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Group 2 Discussion Question:

Topic: Case Study & Discussion Questions (Chap 31. Pg.537).

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss the pertinent laws that should be considered for this initiative.

2. Describe next steps in the process that would help assure the success of the initiative.

3. Using what you learned in this chapter and by searching the web for distance learning materials, list two likely future directions.


Technology developments and the internet are providing opportunities to examine how institutions of higher learning and healthcare corporations deliver instruction or training and how this delivery may be improved. Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, distance education has become an increasingly important part of education. It is one of the “most complex issues facing higher education institutions today.”1, p. v While this statement was written years ago, it holds true today.2 Most colleges and universities are now beyond asking whether they should offer distributive or distance learning options. They are instead addressing how to handle these offerings in an effective, efficient, and economic way. These discussions focus on questions such as how to increase enrollment, retain students, stay competitive, address the needs of a changing student population, and improve quality. In addition to the many educational institutions, many healthcare institutions and corporations provide continuing education and required training as well as patient education through distance education options.

Given the current work environment and the economic times, a growing number of health-related programs are offering part or all of their program content through distance education. Increasingly students come to school with work and family obligations or live in areas distant from educational opportunities. Distance education is a viable option for this demographic of health professions students.3,4 It provides increased flexibility in meeting the educational needs of the changing student population, while influencing how publishers deliver textbooks and how instructors facilitate all learning styles through creative use of interactive activities, social media, videos, and podcasts, and other means.

Technological developments have an impact on institutions, student expectations, and how students learn. For example, most institutions provide wireless connections because students, patients, and family expect to be able to use their wireless devices in schools, hospitals, and outpatient facilities. Several recent books addressed how constant technology-facilitated connections may affect the brain; how constant connections can affect relationships between family members, friends, and colleagues; how we understand 517privacy, community, intimacy, and solitude; and how the digital revolution changes people.5-8 Frand identified the following 10 attributes of the information age mindset that influences student expectations and learning. Think about how these influence your expectations and learning.

• Computers are not technology.

• The internet is better than TV.

• Reality is no longer real.

• Doing is more important than knowing.

• Trial and error and experimentation are preferable to logic.

• Multitasking is a way of life.

• Typing is preferable to handwriting.

• Staying connected is essential.

• There is zero tolerance for delays.

• There is a blurring of the lines between consumer and creator.9

Oblinger and Oblinger (2006) proposed that discussions about distance learning should not be about technology, but the activities that technology enables: working in teams or with peers, social networking, participatory learning, interaction, immediacy, and multimedia expression.10 Think about the impact those mindsets and technology-enabled learning are having on the educational system and traditional methods of teaching.

This chapter presents a brief history of distance education, defines evolving terms, examines course management and learning management systems (LMSs) for delivering distance education, and presents issues related to development and implementation of distance education in colleges, universities, and organizations.

Historical development

Four phases divide the historical development of distance education and its changing nature. Correspondence education characterized the first phase, encompassing the mid- to late 1800s. Correspondence education involved receiving printed materials, reading those materials, and sending back any required assignments. The founding of the Society to Encourage Studies at Home in 1873 by Anna Ticknor11 and the founding of the Chautauqua College of Liberal Arts in 188312 were two instrumental events that moved correspondence education forward, as both of these programs offered correspondence opportunities. They responded to the need for a more educated workforce and to the interest of women and the common man for an education. An inexpensive postal service facilitated this development. While the number of offered courses grew along with enrollment, so too did the concerns about quality education and the effectiveness of this means of delivery—a theme that continues today.

Phase 2, encompassing the 1960s through the early 1980s, enhanced the delivery method for distance education by involving the broadcast media: cable and satellite television.13 The terms changed from correspondence to telecourses and from correspondence education to distance education during this time. While students were ready to embrace this method of delivery because of family responsibilities, work responsibilities, geographic challenges in accessing academic institutions, and disability issues, the academic institutions continued to question the effectiveness of this new delivery method and the changes required in teaching methods.

Phase 3, which took place in the 1980s and 1990s, found many colleges and universities laying fiber optic cables on campus. This high-speed connection made possible live two-way video communication between local (main campus) distance education classrooms and remote (branch campus) classrooms. Students and faculty at both sites could see and hear each other, although with a slight transmission delay. This was education at a distance but in real time (synchronous). In addition, developing technology made it possible for more people to purchase home personal computers with dial-up internet access, enabling students to access course materials from a distance and to interact with faculty and other students through e-mail, telephone, or other communication systems.

Phase 4, which began in the late 1990s and continues to the present, saw advances in the internet and the development of Web 2.0 tools. This moved the focus from information retrieval to user-generated content, interactive learning, and virtual communities. This phase saw a surge in development of distance education courses and programs to meet the needs of a mobile society concerned about costs, currency, and lifelong learning, as well as a need to stay competitive in the job market. In healthcare education, faculty have been providing distance education courses and programs for more than 35 years.14,15 Early programs relied on mostly print materials and some audiotapes, with a few on-campus meetings during the semester. With changing technology developments, delivery system formats changed from mostly printed materials to broadcast courses (e.g., distance learning classrooms that broadcast live classes to remote sites). Computer-aided instructional programs and interactive videodiscs ran on freestanding computers.16 The current generation of course delivery methods increasingly incorporates:

• Mobile devices

• Web 2.0 tools such as podcasts, wikis, blogs, and video conferencing

• Integrated campus LMSs, personal learning systems (PLS), and personal portals.

These systems integrate learner functions such as registration, billing, courses, library, tutoring, and other related learner services. Additional information about the growing interrelationships of these applications and systems can be seen in Chapter 32. What tools are in development that will facilitate delivery of courses and improved learner outcomes? The answers to these questions will become apparent as we move toward Web 3.0 tools and applications and ever-changing technological developments. What do you envision your learning environment to look like in 15 to 20 years?


