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Base Realignment & Closure
Higher Education in Maryland

Distance Education Survey

March 1999
Maryland Higher Education Commission

Topical Categories:
Executive Summary
Introduction
Measures of Activity
Delivery Methods
Administrative Structures
Instructional Practices
Membership in Networks
Support Services for Students and Faculty
Telecommunications Equipment and Services
Concluding Remarks

Executive Summary

The survey which is analyzed in the following pages was collected during the summer and early fall of 1998. The survey was designed to capture the extent and the character of the distance education activities of all Maryland colleges and universities. It does not include out-of-state institutions that might have been operating in the State.

The data covers the four instructional sessions of calendar 1997 -- the winter session, the Spring semester, the summer session, and the Fall semester. A few of the most significant findings resulting from the survey and analyzed in the following pages are:

  • During 1997, Maryland colleges and universities offered 1,245 credit courses by distance education with 29,145 enrollments.
  • In rank order, the most popular modes of delivery for distance education were

    (1) one-way, pre-recorded video (493 courses);

    (2) two-way interactive video and audio (335 courses);

    (3) asynchronous online instruction (153 courses).

  • 25% of all distance education courses were developed by a commercial vendor.
  • 14 institutions had an administrative office dedicated to distance education in 1997.
  • In 1997, 10 Maryland institutions offered 17 degree programs either primarily or entirely by distance education.
  • In rank order, the primary audiences for distance education courses were

(1) undergraduate students (857 courses);

(2) graduate students (109 courses);

(3) professional continuing education students (41 courses); and

(4) other continuing education students (35 courses).

The most striking facts that emerge from the data are:

  1. the gap between the widespread use of distance education among community colleges and the comparative paucity of distance education activity at public 4-year institutions and independent colleges and universities (with the notable exception of the University of Maryland University College);
  2. the relatively small number of colleges offering distance education courses by asynchronous online instruction;
  3. the lack of baseline technology necessary for the delivery of asynchronous computer-aided courses at most institutions (which may explain point 2 above); and
  4. the existence in each segment of "leading institutions" -- institutions far exceeding the norm in the number of distance education offerings.

When reading this report, one should note that "distance education is not for everyone." Certain institutions have made a clear policy decision that the provision of distance education is not appropriate to their mission. In other cases, faculties have decided that their discipline does not lend itself to distance education. These are reasonable and valid decisions. Each institution must decide what is the proper balance between traditionally delivered instruction and instruction delivered by distance education. But that decision should be based on academic grounds, not on a lack of information technology resources.

If, as many experts contend, much of the future growth in higher education enrollments will be in the use of information technologies to reach new markets, colleges and universities which have not entered distance education in a competitive way will be at a great disadvantage.

In Section on Concluding Remarks, certain implications for policymakers are discussed.

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to provide, for the first time, a portrait of the use of distance education by Maryland colleges and universities. This survey was initially developed by the Distance Education Advisory Council of the Maryland Higher Education Commission. It was subsequently reviewed and revised by a number of other advisory groups and campus and segmental representatives.

The collection of the data took on a new urgency when Governor Parris N. Glendening appointed the Governor’s Commission on Technology in the Higher Education in January 1998. With the prospect of the State investing heavily in information technology for higher education, it became crucial that there be a factual base for the State’s action. Therefore, the survey was distributed to all degree-granting institutions in the State in the summer of 1998, requesting data for calendar year 1997. The reader should be aware that there was extensive expansion in distance education during 1998; so the data herein are best seen as indicators of the relative size of the activity among the several institutions and segments of higher education in 1997 rather than as an indicator of that activity by individual institutions in 1999.

For the purposes of this survey, the term "distance education" refers to

education or training delivered off-campus via audio, video and/or computer technologies, but does not include courses conducted exclusively via traditional print-based correspondence or courses in which the instructor travels to the remote site to deliver instruction in person for all class meetings.

Detailed tables containing the institutional responses to the survey are presented following the text of this report. Of the 55 degree-granting institutions in the State at the time of the survey, all but one independent institution responded to the survey. It should be noted that the several professional schools of the University of Maryland, Baltimore reported separately and have been reported separately in the tables. Also, only one response was received for the three campuses of Montgomery College; while each of the campuses of the Community College of Baltimore County reported separately.

In the report that follows, the data tables have been analyzed in seven topical categories:

(1) Measures of activity
(2) Delivery methods
(3) Administrative structures
(4) Instructional practices
(5) Membership in networks
(6) Support services for students and faculty
(7) Telecommunications equipment and services

Tables integrated into the text are indicated by letters.

