
include communication with faculty members and other students, and include
quick and easy access to high quality instructional resources.
ifestyle-fitted. IDL accommodates lives of students, affording cost-effective
educational opportunities anywhere, anytime, and at a reasonable speed.
Learning is set within a context of a mentoring relationship among learning
communities of faculty and students. The model also assumes access to a rich,
information-age library including databases, electronic journal access, and
interactive high-quality instructional resources.
With the vision clarified and a set of criteria and characteristics for the
initial programs, we had to determine what the overall specific goal would be.
We needed to make the goal measurable. So the goal of transforming the entire
FSU curriculum by the year 2002 was proposed. Starting in the year 1995, that
provided seven years to accomplish the task. Seven years -which had a nice
biblical connotation-was rejected as being too aggressive. Likewise, it was
suggested that changing the entire curriculum was not needed or might be
unwise. The goal finally agreed upon was to transform some to most of the FSU
curriculum by the year 2005. It was felt that a decade to achieve the goal was
both more reasonable and less jarring.
The reason for this modification of the goal is easy to understand. Change is
intimidating and in the university environment significant change usually
occurs over a long period of time. To accomplish this grand challenge in a
shorter period of time requires using explicit change management principles.
Let's look at those and how FSU is applying them in this case.
Managing Change in the University: Moving to Interactive Distance Learning
As one might imagine the launching of a program of this magnitude on the campus
met with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The faculty who are innovative and
early adopters were enthused, motivated and on-board immediately; other faculty
members viewed the initiative (as with anything launched by the
administration)with a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism.
It became very apparent, quite early on in the process, that an organized
educational process would have to occur prior to or concurrent with the
evolution of the change. Faculty are the core of the teaching and learning
process. Thus, an essential part of the change process is that faculty and
department chairs and deans believe that the change is important to them.
Buy-in on the part of the faculty members is particularly important as this
initiative, to date, has been funded through reallocation of existing
university resources (i.e., no new funds).
To facilitate the change process, the Distance Learning Committee has
reorganized itself around four committees to address the major areas of
interface with the campus and to continue to define the goal.
One committee, the Campus Transition Committee has been charged with
facilitating the transition process. This group is developing and assisting in
implementing a plan to communicate a shared vision of the new interactive
learning and flexible learning environments across campus. This includes the
requisite infrastructure and access to technology that must be invested in and
planned to support the new paradigm. This committee has already sponsored some
university-wide seminars to bring in planners and faculty members from outside
the state and the university. The intent of these seminars is to generate
excitement about what other universities and campuses are doing in distance
learning. Also new technologies are frequently showcased by vendors to
demonstrate what will soon be possible and affordable.
As the initiative in interactive distance learning grew more visible on campus,
other campus stakeholders began to exert their authority and influence as well.
For example, the curriculum committee issued a blanket moratorium on any new
course called a distance learning course, fearing that the course would be so
radically different from the current version of the course that it should be
reviewed for compliance with contact hour provisions, quality assurance, etc.
Another of the Distance Learning Council committees was established to deal
with these kinds of issues. The Policies and Processes Committee is charged
with reviewing current policies and procedures that impede the implementation
and operation of interactive distance learning programs and propose
recommendation (such as the moratorium, mentioned above). Other examples of
current policies that impede IDL programs are residency requirements, and a
rule on the books that prohibits a student from taking a course by
correspondence study while taking courses in residence on the campus.
A third committee that was established is the Distance Learning Program
Planning Committee. This committee will focus on the planning for degree and
curricular opportunities for distance learning. The first degree programs
selected for redesign in the new interactive distance learning mode were those
that were already being delivered remotely, but in a face-to-face mode. As
other programs become ready for redesign, with the scarce campus resources
being diverted to this effort, the political process will require that more
discussion and more involvement by deans and faculty members on the selection
of targeted programs.