Although the phrases distributive (distributed) education, distance education, distributive (distributed) learning, and 518distance learning are used interchangeably, the nuances that can exist between these terms have broad implications for higher education and related institutions.

Distance education is instruction and planned learning in which the teacher and the learner are separated by location, and possibly teaching and learning occurs asynchronously or at different times.3 Others remove the time element, defining distance education as teaching and learning where the teacher and learner are geographically separated and rely on technology for instructional delivery.17,18 Time is not a critical element in this definition of distance education, but rather distance and the use of communication technology are the critical elements. For example, Knebel’s definition17 fits with the distance learning classrooms that educational institutions use to provide instruction to remote locations through satellite connections and equipment that permits the teacher and learner to interact with and see one another in real time. The teacher and learner are separated by distance but not by time. Note that time here refers to when students attend to their learning, not the time frame surrounding start and end of semesters, due dates for completion of assignments, and so forth. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) also provides an example of this definition. The Distance Learning Education Committee defines distance education as “instruction offered by any means where the student and faculty are in separate physical locations. Teaching methods may be synchronous or asynchronous and shall facilitate and evaluate learning in compliance with BON approval status/regulations.”19, p. 9 Note the focus on learning and expansion to include both views—at the same time (synchronous) or not at the same time (asynchronous). This definition aligns with that of Knebel’s in that time is not the issue; distance is the issue. Given the variations in meaning, many accrediting bodies are defining distance education within their regulations.20,21

It is also critical to distinguish distance education from independent learning or programmed computer instruction in that distance education is planned, mediated instruction. This means that the teacher not only designs learning experiences to guide the student’s learning but also provides direction, comments on coursework, and issues a grade on completion of the course.

Distributive (distributed) education is a change in pedagogy where one customizes the learning environment to the learning styles of the learners using technology; the learners may be taking distance, hybrid (combination of online and face to face), or on-site courses. This method includes interactive activities using available technologies. The pedagogy supports a hands-on learning-by-doing approach in which the learners interact and collaborate during the course of study using appropriate technology. For example, one might have the learners review a lesson and video on patient teaching, discuss critical elements of a good patient teaching guide on a discussion forum, and then work on a wiki to produce a project such as a patient teaching guide on some aspect of patient care where there is a written lesson, podcast, and demonstration video.

Dede’s characteristics of distributive education:

• Supports different learning styles by using mixed media

• Builds on the learner’s perspective though interactive experiences

• Builds learning and social skills through collaboration

• Integrates learning into daily lives.22

In 2004, Dede defined distributed education as “a term used to describe educational experiences that are distributed across a variety of geographical settings, across time and across various interactive media.”23, p. 16 Although the terms distributed learning and distance education are used interchangeably, distance education has a narrower definition. Since the primary characteristic of distance education is that learners and teachers are separated by time and distance, learners learn the material on their own time and in their own place. Distance education may or may not include the use of emerging technologies. The primary goal of distributed learning is the customization of the learning environment to better meet the learner’s needs through the use of technologies and an interactive collaborative environment that can take place on or off campus—that is, through course enhancements embedded in traditional classroom settings, hybrid (combination of face-to-face and distance learning), or distance courses. Distributed learning is more inclusive in its delivery methods. Additional information concerning the next generation of learners, learning environments, personal learning assistant initiatives, and related research can be seen at the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness’s Advanced Distributed Learning Network at https://www.adlnet.gov/adl-research/.

Three other useful terms one might encounter are online education, eLearning, and mLearning. Each will be defined here, but what is important is how these terms are used within the context of the content they are referencing.

• Online education requires the use of the internet or an intranet to deliver educational materials.

• eLearning (eTraining) is “an approach to teaching and learning that is based on the use of electronic media and devices.”24, p. 152 Some authors believe there are three major elements that make eLearning different from face-to-face learning: asynchronous learning, a different location, and use of electronic devices that provide for interaction and communications.25 The consensus seems to be that eLearning requires a computer or other electronic device such as a smartphone or tablet. eLearning involves a greater variety of equipment than online resources or the internet in that any electronic device may be used: DVDs, CD-ROMs, and so forth.

• mLearning is the use of a mobile device (smartphone, tablet, iPad, etc.) as an educational tool for meaningful, just-in-time learning any place and time. Mobile devices refer to those devices that can be held in the hand. While some consider mLearning an extension of eLearning, there are differences between the two. These differences relate to time, information access, context, and assessment.26,27 mLearning has short learning sessions, accessed when needed, driven by context, and applied immediately. As mobile devices 519continue to develop more capabilities, you will see more interactive, stimulating learning environments. What we need to focus on is the learning environment that mobile devices can facilitate.

With such variations and overlap in these definitions, schools that offer distance or distributive education must consistently define these terms and the related required technology to implement the program or course. This process should answer the question, “Will these terms be used interchangeably or not?” If not, what distinctions are faculty making, and why is that important? Students applying to educational programs need to know how these terms are being used and, in turn, what will be required from them.

Faculty should discuss and define these terms during their strategic planning process when developing distance or distributive education courses and programs. Box 31.1 provides a sample outline for a strategic plan, and Box 31.2 provides an outline for a progress report. These same questions and processes also apply when implementing training initiatives in the work world. Questions to ask and answer during strategic planning include:

Box 31.1

Outline for a Strategic Plan for Distributive Education

Executive Summary

This section sets the background for the plan and generally includes the following subsections:

• Introduction. This subsection sets the stage for why faculty and the school are doing this. It addresses what is happening in the broader world, then locally, and then within the institution. It should answer the following questions: Why is the institution and faculty doing this? What are the goals? How will faculty and the institution define related terms? Some include a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis in the introduction. Others place it within the Details section as a separate subsection called SWOT analysis. Others place it in an appendix to the plan.

• Mission statement. What is the mission for this initiative? How does that fit with the mission of the college or university? The mission statement should include some of the language of the school’s mission.