 

Measures of Activity

During the calendar year 1997, there were four instructional periods at most degree-granting institutions in Maryland. Institutions were asked to report four indicators of the level of distance education (DE) activity for each of these sessions. The four indicators are

Number of credit courses delivered by distance education

Enrollment in credit courses delivered by distance education

Number of non-credit courses delivered by distance education

Enrollment in non-credit courses delivered by distance education.

When examining the data for courses, one must keep in mind that this data includes all forms of electronically delivered courses. Therefore, one should not read into these numbers the prevalence or scarcity of a particular type of technology -- say, online courses or interactive video courses, because all methods of delivery are combined in this section. The extent of the use of different technologies is discussed in a later section of this report.

Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education

During 1997, 31 institutions offered a total of 1,245 credit-bearing courses by distance education during 1997. A few of these courses were repeated from session to session. So, the total of 1,245 contains courses duplicated from semester to semester. The large number of courses offered by the community colleges by distance education (837) are dominated by courses offered through the College of the Air, which are broadcast by Maryland Public Television. The most striking feature of Table A is the relatively small number of courses offered by independent colleges and universities. However, the University of Maryland University College offered almost all of the DE courses attributed to the public 4-year institutions.

Table A. Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education
Calendar Year 1997

Institutions Surveyed

Winterim
1996-97
Spring
Semester
1997
Summer
Session
1997
Fall
Semester
1997
Total
Courses
Public Four-Year Institutions 0 187 136 247 351
Community Colleges 17 339 129 352 837
Independent Institutions 0 21 3 33 57
Total 17 547 268 632 1245

Among the public 4-year institutions, courses were concentrated in a few institutions. In fact, of the 351 credit courses offered by the public 4-year institutions, the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) offered 216. The next most active public 4-year campus, University of Maryland College Park, offered only 37 courses.

The courses offered by community colleges were relatively evenly distributed among the colleges, with all but one community college offering some distance education credit courses. The most active community colleges were Anne Arundel Community College (125 credit courses), Howard Community College (110), Montgomery College (103), CCBC Catonsville (84), Charles County Community College (77), Chesapeake College (50), and Allegany College of Maryland (48).

The independent institutions offered very few credit courses by distance education during 1997 -- only 57. The most active campus was the Johns Hopkins University, offering 23 courses during the year. Goucher College was next with 16. Capitol College offered 11. Interestingly, one of the most active independent colleges in distance education in 1999--Loyola College--reported only one credit course by DE in 1997.

Table B. Institutions Reporting Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education
During 1997 with Number of Distance Education Courses Offered

Public 4-year Institutions (13 institutions)

Bowie State U. (21)
Frostburg State U. (16)
Towson U. (7)
U. of Baltimore (13)
U. of Md, Baltimore Co.(19)
U. of Md., College Pk (37)
U. of Md., Eastern.Shore (6)
U. of Md. Univ. Coll.(216)

Community College (18 institutions)

Allegany Coll. of Md. (48)
Anne Arundel CC (125)
Baltimore City CC(27)
Carroll CC (40)
CCBC Catonsville (84)
CCBC Dundalk (6)
CCBC Essex (23)
Charles County CC(77)
Chesapeake Coll. (50)
Frederick CC (37)
Garrett College (8)
Hagerstown CC (13)
Harford CC (14)
Howard CC (110)
Montgomery Coll. (103)
Prince George's CC(68)
Wor-Wic CC (4)

Independent Colleges and Universities
(24 institutions)

Capitol College (11)
Goucher College (16)
Johns Hopkins U. (23)
Loyola College (1)
Md. Inst., College of Art (6)

Totals 351

837

57

 

Enrollments in Distance Education Credit Courses

There were 29,415 headcount enrollments in credit-bearing courses offered by distance education during calendar 1997. For the Fall 1997 semester, which can most easily be compared with other statewide data, there were 12,355 enrollments in DE credit courses.

If one assumes that all of the credit courses were 3-credit courses, then one can assume that the equated full-time course load per student would be 10 courses (15 credit hours per semester, or 30 credit hours per year). By dividing the number of individual enrollments by the assumed course load, the resulting number of full-time equivalent students (FTES) for calendar year 1997 would be 2,941. This number would have to be adjusted slightly to account for graduate students, who take fewer courses per semester. Still, the total of around 2,800 - 2,900 FTES is a relatively safe estimate. If one compares FTE enrollment in DE in 1997 to total FTE enrollment in all credit courses for that year, the enrollment in DE accounted for approximately 2% of total FTE enrollment.