Perhaps the most important of the four new committees is the New Learning
Paradigm Committee. The task for this group will be to design scenarios of what
our vision for interactive distance learning will be in 7-10 years. The
realities of a day to day operation of distance learning on the campus is that
one runs the inherent danger of getting buried in administration and
bureaucracy, without being able see the forest for the trees. This committee
will keep us focused on the big picture, the "what-ifs" and the question, "what
do we want education to be?" In this way, we will not only design programs to
be responsive to the needs of today's students, but can stay ahead and have a
real impact on the needs of tomorrow's learners.
Then the Visionaries Stepped Forward
Building on the philosophy that "Projects lead the infrastructure." (Levine,
1991) and the necessity to start somewhere, we started meeting with the FSU
deans and faculty to determine where best to start.
We finally focused on two degree programs that were already being delivered at
a distance, but with people power and transportation technologies (automobile
and airplanes), rather than the power of communication technologies. At a
retreat in August of 1995 the Distance Learning Council had agree that a key
priority was full degree programs so that students would have access to full
programs. The two deans who committed their faculty to this change process were
both deans of professional schools-the dean of Information studies and the dean
of Social Work.
Both of these deans fit the change management principle of finding someone who
is hurting in the current paradigm. These deans and their faculty were
literally exhausted from being on the road and in the air, and thus were
anxious to explore the use of communication technologies for reaching students
across the state of Florida. In other words, they were ready for a change. The
dean of Information Studies had already embarked on a process of change, and
had the support of her full cadre of 14 faculty. The faculty were in the middle
of the redesign of their master's of science program to respond to the needs of
the new knowledge age information personnel. Also noteworthy is that both of
these deans were also ready to reallocate internal resources, albeit scarce, to
this effort. Both these efforts have been true college-wide efforts.
Story of the First Full Degree Program
The story of the first master's degree program from the School of Information
Sciences is a story of an innovative dean and an adventuresome and tired
faculty. It is also a story of systemic change. To deliver this program as an
interactive distance learning program, we needed to redesign the curriculum to
accommodate the needs, requirements, and technology comfort-level of the
students and the faculty, using existing infrastructure and developing new
infrastructure, while meeting the goals and objectives of the content. In
retrospect, the process was much like falling off a cliff, and working out the
multitude of details on the way down.
But, first a little background is needed.
The goal of the master's of science degree program is to prepare students for a
vital, leading edge career in the knowledge age. It is a 36 credit hour degree
program with majors in either Library Studies or Information Sciences. The
students desiring a degree in this field are scattered throughout the state of
Florida. Past offerings of the program were built on the traditional classroom
model of regular face-to-face teaching in a classroom. The new interactive
distance learning model shifts the emphasis from the classroom to the World
Wide Web. The underlying assumption is that rather than the physical classroom
serving as the primary meeting place or gathering place for the interactions
and dialogues between faculty, students, and resources, that the World-Wide Web
becomes the framework for facilitating and enhancing the interactions and
dialogues between faculty and students.
We are now delivering the first course in this degree program-LIS 5230:
Foundations of Information Studies. It is a six credit introductory course to
the entire degree program. This class is a foundation course being jointly
taught by 14 faculty of the School of Information Studies. The course was fully
redesigned to address three requirements: the goals and objectives for an
information professional, to integrate the technologies, and to make it
available in the interactive distance learning mode. It is being delivered
using both synchronous and asynchronous distance learning technologies. The
course is designed with 50% of the contact hours being conducted over a
multipoint videoconferencing capability and 50% of the contact hours being
conducted over the World Wide Web.
Some of the questions that faculty and the instructional designers analyzed
prior to moving certain course components and activities to the web were:
What portions of the overall learning experience are enhanced by delivery in a
What experiences are enhanced by collaborative activities-either in small
groups, large groups, on the web or with face-to-face contact?