• Goals. What are the specific goals for this initiative in terms of students, faculty, programs, and so forth? This can include goals such as providing flexibility in helping students achieve their educational goals, targeting the adult and second-degree populations, and developing faculty. Areas to address in the goals are as follows:

• Students. Who are the target students? What are the rules as to who can take these courses or enroll in the program? How will students be oriented to these means of learning?

• Faculty. How will faculty be trained? What training will faculty need? How will ongoing support be provided? How will this count toward faculty teaching loads? Who will monitor quality?

• Courses and programs. What programs and courses will be offered in this delivery method? Who makes these decisions? How are decisions approved? How do faculty address issues such as the Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act and copyright? What is the target class size? How will that decision be made?

• Support issues. What course management systems (CMS) will be used? Can it interface with the school’s other systems? When will faculty have access to a shell for course development? What library changes will be needed to support remote students? How will access to other support services such as registration, paying tuition, and accessing tutoring be handled? What support services will students need?

• Policy and procedures. Who will develop and approve them? When?


This section provides the details for each of the goals identified.

• Goals. List and number each goal. For example, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 2c, etc.

• Recommendations. After careful review, comparison, and research, what is the recommendation for each goal? For example, after careful review, Blackboard is the recommended CMS. Recommendations should also include who will be responsible for moving each goal forward.

• Budget items. Include projected costs for achieving each goal.

• Time frame. Include a target date for achievement of each goal.

Box 31.2

Content for a Progress or Status Report on a Strategic Plan

Plan name and date. For example, Distributive Education Plan 2016–2019.

Goal and objective. List each goal and objective.

Tasks, actions, or activities. What is needed to achieve the goal and objectives, coded to each goal and objective?

Persons responsible. Who is held responsible for this task?

Budget. Original or revised.

Due date. May include original and revised dates for completion of the task.

Progress note or description. Status of the task: what has been done and what needs to be done.

• What terms are faculty and the school using to describe the distance learning initiative? You can turn this question around to say “Describe the distance training initiative.” What terms do the accreditation agencies use? How are colleagues in other schools and accrediting agencies defining the terms? How will these definitions be conveyed to the learner?

• What technology will the institution use to deliver these courses or training? How will the institution notify learners about the required technology—for example, a webcam and broadband connection or a tablet with broadband connection?

• Does enrollment in online and distance education courses mean that students will never be required to come to campus? Are faculty using some hybrid approach that may require some attendance on 520campus? Will you use cohorts and, if so, how do you build them?

• What delivery system will the school use? Who will make that decision? What input do faculty have?

• What are the learning needs of the students? How will you maximize their learning with the use of technology and personalize learning environments?

Once the school decides to provide options for students regarding course delivery methods to complete their degrees, the selection of the course delivery system usually begins. This generally requires considering all available options.

Course delivery systems: course management systems

Course delivery systems (CDS), also known by some as course management system (CMS) or learning management system (LMS), are software programs or applications that permit the development and delivery of a course or training program without requiring knowledge of programming code. These programs provide the tools necessary to plan, implement, and assess the learning process by giving the professor/trainer the ability to create and deliver content, monitor learner participation and progress, provide for interactive communications, and assess learning outcomes.28 Many believe there are distinct differences between a CDS (CMS) and an LMS and that a CMS is a narrower term than an LMS. An LMS includes course management but also includes additional features that handle course registration, integration with HR systems, administrative features, and integration with other institutional information systems.28,29 In other words, an LMS handles all aspects of eLearning or corporate training, while a CMS focuses on content delivery and learner interaction and communication. This distinction, however, is blurring as CMS vendors incorporate more of the management aspect into their products.

There are several CMS software programs available, and the market is constantly changing. See Table 31.1 for CMS usage rankings reported by Campus Computing in 2015.30 However, it should be noted that three fifths (61.6%) of campuses responding to the survey report plans to review their current LMS strategy for budget or other reasons. Although Table 31.1 lists the most frequently used CMSs in the academic higher education world, the business world uses other CMSs for its training. Some of the more common examples include Cornerstone, SuccessFactors, Interactyx TOPYX, LearnUpon, SilkRoad, DigitalChalk, and Grovo, to name a few.31 Other CMSs are popular with the K-12 institutions and still others with the international market.

Table 31.1

Campus Computing Profile of the Course Management Systems Market, Fall 2014

CMS Market Share (%)*

Blackboard 39.1

Moodle 21.6

Instructure (Canvas) 14.2

D2L 11.8

Sakai 3.1

Data from Green K. C. The Campus Computing Project. http://www.campuscomputing.net/sites/www.campuscomputing.net/files/CC2015%20-%20Exec%20Summary%20&%20Graphics.pdf; 2015 [p. 17].

CMS, Course management system, D2L, desire2learn.

* Rounded up.

The CMS selection decision often rests with administrators, information technology (IT) personnel, and faculty, although some institutions may have student representatives on the planning committee. The process for the selection of a CMS should be an integral part of the strategic plan for distance education or corporate training. CMS selection should never be delegated to the IT department with minor input from other stakeholders. Considerations for selection include the following:

• Objectives or goals. What are the goals/objectives for distance education or corporate training? How does a CMS fit with these goals/objectives? How does this fit with the school’s philosophy and mission?

• Features. What features do faculty or trainers believe are essential to delivering the course or training? What are desirable features but not essential ones? What can the infrastructure support?

• Integration with current institutional systems. How important is this? Which information systems need to be addressed? Does the CMS support interoperability with third-party products (e.g., registrar’s applications, billing, registration)? If interoperability is limited, an LMS may be a better choice.

• Compatibility with different student systems such as operating systems, mobile devices, and related security programs like firewalls and antivirus programs.

• User base. What is the installed user base (how many institutions and end users are using the product)? Is the installed user base important to your organization? Is there a local user group associated with the CMS?

• What type of support does it provide for the faculty, students, and IT department?