Table C. Enrollments in Distance Education Credit Courses - Calendar Year 1997

Institutions Surveyed Winterim
1996-97
Spring
Semester '97
Summer
Session '97
Fall
Semester '97

Total

Public Four-Year Institutions

0

4,755

2,731

5,474

12,940

Community Colleges

210

6,395

2,718

6,469

15,822

Independent Institutions

0

217

24

412

653

Total

210

11,367

5,473

12,355

29,415

Non-Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education

There were very few non-credit courses offered by distance education during 1997. This is somewhat surprising since the audience for distance education is generally assumed to be already employed adults, who might be considered a ready market for non-credit personal and professional development opportunities.

Statewide 128 non-credit courses were offered by distance education. Of these, the vast majority (98) were offered by community colleges.

Table D. Non-Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education - Calendar Year 1997

Institutions Surveyed Winterim
1996-97
Spring
Semester '97
Summer
Session '97
Fall
Semester '97

Total

Public Four-Year Institutions

0

1

7

14

22

Community Colleges

0

44

3

51

98

Independent Institutions

0

2

2

4

8

Total

0

47

12

69

128

Enrollments in Non Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education

Since the number of non-credit DE courses was small compared to the number of credit DE courses, the enrollment in non-credit courses was also proportionately smaller than that in credit courses. For the calendar year 1997, the non-credit DE enrollments were 1,054, compared to 29,415 credit enrollments in DE courses.

Table E. Enrollment in Non Credit Courses Offered by Distance Education - Cal. Year 97

Institutions Surveyed Winterim
1996-97
Spring
Semester '97
Summer
Session '97
Fall
Semester '97

Total

Public Four-Year Institutions

0

24

22

305

351

Community Colleges

0

307

59

265

641

Independent Institutions

0

32

30

0

62

Total

0

363

111

570

1,054

Delivery Methods

The survey sought answers to two major questions concerning delivery methods:

Which were the primary technologies used?

What were the intended instructional sites?

The survey distinguished among 9 primary instructional technologies and also had an "other" option. Twelve alternate delivery sites were offered, including at the student’s home. Summary data are presented in Tables F and G on the following page.

Primary Mode of Delivery

By far the largest number of courses (493) were delivered by one-way, pre-recorded video. This is probably an indication of the large number of courses offered by the College of the Air, a consortium of colleges (mostly community colleges) contracting with Maryland Public Television to offer college courses for credit, with the video being broadcast by MPT into students’ homes.

The second most numerous category is those courses (335) offered by 2-way interactive video and audio. This category includes courses offered over three networks:

(1) the Maryland Distance Learning Network (MDLN),
(2) the University System of Maryland Interactive Video Network (IVN), and
(3) the Baltimore Region Community Colleges Instructional Video Network (BRCCIVN).

MDLN is a full-motion video, fiber optic DS-3 network managed by Bell Atlantic. IVN and BRCCIVN are compressed video networks carried on T-1 lines. A MDLN classroom connects four sites interactively with video quality similar to a home television. There are 8 monitors in a classroom (4 in front for the students to see, 4 in back for the teacher to see). An IVN or BRCCIVN classroom has two monitors-one showing the distant class and one the classroom where instruction takes place. The compressed video is slightly distorted.

The third most popular technology for delivering DE instruction in 1997 was "asynchronous online instruction." This instruction is entirely computer-based, usually available through the Internet. A course offered online is available to any student world-wide with access to the Internet. Such an instructional mode has only been available for a few years; but most regard it as the most promising technology for the future growth of distance education. In 1997, two colleges offered 51 of the 79 online courses offered by community colleges in 1997. Other community colleges that were active in online instruction in 1997 were Prince George’s Community College (10 courses), Anne Arundel Community College (6), Carroll Community College (6), Community College of Baltimore County (3), Howard Community College (2), and Chesapeake College (1).