What teaching and learning experiences can be effectively accomplished via the
web framework, and
How can the learning be restructured to move away from synchronous instruction
or experiences to allow more flexible, time-independent learning experiences?
CONTACT HOURS IN INTERACTIVE DISTANCE LEARNING
Before illustrating how these concepts were applied in the redesign of the
course, it might be helpful to provide an explanation of how we arrived at the
total contact hours for the six credit hour course. Six credit hours of
instruction, delivered over a 15 week semester, totals 90 hours of contact
time. This is the time in a traditional lecture-based course that the faculty
member engages in dialogue with the student in the classroom. The learning
process also involves hours outside of the classroom when the student is
actively engaged in interacting with print, video and computer-based resources
or when the student is interacting with other students or working on individual
or group projects. Traditionally these outside classroom experiences require an
additional two hours for every hour spent in the classroom.
So the 90 hours of classroom instruction combined with an additional 180 hours
-two hours for every hour of classtime- is about 270 hours of learning
activities for this six credit course. The number of hours for a three credit
course would be 135 hours, 45 hours of class plus two hours for each of the 45
A description of some of the differences between the classroom model and the
interactive distance learning model follows:
Chart Showing How Dialogue Occurs in the Classroom Model and the Interactive
Distance Learning Model
How is the interactive distance learning model applied in the first foundations
course of the Master's of Science degree program?
Type of Dialogue
Interactive DL Model
Faculty to Student
Lecture mode primarily
Some use of technology
Lecture provides primary mode of interaction between faculty and student
Primarily a synchronous activity with face to face meetings
Lecture accounts for one-third of course requirements in most courses
Lecture component of the course is reduced. The lecture is just one way of
providing synchronous group meetings.
Any lecture may be delivered synchronously, but also may be videotaped and
broadcast on cable as asynchronous resource.
Asynchronous E-mail and web-based assignments and activities provide
asynchronous mentoring and dialogue.
Student to Student
Less structured activity
Degree to which students interact with each other, and learn from each other,
Individual and group students projects
Student to student dialogue is a more planned and structured activity which
can be managed and monitored
True collaborative learning occurs -a valuable learning process for all
students that contributes to the body of knowledge
Asynchronous group projects, assignments and activities
Student to Resource
Students access print-based materials to do research and complete projects.
Student uses a variety of resources and generally needs to go to physical
facilities for access to some reserve materials.
Digital resources on the world-wide web provide are more accessible to
Faculty selects or refers to more digital resources. Students generate many
more additional resources based on their project research.
Key resources need to be available. Copyrights or arrangements are needed for
In this first course, the synchronous classroom activities of the course
consists of approximately 45 hours; asynchronous and synchronous time on the
World Wide Web is about another 55 hours, assignments and group projects are
about 85 hours, and readings and tapes are about another 85 hours. This mix and
match design enables the matching of the learning objectives to those learning
technologies best able to support them.
A key factor in the redesign of this course to the new model is the group of 14
faculty. Most faculty have been designing and delivering courses over many
decades in the classroom model. By retaining a significant component of
synchronous time in the design, the faculty had an easy fall back strategy when
they did not know how to approach supporting an educational experience at a
distance. Interestingly, at the beginning of the project, faculty were very
nervous and anxious about moving so much of the interaction to the web. By
close to the end of the semester, faculty were saying that they did not need
that much synchronous time and even more could be done via web tools.
To ensure access to the interactions and experiences on the web, all students
are expected to provide their own computer and their own access to the
Internet. Students in Tallahassee do have access via computer labs on campus if
they wish. Students are encouraged, however, to have 24 hour access to their
own computing resources.