• How stable is the company offering the CMS? This question may require the financial department to investigate.

• Customization/Maintenance. Will the CMS require extensive custom programming or maintenance? Are sufficient resources in place for that work? Will this require a dedicated staff person?

• Scalability. How scalable is the CMS? Can it easily expand or contract based on varying needs?

• Usability. How user friendly is the CMS? Does it have the tool set that faculty or trainers need to deliver the courses? Are there data tracking and report features? Are those tools intuitive to use for both learners and faculty or trainers to complete typical tasks?


• Outcome measures. Does the CMS support outcome measures? Is this important to the organization?

• Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) compliance. Is the system SCORM compliant (encourages the standardization of LMSs)? Is that important? Are there other standards that are important like Aviation Industry CBT Committee (AICC)?

• Cost. What does it cost to buy the CMS; what does it cost to own the CMS? What is the cost of hosting versus housing the CMS? What are the mechanism for and frequency of upgrades? What are the costs of these upgrades?31,32

One way to start the selection process is to first decide on the type of system that will meet the needs of the institution and its students: campus-based portal, proprietary CMS, open-source system, Cloud-based, or partnership.33 Many of these systems are moving toward the campus-based portal model and a better fit with most definitions of an LMS.


Portals are customized, personalized entries or gateways where users, including students and faculty, can access all of the content they typically need. A portal is a user-centric web page that includes access to a CMS. The portal integrates and provides a secure access point to the data, information, and applications that users need in their roles as a student or faculty. Portals generally include enterprise resource systems (finance, human relations, etc.), community building communications, admissions, retention, web-based academic counseling, CMSs, and metrics to measure success, to name a few features. Two examples of vendor-based portals are Ellucian and Jenzabar.


Ellucian’s (www.ellucian.com) focus is assisting educational institutions to grow by offering applications that integrate and interface the systems that faculty and students need. Fig. 31.1 presents the homepage of their website with the software submenu showing. At Ellucian Live 2015, the CEO announced the acquisition of a competency-based education LMS called Helix and the movement of two of their products to the Cloud—Banner and Colleague by Ellucian.34

FIG 31.1 Ellucian with Software submenu displayed. Used with permission.


Jenzabar (www.jenzabar.com) is another example of a portal system that supports a college or university across each department, including administrative offices and academic departments.35 Jenzabar attempts to align the school’s mission and goals with technology investments. Fig. 31.2 shows the Higher Education Solutions menu on the homepage and the range of offerings that Jenzabar provides. Notice the Cloud services on the left side of the screen. These products are similar for most portal systems. Their eLearning software includes the typical features of CMS: content management, course copy, a gradebook, exams, e-mail, calendars, chat, discussion forums, online meetings, test analytics, and usage statistics.

FIG 31.2 Jenzabar products menu. Copyright 2013 Jenzabar, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Proprietary Course Management Systems and Learning Management Systems

Proprietary CMSs are “software products that are purchased or licensed by one vendor.”36, p. viii These vendors provide a license either to install the system on the customer’s servers or to host the customer’s license on their servers. For many years, proprietary CMSs were the dominant systems on the market. Many of these original systems merged, and only a handful make up the current market of proprietary systems.

Most CMSs provide content management, user management and enrollment, assessment of learners, communications such as e-mail and discussion forums, and social learning tools such as wikis, blogs, journals, and mobile features. Three examples of proprietary CMSs and LMSs are presented in the following sections: Blackboard, Desire2Learn (D2L), and SharePoint LMS.


Blackboard (www.blackboard.com), founded in 1997 as a small educational technology company, is the market share leader in proprietary CMSs. Blackboard’s Learn provides a full range of CMS service (Fig. 31.3). Blackboard is used across domestic and international markets that includes K-12, Higher Education, Governments, and Businesses. Their goal is “to make learning more desirable, accessible and meaningful for learners.”37

FIG 31.3 Blackboard home page with the platforms menu. From www.blackboard.com. Property of Blackboard and used with permission.


D2L Incorporated (https://www.d2l.com/), founded in 1999, markets itself as providing innovative learning solutions to K-12, higher education, corporate, government, and healthcare organizations worldwide.38 D2L’s Brightspace includes a variety of modules for managing the creation, delivery, and management of courses. The functionality is robust, but the learning curve for novice users can be more challenging than Blackboard. An example of the products offered by D2L can be seen in Fig. 31.4.

FIG 31.4 D2L product menu. https://www.d2l.com/. Copyright 2013 D2L Corporation. Used with permission.

SharePoint Learning Management System

ELEARNINGFORCE (http://www.elearningforce.com/Pages/About-us.aspx), based in Denmark and founded in 2003, provides eLearning services to educational, corporate, and public sector organizations worldwide with its primary product SharePoint LMS. The company is a Microsoft Gold Partner, and the LMS is built “in SharePoint from the ground up.” (See their About Us webpage in Fig. 31.5.) It prides itself on SharePoint LMS being a product that is easy to use for those familiar with the Microsoft interface and easy to integrate with Microsoft products such as the Office suite.39

FIG 31.5 Sharepoint LMS with Product Overview tab displayed. Used with permission.

Open Source

Open-source software refers to software code that one is “free” to use and alter to match existing needs. Institutions interested in cost savings may select an open-source CMS. While the cost to buy may be very low, the cost to own can be very high. The development of the custom interface, the needed IT staff, and long-term maintenance costs of a custom-built CMS can push these costs well above initial expectation. Additionally, updates for new requirements 523or security can take significant time and effort. Institutions must address the cost for IT department time, the skill set to manage server and network issues, and training time on open-source CMS. What is free is the code; there is no yearly license fee to pay. Two examples of open-source software are Moodle and Sakai.