 

Table F. Number of Courses Delivered Using Each Primary Delivery Mode - Cal. Year 97

Institutions Surveyed 2-way
interactive
video and
audio
1-way
video,
2-way
audio
1-way
video,
1-way
audio
1-way
prerecorded
video
Audio-
graphics
2-way
audio
1-way
audio
Asynch.
online
2-way
online
Other
Public Four-Year Institutions

109

44

0

21

0

0

0

55

0

113

Community Colleges

207

41

16

472

0

1

2

79

24

0

Independent Institutions

19

0

0

0

0

0

1

19

6

0

Total

335

85

16

493

0

1

3

153

30

113

Table G. Delivery Sites for Video Instruction - Calendar Year 1997

Institutions Surveyed Branch
Campus
Public
4-year
college
or univ.
Community
College
Independent
college or
university
Public
secondary
school
Public
elem. or
middle
school
Student's
name
Private
sector
work-
place
State
agency
Military
base
Other
sites
Public Four-Year Institutions

79

11

6

0

6

0

3

2

0

6

26

Community Colleges

129

5

83

3

29

0

69

0

0

1

49

Independent Institutions

12

3

10

3

2

0

14

0

0

0

1

Total

220

19

99

6

37

0

86

2

0

7

76

As we have seen, independent colleges offered few courses by distance education in 1997. Most of the courses were offered by two institutions: Johns Hopkins University and Capitol College. The Johns Hopkins University offered 14 courses online and 9 using interactive video. Capitol College offered 4 courses online and 7 with interactive video. The totals in these two categories for all independent colleges were 19 online and 19 by interactive video. Loyola College offered 3 interactive video courses.

Table H. Institutions Reporting Asynchronous Online Courses Offered
During 1997 with Number of Courses Offered

Public 4-Year Institutions
(13 institutions)
Community Colleges
(18 institutions)
Independent Colleges and
Universities (24 institutions)
University of Md. Univ. College (55)
Anne Arundel CC (6)
Carroll CC (6)
CCBC Catonsville (3)
Chesapeake Coll. (1)
Howard CC (2)
Montgomery Coll. (51)
Prince George's CC (10)
Capitol College (4)
Goucher College (1)
Johns Hopkins University (14)

Totals 55

79

19

 

Sites for the Delivery of Video Instruction

The promise of distance education is that every person will have access to the educational offerings they desire at any time and in any place. Actually, this promise can only be fulfilled by asynchronous online instruction. In 1997, most of the electronically delivered instruction was video-based -- either College of the Air courses broadcast by MPT, or interactive video courses involving regularly scheduled classes in teleclassrooms. The most popular delivery sites were video classrooms at branch campuses (220 courses) and "another college or university" (19 courses delivered to 4-year campuses; 99 to community college campuses). While colleges reported delivering 86 courses "at the student’s home," these can safely be assumed to be primarily MPT’s College of the Air courses. A surprising number of courses are reported by community colleges to be delivered to "sites outside Maryland." There were 44 such courses reported.

Once again, the discrepancy between the activity of the public institutions and the independent colleges and universities is striking. Whereas 220 courses were delivered to branch campus sites by video, only 12 of these were offered by independent institutions. While public colleges and universities beamed 72 courses into students’ homes, independent colleges offered only 14 courses this way.

Administrative Structures

Two aspects of administrative structure were explored by the survey. Institutions were asked how they developed course content for distance education and whether or not the institution had a separate administrative unit responsible for distance education.

Development of Course Content

It was not surprising to note that the largest group of DE courses were developed by the faculty of the institutions offering the courses. (See Table I) Of the 1,184 courses reported in response to this question, 463 (39%) were developed by the institutions’ faculty members. Another 240 (20%) were developed collaboratively by faculty content specialists, instructional designers, technology specialists, and administrators working as a team.

However, it was surprising to see that 302 (25%) of the courses were developed by commercial vendors. Almost all of the courses developed by commercial vendors were reported by the community colleges. It may be assumed that many of these are College of the Air courses distributed by the Public Broadcasting Service’s Adult Learning Service and the Annenberg CPB project. Whatever the source, the use of commercial vendors is a significant development in the academic world.

Among independent colleges, all but one course reported was developed by either institutional faculty or an institutional collaborative team. One course was developed by a commercial vendor.

A Dedicated Office for Distance Education

As of the fall of 1997, very few colleges or universities had created a separate, dedicated administrative unit for distance education. The practice was most common among the community colleges. Eight (8) of the 18 responding community college campuses had such an office. Four (4) of the 13 public 4-year institutions had created a separate office. Only 2 of the 23 responding independent institutions had a separate administrative unit for distance education.