Perhaps the most challenging technological issue was getting all the pieces in
place for the multipoint (6) videoconferencing part of the course. This class
is using compressed video over T1 lines to deliver the course to about 165
students. There are about 75 students in Tallahassee and 90 students in four
metropolitan areas across the state of Florida-Jacksonville, Orlando, Miami,
and Ft. Lauderdale. These sites are all connected via a videobridge at a
Department of Management Services facility in Tallahassee. Arrangements were
made with institutions in these physical locations to rent/use/enhance their
videoconferencing facilities for this class. We had a very short time to get
the system ready. Four of the five facilities required new equipment before
they were compatible with the system. Technical support personnel had to be in
place. Some of the four sites used audio only in one-two of the classes as the
technology system was debugged.
Instructional designers from the Interactive Distance Learning Office are
providing assistance to LIS faculty in the development of strategies that will
facilitate interaction among the origination site and remote sites. The
designers are also working closely with the faculty on design of teaching and
learning strategies appropriate to the web capabilities, including the use of
the web to facilitate contact time with their students. For example, the LIS
web site is proving to be very effective for the dissemination of
course-related materials as well as functioning as a bulletin board. This web
site actually proved very valuable in fall of 96 when a class had to be
canceled because Hurricane Josephine was threatening Tallahassee while the
weather was beautiful in Miami.
Each week on the Wednesday after the class, representatives of the office of
Interactive Distance Learning meet with LIS administrators to evaluate and
discuss the Monday night class. Immediately following this meeting
representatives of the office of Interactive Distance Learning also meet with
administrators, faculty, and technicians representing the various support
organizations, the Center for Professional Development, Academic Computing
Network Services, to discuss the course progress and address any problems.
Design of Web Course Enviroments
A recent development evolving from the campus-wide effort in the development of
web-based courses is the development of a consistent web environment tool for
course design and development. The web environment involves a user interface to
the course at two levels -(1) as a collection of tools, software, plug-ins,
and resources available to the faculty member to facilitate the design process,
and (2) the "look and feel," or "style" of an FSU course on the web to
facilitate the student's interaction with and navigation through a web-based
The Office of Interactive Distance Learning is facilitating this process by
arranging campus-wide meetings to include network administrators, web
designers, faculty members, and instructional designers, who are providing
guidance and expertise for a web environment tool for FSU. Some of the
criteria, or wish items desired in a web environment are as follows:
As work proceeds on this project, we anticipate that we will look at other
faculty web applications in developing this for FSU use. Other degree programs
will be launched over the next three years, as well as some stand-alone courses
for which we anticipate high demand and registration, not only for FSU
students, but students at a distance.
Current and/or Desire Features
Access to current grade
Automatic indexing and searching
Capability to upload information easily
Customized course "look and feel"
External references connections
Peer critique tools
Questionnaire delivery and support
Searchable and linkable glossary
Student bio information
Student presentation areas
Timed on-line quizzes
Social Work Master's of Science Program
The second major program launched this year is the Master of Social Work (MSW)
that is designed for professional social workers. It has two curriculum
tracks: Clinical Social Work Social Services and Administrative Practice (SSAP)
Current plans call for this new program to be delivered starting in the fall of
1997 via innovative systems using electronic media, interactive
video-conferencing, and on-site instructors.
Currently IDL staff are assisting in budget preparation and meeting with Social
Work representatives to evaluate program design and delivery needs. IDL is also
coordinating the weekly planning and development meetings.
Some Final Words: "Taking the Distance out of Learning"
After a somewhat turbulent year, and a very anxious fall semester, as the
degree program in Information Studies was launched, the Office of Distance
Learning developed a mission statement. That mission statement is "To support
academic units in the design, development, and delivery of interactive distance
learning." An accompanying message is "Taking the distance out of learning."
We think this is a particularly appropriate message with the emphasis on
interactivity. With interactivity, it is almost as good as "being there."
The thought of turning a university inside-out can be a jarring image. The same
inside-out image can be likened to the blooming of a flower. Designing a new
teaching and learning paradigm for the knowledge age can be the catalyst for
significant renewal and the reblooming of a great university. We hope that FSU
and other universities on this journey enjoy the wonder of this creation.
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