Moodle (https://moodle.com/) is popular among educators around the world as a tool for creating online websites for students. To work, Moodle must be on a web server, either on one of the school’s servers or on a server at a web hosting company such as MoodleCloud (https://moodle.com/cloud/), 524which services small schools and Moodle Partners like ClassroomRevolution LLC and eLerningExperts.40 There is generally a fee to use a hosting company, but the overall cost of this approach may be less because of free access to the code.


Sakai (https://www.sakaiproject.org/) is an international community that exists to enhance teaching, learning, and research.41 One joins the membership institute that includes small colleges, universities, hospitals, government agencies, and political parties. The organization defines the needs of academic users, creates software tools, and shares best practices while pooling knowledge and resources in support of this goal.

Cloud Based

Cloud-based CMSs are increasing in popularity with the movement toward mobile learning. Cloud-based CMSs refer to systems that others host on the internet and learners access over the internet using their browser.42 While many LMS now have Cloud services as one of their products, this group of CMSs focuses more on employee training. Some of the benefits of this approach are the same as for others, such as lower costs, security, and easy access from any device. One of the main advantages is that Cloud service vendors provide the needed technical support, thereby freeing up IT staff for other projects. The end user needs to provide only the internet access and developed courses. Some examples of Cloud-based CMSs include Litmos LMS (http://www.litmos.com/), Agylia (http://www.cm-group.co.uk/), TalentLMS (http://www.talentlms.com/), Docebo SaaS LMS (https://www.docebo.com/), and G-Cube (http://www.gc-solutions.net/).43


Book publishers often partner with software vendors to provide a package of tools to assist with the delivery of distance education. Elsevier’s Evolve LMS and Pearson’s learning environments (LearningStudio, MyLab, Mynursinglab) supply everything from customized, concept-to-completion LMSs to digital content. These online learning environments offer resources to both faculty and students (e.g., interactive grade book features, learning tools that simulate clinical experience and charting, Cloud-based technology). In most cases, the disadvantage to using this approach is that they may require you to use their textbook or may require students to purchase an access code. When you change textbooks, you may lose access to these resources. If students try to resell their textbooks on the used-textbook market, the access code is not valid.

With all of these options, how do faculty and the school begin to select the system that will work within their environment and with their faculty and students? The next section discusses selection criteria and the role of the faculty.

Selection Criteria and Role of the Selection Committee

From a faculty perspective, the criteria for the selection of a CMS or LMS fall into several categories: ease of use, stability, tool set, and support. Other school considerations relate to compatibility or integration and to cost issues that require financial and technical support.32 While faculty can provide valuable insights about what they do best, developing and teaching courses in the area in which they are experts, to be an effective participant in system selection, they should review articles such as “The Top LMS Statistics and 525Facts For 2015 You Need to Know” to gain a big picture perspective.44

• Ease of use. There is a learning curve to using CMS software. The interface should be intuitive to use. Does it use common educational terms to describe tools such as discussion forums or boards? Does its design support distance education or is it an adaptation of other products? Faculty should ask questions and complete typical educational tasks to assess ease of use for grading papers, projects, and tests; returning files; and setting up and using the grading center. Also important are tools such as wikis, blogs, conferencing, and chat that are available for collaboration activities for assignments such as group projects. How easy is it for students and faculty to learn to use these tools? This could include an analysis of the number of clicks it takes to upload content, what file formats are acceptable for upload, and what file size limits are enforced. Another area to analyze is the ease of content movement between courses and between semesters and the ease of archiving and exporting courses. Too many required clicks or difficulty in understanding the screen discourages faculty from using tools. Does the setup reduce time and effort or demand more time and effort in delivering the course? Additional information about usability is included in Chapter 21.

• Stability. How stable is the company offering the CMS? Will it be in business next year or will the school have to select another system next year if the company fails or another company acquires it? Stability also includes system reliability issues such as the frequency of system crashes and the turnaround time to restore the system after such a crash. Students and faculty require nearly 24/7 access.

• Tool set (features). What are the bundled tools in the CMS or LMS, and which ones require additional funds to access? For example, is Blackboard’s Collaborate tool bundled with the basic version of Blackboard, or does access to that tool increase the price? Do faculty want collaborative tools such as video conferencing, podcasting, blogging, wiki abilities, chatting, and so forth? What “smart” features do faculty need? This may include alerts that the system automatically sends to students and tools that remember who the user is and where he or she left off in doing work. Do faculty want mobile computing as part of the tool set? Do they want textbook cartridge capabilities or online testing tools? Cartridges are files that a textbook publisher provides faculty who select its textbook. Once uploaded, the cartridge sets up the course in the CMS. These cartridges contain lessons, PowerPoint slides, discussion forums, tests, and so forth. It is the role of faculty to identify what tools they need to teach a course.45

• Support. Is implementation training provided? Is that part of the start-up costs? What training materials does the CMS offer? Does it have a 24/7 help system, either by phone or by chat? What support does it offer students?

After considering these factors, faculty are responsible for determining the essential criteria or features necessary to deliver a quality course using appropriate technology as well as any “nice to have” but not essential criteria or features. In many universities, CMS decisions are made for the academic environment as a whole. Thus knowing school- and profession-specific requirements is critical.

CMS and LMS products are improving with new technological developments and arrangements with partners that bring new tools to the product. For example, most products now provide access to Web 2.0 tools that facilitate collaboration efforts. These include tools such as wikis, blogs, conferencing, ePortfolio, and journaling. Most products now also offer mobile learning options.

The Future of Course Management Systems

What is the future of CMS software? Green and Spencer present the results of surveys regarding the top trends in eLearning for 2015 and beyond. These include:

• Mobile and wearable access to eLearning materials

• More sophisticated collaboration tools

• Growing Cloud-based LMS services

• Personalized learning using pull technologies putting the learner in control

• Augmented and gaming learning environments providing practical experiences46,47

What will this mean to faculty and students? What will this mean for the selection of CMSs?