 

Table I. Development of Course Content

  Developed by
Institution
Surveyed
Faculty Distance Learning Center Collaboration Another
Institution
Collaboration
with another
Institution
Commercial
Vendor
Unknown Other
Public Four-Year Institutions 135 0 162 32 8 19 0 2
Community Colleges 292 0 71 38 2 283 0 96
Independent Colleges 36 0 7 0 1 0 0 0
Total 463 0 240 70 11 302 0 98

 

Table J. Development of Course Content

Institutions Surveyed Institutions with dedicated
distance education offices
Public Four-Year Institutions 4
Community Colleges 8
Independent Institutions 2
Total 14

Instructional Practices

The institutions surveyed were asked several questions concerning the nature of their distance education offerings. The general intent was to determine the relationship of their offerings to their traditional on-campus curriculum.

Courses offered exclusively as distance education courses

Of the 1,373 credit and non-credit courses offered in 1997’s four instructional periods, 256 or 19% of all DE courses had no equivalent course taught on-campus during the same semester or instructional period. This does not necessarily mean the DE course was developed solely for DE delivery, but it does mean that the DE offerings were expanding the instructional offerings of the colleges and universities.

UMUC led the 4-year public institutions with 102 courses offered exclusively by DE. UMCP offered 45 only by DE. Leaders among the community colleges in this category were Charles Community College (30) and CCBC Catonsville (19). Among the independents, only Capitol College with 4 courses and Loyola College with one course offered DE courses that were not being offered on the home campus also.

Table K. Courses Offered Exclusively by Distance Education

Institutions Surveyed Courses Offered Only by Distance Education
Public Four-Year Institutions 160
Community Colleges 91
Independent Institutions 5
Total 256

Customized Training Activities

Distance education would appear to lend itself to the offering by colleges of customized training activities to private industry, government, and professional groups. In fact, certain institutions -- most notably University of Maryland University College -- have emphasized this form of instruction. Of the 80 customized training activities offered by DE reported by the responding institutions, UMUC offered 45, and Towson University offered another 16. Hagerstown Community College reported 5 customized training activities, and Allegany College of Maryland offered 4. Among the independents, only Loyola College reported offering customized training by DE, with 3 such activities.

Table L. Customized Training Activities Offered by Distance Education

Institutions Surveyed Customized Training Activities Offered by
Distance Education
Public Four-Year Institutions 61
Community Colleges 16
Independent Institutions 3
Total 80

Degree Programs Offered by Distance Education

The development of an individual course for delivery by distance education can be a very difficult and challenging task. The offering of entire degree programs, therefore, is not an easy goal to be accomplished. An associate degree requires at least 60 credits earned or approximately 20 courses. A bachelor’s degree requires at least twice that amount -- 120 credits or 40 courses. Master’s degree programs are shorter in length (at least 30 credits or around 10 courses).

Given the size of this task, and the fact that the spread of distance education is so recent, it is not surprising, then, that very few institutions had reached the point, in 1997, of offering entire degrees by DE. In fact, only 6 of the 54 institutions surveyed reported that they offered entire degree programs by distance education. When asked if they offered any degree programs primarily by distance education (meaning 75% or more of the courses were DE courses), four more institutions joined the first six.

Most of the complete degree programs presently offered are at the Master’s degree level. These are shorter programs, and all the courses are concentrated in the major discipline, making this a more manageable developmental project as compared to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree program requiring general education courses in many disciplines.

 

Table M. Degree Programs Offered Primarily or Entirely by Distance Education in 1997

Institution Name Programs
Four-Year Publics
Bowie State University Master of Arts, Mgmt. Information Systems Master of Arts, Organizational Communications
UMCP (College Park) Master of Engineering, Reliability Master of Engineering, Elect. Engineering
UMUC
(University College)
Master of General Administration Master of Science, Comp.Sci.Mgmt. Master of Science, Tech. Mgmt. Master of International Management
Community Colleges
Anne Arundel Community College Associate in General Education
CCBC Catonsville Associate in General Education
College of Southern Maryland Associate in General Education
Frederick Community College Associate in General Education
Prince George’s Community College Associate in General Education Associate in Business Management
Independent Institutions
Goucher College Master of Arts, Historic Preservation Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction
Johns Hopkins University Master of Public Health

Membership in Networks

During 1997, colleges and universities in Maryland had several video networks to which they might belong. There were three (3) interactive video networks vying for membership:

the Maryland Distance Learning Network MDLN)

the University System of Maryland’s Interactive Video Network (IVN)

the Baltimore Region Community College Instructional Video Network (BRCCIVN).

The MDLN is a full-motion interactive video network that allows four sites to be viewed and be interactive simultaneously. It is managed by Bell Atlantic-Maryland and includes public schools and health facilities as well as colleges and universities (public and private, 4-year and 2-year). The USM’s IVN primarily connects the campuses of the USM with a standards-based teleconferencing, compressed video network. The BRCCIVN is also a basic teleconferencing network, compatible with the USM’s IVN.