Institutions are or have considered adding mobile ability in the criteria for selection of CMS or LMS software. Does this mean that colleges and universities that make this decision will require students to have a tablet or wearable device like glasses, watches, or bracelets of some sort? Think about how this might affect education of patients with articles like “Wearable Enhanced Learning for Healthy Ageing: Conceptual Framework and Architecture of the ‘Fitness MOOC.’”48 What will this mean for the design of learning materials and learning experiences? What will this mean for educating our learners in how to work with patient educational experiences?

Another area of growing technological development is collaborative tools that are smarter (i.e., remember who users are, what they like, and what they were doing [Web 3.0]) and provide relevant information to each user. Users should also see more lifelike virtual 3D worlds integrated into the LMS or CMS software. These virtual worlds will make use of the latest technological capabilities, such as Google’s augmented reality 3D glasses and Corning’s view of the future. The Corning vision integrates glass surfaces to access information and to interact in the virtual world. Imagine a time when bathroom mirrors remind students that work is due, when students can interact with their world on their TV screens, and when students can chat with classmates and the professor through their kitchen counter. (See YouTube video—“A Day Made of Glass.”) What will this mean for the design and teaching of distance education and the new wave of distributive courses?


Instructional design for distance education and learning

While most of the principles of instructional design hold true for distance education, the principal teaching change in a learning environment is the use of technology to engage and empower the learner. This section is of this chapter is not a comprehensive treatise about instructional design concepts but rather a discussion of key factors that should be considered in the design of eLearning experiences.

Learners and How They Learn

The key is to know the learners and their skill sets. Are these undergraduate or graduate students? Are these older adults returning to the educational world? Are these working adults pursuing updated skills? What technology skills do they bring to the course? What comfort level do they have with new methods of course delivery and learning? Have they taken distance education or distributive courses before? Are they ready to take responsibility for their learning? Do they understand that they must be an active and not passive learner in this environment? What are their expectations of response time? For example, some learners expect the instant access and response that they experience when texting, while other learners wait much too long to ask for needed help.

As the introduction to this chapter pointed out, there can be a different mindset among digital natives (learners who grew up with technology) and students who were schooled using more historical methods. Table 31.2 gives a sense of how technology has evolved over the different generations. How do faculty design for those differences? Oblinger et al. identify the following implications for learning and the design of these courses:

Table 31.2

Who Were the Students, Who Are the Students, Who Will Be the Students?

Age Range in 2016 Name of the Generation Technology Development During Birth Years

51 to 73 Boomers 1943—ENIAC used plug boards and switches for programming, occupied more than 1000 square feet, used about 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighed 30 tons.

1964—Digital Equipment Corporation launch the 12-bit PDP-8, the first successful commercial minicomputer.

35 to 50 Gen X 1965—The Victor 3900 the first desktop calculator is available.

1981—The first IBM Personal Computer is released with a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor.

19 to 34 Millennials 1982—The personal computer was Time’s “Machine of the Year.” The article was written on a typewriter, but Time was planning to upgrade the office to word processors within the year.

1990—The first web browser is invented. 42% of American adults have used a computer at some point.

1998—Apple releases the iMac with a 233-MHz G3 processor, 4GB hard drive, 32 MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive, and a 15″ monitor.

0 to 18 Post-Millennial 1999—41% of adults are using the internet.

2008—75% of Americans are using the internet.

2016—88.5% of Americans use the internet

2015—Almost two thirds of American adults (64%) own a smartphone of some type.

Sources: <http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/03/11/world-wide-web-timeline/#2008>.; <http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline>; <http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/01/16/this-year-millennials-will-overtake-baby-boomers/>; <http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/04/01/chapter-one-a-portrait-of-smartphone-ownership/>; http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/us/.

• Using the web as an exploratory tool to access the wealth of information available

• Offering learners a comprehensive learning experience

• Engaging learners

• Empowering learners to take charge of their own learning1

Faculty will usually see a range of students with a range of abilities. Knowing this, faculty must provide a range of learning activities to meet the needs of current students. At the beginning of the course, faculty may assess students’ learning styles and work with the students to develop strategies to deal with various learning styles. A faculty member may also develop interactive activities. For example, the faculty may provide a written lesson about some concept, a podcast with the same content, discussion questions to engage students in the content, and an exploratory WebQuest activity that requires students to explore the web for quality resources that cover this content. A WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web. See Google’s Teaching with Technology website (https://sites.google.com/site/learnteachtech/webquest-projects) for several examples. Fig. 31.6 provides examples of nursing-related WebQuests created using the website www.zunal.com. This example 528was developed using the keyword “nursing” and limiting the search to “college/adult, all curriculum.” As can be seen in Fig. 31.6, this search returned several different nursing-related WebQuests.

FIG 31.6 Nursing Webquest Examples. Used with permission.

Goals and Objectives (Outcomes)

In distance education, writing clear, measurable goals and objectives or outcomes is critical to ensure that students know the course expectations and how faculty will assess their learning. Each lesson, module, or activity should identify the purpose, goals, and objectives; provide clear directions for what students are to do; and provide a scoring rubric or guide for evaluation of students’ achievement of the objectives or outcomes. These should also include due dates and time periods.

Instructional and Learner Activities

Instructional and learner activities should provide learners with the skills, knowledge, and experience necessary to meet the course objectives. These activities or experiences should consider the learners’ need for engagement, activity, and relevance to the content, objectives, and work world. This means that the professor will need to take advantage of the tool set available through the CMS software as well as tool sets available from outside sources. It may also mean that the professor must step outside his or her comfort zone in learning new ways to deliver the course and develop relevant learning experiences. Faculty should have access to a wide variety of collaborative tools that encourage interaction with the content and with others. These tools include wikis, blogs, discussion forums, journals, and WebQuests. Other learner activities could include developing podcasts, videos, and group projects. When designing course activities, keep in mind that active participation facilitates learning better than does passive participation. For training, the same applies, making it relevant to the work tasks. As an example, teaching how to use Excel and related features with activities that demonstrate common uses from the work setting is much more effective than a basic, intermediate, and advanced perspective for organizing the learning.

To help guide the selection of learning activities, one should consider the use of a model like the Community of Inquire Model, with its three main concepts of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence.49,50 Social presence refers to establishing a support learning community where students can engage in meaningful communication and develop social relationships. Cognitive presence is the development of learning materials where students construct knowledge through reflection and discussions. Teaching presence is the last concept that deals with designing the learning experiences, guiding the learning, and moving the students to the desired student learning outcomes.


Regular and timely feedback to learners on their progress is important to learner success and engagement with the content/concepts/skills. Learners benefit from frequent feedback as they master new content. But this can also be very time consuming for faculty or trainers.

Faculty members who design learning activities or projects where grading requires faculty judgment as opposed to “objective testing” should develop a grading rubric or guide for each activity and place it with the directions or guidelines file as well as attach it to the assignment in the CMS. These guidelines should also convey to learners when students will receive comments and grades on submitted work. When developing these guidelines, trainers should think carefully about how they will use these same guidelines during the grading process. How will they actually evaluate the learner’s learning? Will there be feedback provided directly on the learners work, a review of a sample document from the work world, or follow-up once the learner is back in the work setting?

Once the grading is completed, faculty will also need to enter scores in the CMS so that these scores can be viewed in the online student grade sheet. Many online grade sheets now offer the students several ways they can sort and analyze their grades. Faculty should consider how students might interpret this information. For example, would a student learning new information be motivated or discouraged if they determine they have the lowest score in the class?

In addition to the evaluation of learner’s learning, faculty should give consideration to evaluation of the course and related learning activities. Does the school have course evaluation or best practices guidelines? Are these guidelines appropriate for distance education courses? Many of these course evaluation forms link to faculty contracts and will not necessarily help improve the course. Does the faculty member use something like Quality Matters, which is a peer review process to certify the quality of online and blended courses?51 It might be helpful to use a guide like Quality Matters as the course is developed. There is no one best practice guide for distance education, but all guides consider these points as being critical to quality:

• Institutional commitment and resources

• Curriculum and instructional rigor with interactivity and regular communication between faculty and learners

• Faculty support services

• Student support services

• Evaluation of the course and programs

In the corporate world, the trainer needs to give consideration to how a training session fits with the rest of the training provided by the corporation and the corporation’s mission, goals, and values. For example, in a clinical setting, are the employees at the completion of the training able to safely use the electronic health record (EHR), or are there common data entry errors that are impacting patient care?

On a course-by-course basis, faculty may develop some activities that provide learner feedback to the professor. A student statement illuminating what the student learned from completion of the activity provides feedback as to what is working and what is not. For example, at the end of each 529blog entry, have the student identify up to three things that they have learned and why they found them to be important. As a final example, require the students to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 on how well they achieved each course objective and to support that rating with some data (an activity or a resource that helped them learn, a product that they produced, etc.).

Equally important to a well-designed and well-delivered course are the support services available to learners.

Student (learner) support services

Student support services are important to the achievement of learner outcomes, learner satisfaction, and learner retention. In planning for learner support services, the faculty may need to assess what support services online learners expect. Nelson states, “putting all student services online will not eliminate the need for support services specifically designed for distance education students.”52, p. 186 That statement is still relevant today. All learners, both on and off campus, must have access to the same resources, but they may be delivered in a different way.


While most schools have online access to full text databases, interlibrary loans, and book borrowing, there is a wealth of other library resources of which the learner should be made aware. The following are two examples:

• Top Sites Blog contains a list of the top 10 free online libraries (http://topsitesblog.com/free-online-libraries). These online libraries contain mostly historical information but can assist students with their general education requirements as well as provide historical information about healthcare.

• Nursing on the Net: Health Care Resources You Can Use (https://nnlm.gov/training/nursing/sampler.html) includes a list of topics with links such as alternative medicine, drug information, evidence-based nursing, and mobile apps, to name a few. There is an extensive listing of links to resources under these categories. This site is maintained by the National Network of Libraries of Medicine and is updated regularly.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) publishes a set of standards for libraries servicing the distance education population, initially approved on July 1, 2008, but referred to as a “living document.”53 Guidance in the use of these standards may be found at the DLS website (http://acrl.ala.org/DLS/). In addition, a bibliography of recent literature on distance learning library services can be accessed at https://distancelearningsection.wordpress.com/resources-publications/.

During the planning phase, the school should compare its services to those standards and develop a plan to acquire the services and materials that do not currently meet those standards. In addition, faculty must discuss what additional services online students may need that on-campus students do not. This can vary from institution to institution based on how the course is delivered. For example, do learners need a different user ID and password to access the school’s online full text databases, or do they have one user ID and password to access all resources whether on or off campus? Do they have access to an online librarian who can help them with their search strategy?

Tutoring Services

All learners studying at a distance should have the same access to tutoring services as on-campus learners. There are several online tutoring services that learners may use for a fee or that the school may provide. Some examples include Tutor.com (www.tutor.com), Smarthinking, Inc. (http://www.pearsoned.com/higher-education/products-and-services/services-and-solutions-for-higher-ed/services/smarthinking/), and Chegg Study (https://www.chegg.com/study). See also http://www.tutor.com/higher-education. The tutoring service must be similar to those that the school offers on campus and must have the same pricing structure. Faculty should ask questions about these services regarding the fees, live real-time help, hours of operation, and qualifications of the tutors. For example, does the service have tutors who can address the needs of healthcare students?

If there are peer tutoring services for on-campus learners, how will those same services be available to the distance education learner? What technology will be in place to provide for these services? For example, does the school provide a web-based video solution where the writing center peer tutor can interact with the student and the student’s paper while talking about needed improvements? If a video conference system is not available, the learner could e-mail the paper to the tutor and arrange a phone conversation to discuss it.