The largest number of institutions belonged to the MDLN (22), with it’s participation strongest among community colleges (12 institutions). As expected, the IVN’s membership was strongest among the public 4-year institutions (11 members). But 6 of the USM campuses were members of both networks; as were 3 community colleges. The BRCCIVN had 5 community college members and 1 public 4-year member.

Table N. Membership in Interactive Video Networks

Institutions Surveyed Maryland Distance Learning Network Univ. System of Maryland Instructional Video Network Balt. Region Comm. College Instructional Video Network
Public Four-Year Institutions 6 11 1
Community Colleges 12 6 5
Independent Institutions 4 0 0
Total 22 17 6

Membership in Satellite Networks

Maryland colleges and universities belong to a variety of satellite networks. The largest number of institutions belonged to the Public Broadcasting System’s Adult Learning Satellite Service (PBS/ALSS) (13 institutions) and the National Technological University (5). The PBS ALSS is the primary source of programming for the College of the Air institutions. The National Technological University provides courses related to engineering and information technologies.

Support Services for Students and Faculty

Primary Audiences for Distance Education

The institutions being surveyed were requested to identify the primary audience for each of their credit and non-credit courses. The common belief is that distance education, especially asynchronous online instruction, is ideally structured to appeal to adult, fully-employed learners who need to find time in a busy schedule for education.

Institutions were asked to select from among a variety of potential audiences as indicated in Table O. The overwhelming majority of courses (82%) for which a primary audience was identified were intended for undergraduate students. This was perhaps inevitable; since community colleges offer the greatest number of DE courses. Still, the vast majority of the courses offered by the 4-year public institutions were also aimed at undergraduates. The next largest preferred audience was graduate students with 10.5% of all courses. Independent colleges and universities emphasized graduate courses rather than undergraduate study (27 graduate courses vs. 7 undergraduate courses). This has been a traditional market for independent institutions.

Contrary to what may have been expected, "professional continuing education students" and "other continuing education students" were the primary audiences for relatively few DE courses. No courses were reported as aimed at high school or other public school students. It would appear that -- at least as late as 1997 -- our colleges and universities were not seeking out new markets but were serving their traditional markets in new and more flexible ways.

Support Services for Distance Education Students

Colleges and universities have developed a number of ways to provide support for distance education services. Obviously, these will vary by the form of instruction. For example, a community college delivering interactive video courses to a local high school may also have the instructor visit the school on a regular basis. On the other hand, a public university offering online courses should be providing online student services also.

The major services provided in support of distance education are contained in Table P. The most notable of these are the electronic services. Thirty (30) institutions provided students with e-mail or online access to an instructor. Twenty-seven (27) institutions provide electronic access to library materials. Twenty (20) institutions provide online access to wide area networks for students.

Table O. Number of Distance Learning Courses/Activities by Primary Audience

Institutions Surveyed Under-graduate
Students
Graduate Students Professional Continuing Education Students Other Continuing Education Students High School Students Elem/Middle School Students Adult Basic Education Students
Four Year Public Institutions

236

81

6

1

0

0

0

Community Colleges

614

1

28

34

0

0

0

Independent Institutions

7

27

7

0

0

0

0

Total

857

109

41

35

0

0

0

Table P. Number of Institutions Offering Each Support Service to Distance Learning Students

Institutions Surveyed Instructor Visits
Remote Site
Toll-Free Telephone
E-mail or Online Access to Instructor
Teaching Assistant, Tutor, Facilitator at Remote Site Toll-Free Telephone, E-mail or other online Access to Tech Support Staff Ability to Electronically Access Library material Coop Agreements for Students to use other Libraries Online Access to Wide Area Network Telephone or computerized Registration
Four Year Public Institutions 8 8 5 6 8 6 5 4
Community Colleges 16 15 11 12 11 9 10 12
Independent Institutions 3 7 3 6 8 7 5 3
Total 27 30 19 24 27 22 20 19

Training and Technical Assistance for Faculty Members

One measure of the maturity of an institution in offering distance education is the extent to which the college or university has developed mechanisms for preparing faculty to offer courses by distance education rather than leaving faculty initiative to chance. Many institutions offer several distance education courses because of the energy and enterprising spirit of one or two faculty members. But institutions that take distance education seriously provide training and curriculum development support in an organized and ongoing fashion.

During 1997, only around one-half of the colleges and universities in Maryland had formal programs of faculty training and distance education course development. Training and technical assistance was far more available to faculty at public institutions than at independent colleges and universities. Twenty-four (24) of the 34 public instructional units responding (the several "schools" of the University of Maryland Baltimore responded separately) offered training in the use and application of distance education technology. Only 4 of the 23 responding independent institutions offered such training. The same pattern held true when it came to providing support for the development of curricula for distance education courses and providing instruction in teaching methods for DE courses.

Table Q. Number of Institutions Offering Each Type of Training/Technical Assistance to Faculty

Institutions Surveyed

Use & Application of Distance Education Technologies

Development of Curricula for Distance Education Courses

Teaching Methods for Distance Learning Courses

Four Year Public Institutions

8

5

6

Community Colleges

14

11

12

Independent Institutions

4

3

3

Total

26

19

21

Telecommunications Equipment and Services

Institutions were requested to indicate whether they owned or operated 25 specific types of telecommunications equipment, facilities, or services. For analysis, the equipment/facilities have been grouped into three categories:

Video production facilities and analog video links;

Compressed video, radio and audio facilities;

Multi-media and computer-aided instruction equipment and services.

Video Production Facilities and Analog Video Links

It must be remembered that, before the 1990s, distance education using telecommunications meant primarily video broadcasts or interactive video teleconferencing using analog equipment such as satellite transmissions. Therefore, during the 1970s and 1980s, many campuses invested in satellite uplinks and downlinks, video production studios, and other equipment (such as microwave transmission towers) to carry analog video signals.

A large number of the public campuses had full video production studios. Of the 13 public 4-year institutions, 9 had studios. Likewise, 9 of the 18 community colleges had studios. Only two (2) of 24 independent institutions had studios. The same contrast holds true for television field production units (mobile TV trucks), with 6 public 4-year institutions and 6 community colleges having these trucks. No independent institutions had such units. (See Table R.)

Of all 31 public institutions, only two community colleges did not have satellite downlinks. The broad use by public institutions of satellite technology once again contrasts starkly with the lack of such equipment among the independents, where only 6 campuses reported having satellite downlinks.

Twenty-three (23) public institutions operated cable channels (CATV), and 6 managed their own broadcast TV stations.

Compressed Video, Radio and Audio

Interactive compressed video (including digital full-motion video) is relatively new as a medium for distance education. The Maryland Distance Learning Network was begun in 1994. MDLN, carried on broadband DS-3 fiber optic lines, is compressed very little, so that the received picture appears as full-motion television. The University of Maryland

Table R. Number of Institutions with Video Production Facilities & Analog Video Links

Institution Surveyed

Full Production Studio

TV Field Production Units

ITFS Channel

ITFS Receive Site

Microwave Dist. Links

Ku Band Satellite Uplink

C Band Satellite Uplink

Ku Band Satellite Downlink

C Band Satellite Downlink

CATV Chann.

Broadcast TV Stations

Four Year Public Institutions

9

6

5

4

4

1

1

12

13

9

3

Community Colleges

9

6

3

3

3

0

0

16

16

14

3

Independent Institutions

2

0

0

0

1

1

0

3

3

5

2

Total

20

12

8

7

8

2

1

31

32

28

8

 

Table S. Number of Institutions with Compressed Video, Radio & Audio Equipment for Distance Education

Institutions Surveyed

Interactive Digital Compressed Video Codes

Broadcast Radio Stations

FM Subchannel

Audio Conferencing Bridge

Four Year Public Institutions 10 5 1 4
Community Colleges 12 4 0 3
Independent Institutions 2 2 0 0
Total 24 11 1 7

Interactive Video Network (IVN) and the Baltimore Regional Community College Interactive Video Network are both heavily compressed, leading to slight distortions of the picture. However, all three networks function well as a distance learning medium. The full motion MDLN is more easily accepted by public school children, but adults adapt quickly to all three systems. Compressed video usage is now growing more rapidly than satellite usage. On the other hand, Web-based multi-media instruction on personal PCs is growing more rapidly than interactive video in general.

Among the institutions responding to the survey concerning their practices in 1997, 22 public institutions (out of 31 total) and two (2) out of 23 responding independent institutions were using interactive compressed video to deliver courses.

The use of radio by colleges and universities for course delivery is not wide-spread. Twelve institutions reported having broadcast radio stations. However, the use of these radio stations is usually for training communications majors rather than for delivering instruction.

Several institutions (7) reported using an audio conferencing bridge for instruction. This is often used to provide interactive voice communication in conjunction with the delivery of one-way video by satellite or microwave.

Multi-media and Computer-aided Instruction Equipment and Services

The fastest growing form of distance learning is asynchronous online instruction, usually via the Internet. If a college or university is planning to enter this arena, it must supply a number of related telecommunications services to its students and must develop certain baseline institutional capabilities. The final section of the survey requested institutions to indicate whether or not they had these capabilities.

The responses displayed in Table R indicate that the 4-year public institutions had more computer-related instructional and multi-media equipment and services available to their students in 1997 than did either the community colleges or the independent institutions. Whereas all public 4-year institutions had institutional access to the World Wide Web and an institutional web page, three (3) of the community colleges and 10 independents did not have these. While 10 public 4-year institutions were Internet node sites, only seven community colleges and 8 independent institutions had the equipment for this direct link to the Internet.

Electronic bulletin boards, computer conferencing systems, and class listservs are considered by some as essential to online distance learning and can also be enhancements to traditional classroom-based education. Once again, the public 4-year institutions led the way in the implementation of these services. All public 4-year institutions offered these three applications; whereas about half the community colleges and three-fourths of the independents did not.

Table T: Number of Institutions with Selected Multi-media
& Computer-Aided Instruction Equipment and Services

Institutions Surveyed

Internet Node Site

E-mail

WWW Access

Institutional Web Page

Web page Capabilities for Students Bulletin Board or computer Conferencing system Class Listserv Capability Voice Mail Electronic Classroom Other
Four Year Public Institutions 10 14 15 15 13 15 13 14 14 0
Community Colleges 7 16 15 15 5 11 9 17 18 2
Independent Institutions 8 11 13 14 11 7 7 11 8 0
Total 25 41 43 44 29 33 29 42 40 2

Electronic classrooms are classrooms containing networked PCs which are tied together in a local area network and are usually linked to the Internet. Such classrooms allow students to work together on collaborative projects, to contribute online (sometimes anonymously) to classroom discussions, to do research on the Internet during class, to engage in simulations, and many other applications. All public institutions had at least one electronic classroom. Eight (8) independent institutions had these classrooms.

Concluding Remarks

The snapshot we have just reviewed of distance learning in Maryland colleges and universities during 1997 reveals both signs of promise and areas where greater effort is needed. Clearly, the fact that Maryland institutions offered 1,245 credit-bearing courses with enrollments of 29,415 students indicates that Maryland higher education will not be by-passed by the exploding growth of distance education but will most surely "be a player."

One concern is that, during 1997, few Maryland institutions were offering DE courses by asynchronous online delivery. It must be a source of concern is that many Maryland colleges and universities do not have the baseline equipment and services necessary for this fastest growing form of distance education. If Maryland institutions of higher education are to be competitive with public institutions in other states and with entrepreneurial institutions capable of serving global markets (e.g., University of Phoenix and Open University), and with commercial purveyors of educational services, these technological gaps must be filled.

Particularly noteworthy is the small number of public 4-year institutions and independent colleges and universities offering a significant number of courses by distance education. It is understandable that some of the more specialized institutions with very specific missions -- such as Baltimore Hebrew University, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, or the Seafarer’s Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship -- might have no need for distance education. The independent liberal arts colleges and comprehensive public universities, however, may find that certain types of students which they have targeted in the past (especially, fully employed adults) are being attracted to the convenient distance education courses instead of traditional classrooms. If the smaller independent institutions are unable to attract students in this market, this could be damaging to the diversity of educational opportunities of which Maryland has always been so proud.

Therefore, the messages for State policymakers that emerge from the data discussed in this report are these:

  • Distance education is a large and growing activity at many Maryland colleges and universities. It is no longer an oddity nor an experiment, but is an accepted and viable mode of instruction. If Maryland institutions do not adopt these customer-friendly instructional methods, they will lose enrollments to institutions that do.
  • State policy should be focused on enhancing educational opportunity for students throughout the State and on keeping Maryland institutions competitive with out-of-state suppliers of distance education, who are reaching into every neighborhood with courses on cable television and online to the home.
  • State support is needed to aid all Maryland higher education institutions to achieve a baseline of technology equipment and services to prevent our institutions from falling irreparably behind in the adoption of distance learning and multi-media instruction.
  • Maryland colleges and universities should be given incentives to adopt and explore the possibilities of distance education. It is in the State’s interests and the interests of the State’s citizens to utilize distance education to make higher education opportunities more accessible in all regions of the State.

 

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