Online Textbook Distributors

The cost and acquisition of required textbooks in a timely fashion merits attention. How is the campus bookstore responding to the growing student population that may not reside on campus or live nearby? Does it provide online ordering and shipping to the student’s residence? What does that do to the costs? Does it provide eText options? Can learners rent their textbooks through the bookstore? Will open textbooks (licensed under an open copyright license) be used that are free to the students? Other options that learners may use are the growing number of online textbook distributors such as Chegg, Ecampus, and CourseSmart. Of course, the student has the option to order from websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble College, as well as from traditional booksellers. The following are a few examples of distributors in the higher education market:

• Follett (www.follettbooks.com). Follett is a leading operator of college bookstores and a major distributor of textbooks. It operates a service called CafeScribe, which is a digital textbook platform; this is different from e-books, which are digital editions of traditional textbooks that students or faculty read on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. CafeScribe provides the ability for faculty and students to share notes and insights in 530line with the text, search the text for specific information, take notes directly in the text, bookmark places in the text, and highlight information.54

• Chegg (www.chegg.com). Chegg provides students with the ability to rent textbooks as well as buy new and used textbooks at a reduced cost. Students can also sell their books back to Chegg. It also offers homework help for many courses, scholarships, and course selection help. Chegg acquired several companies in 2010 and 2011: CourseRank, Cramster, Notehall, Student of Fortune, and Zinch.55

• VitalSource (https://www.vitalsource.com/). VitalSource provides eTextbook and digital learning tools. It provides both online and off-line access. It has a partnership arrangement with more than 50 publishers and offers more than 90% of the textbook market in higher education.56

What guidance should the school provide to learners in distance education courses with regard to acquisition of textbooks? For example, are these books that the student will need throughout their time in college? Depending on the answer, the students then must ensure that they are renting or using digital forms of the textbook that are available to them for the duration of their time in college. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), discussed later in this chapter, mandates that students be provided with information about the required textbooks when they register for a course. What should they know about older editions? Are they acceptable or not? When will students actually need access to the textbooks? They may need certain textbooks immediately but may not need others until later in the course. Knowing this may help students balance the cost of textbooks. Will students need a code to access the textbook website? If so, does a used textbook come with the code or will the student need to buy that separately? Buying codes separately is generally more expensive and may not save students money when the used book costs and new code costs are combined. What is the return policy of these online distributors?

Help Desk

Given the nature of technology and that technical issues will arise during the course of the semester, the school will need to address technical assistance for off-campus learners. Should it provide for a university-based help desk, an outsourced help desk, or some combination? This is not an easy decision. It requires a cost analysis to assess staffing a help desk with staff and students versus outsourced staffing. Software will be necessary to run the help desk and a training budget allocated to train the staff. The school will need to make decisions about help desk staff’s ability to reset passwords and access the CMS, with designated privileges for functions they can perform, such as configuring a student’s browser and firewall and running virus checks. What is the range of help that a student working at the help desk can provide? Will more hours be allotted during the first few weeks of the semester when more help may be needed? Is there an orientation program for the students to the CMS?

Because distance learning occurs at any time (24/7) and any place, many schools are opting for outsourcing. Outsourcing can be offered by either the CMS vendor or be a freestanding service that is independent of the vendor. A key question to ask in the CMS selection process is whether a CMS provides a help desk service. Faculty may want to confirm that the school’s CMS provider can effectively bundle a help desk product with its CMS product; many CMSs are moving in this direction (to a portal or bundled product). If so, what is the fee and what is the advantage of using that service for the distance education program?

Another approach is to use a general help desk provider. The following are a few examples of a portal and CMSs help desk services.

• BlackBeltHelp (www.blackbelthelp.com) is a freestanding help desk service that has been working with higher education institutions for the past 5 years. It offers 24/7, 365 days a year support to students, faculty, and staff. Support includes LMS and ERP issues, general IT help, and so forth.

• Ellucian (http://www.ellucian.com/Support-and-Training/Ellucian-Client-Support/). This portal solution also offers help desk services. It offers assistance 365 days per year to faculty, staff, and students. Since it knows the portal software, it may be in a better position to assist students than a freestanding help desk service.

• Blackboard (http://www.blackboard.com/higher-education/student-services-and-technology-support/index.aspx). On July 8, 2014, Blackboard acquired Perceptis to enhance its help desk support service.

If outsourcing is the solution, then the college must ensure that it outsources the correct work and tasks. For example, will the help desk be able to reset passwords? Will it have remote access to see what the student is doing or to control the student’s desktop? What should it know about the CMS or LMS? Will it have privileges to enter the CMS? What legal implications does CMS access have? In either case, the school will need to monitor the effectiveness of its contract in defining the services to be provided and the quality of the services provided. The efficiency and effectiveness of the help desk support must be subject to evaluation to validate that it is meeting the needs of this student population.

In summary, learners will need access to the help desk 24/7 or close to it, and this will necessitate a variety of communication channels: phone, chat, video conference, self-help website, and so forth.

Administrative Services, Academic Support, and Community Building

The retention rate for students who learn in their own space and time has been a problem. How should the school adjust certain traditional student services to provide for a feeling of connectedness and belonging for distance education students? Will this aid in retention and better student outcomes?

• Administrative services. These services include registration, financial aid, adds and drops, and admissions. 531Since most schools provide these services online, the procedures for accessing them should be the same as those used by on-campus students. The key institutional issue here is whether this should be a portal solution with one interface or stand-alone systems.

• Academic support. This includes advising and career services. Many of these services are already extended to students through web portals or department websites and through social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter. The school may need to develop additional options for use of social media tools to extend the services in both time and space. For example, use of video conferencing or chat rooms for advising sessions with extended hours may be appropriate. It may also be important to put in place an alert and “job well done” system (such as Starfish, www.starfishsolutions.com) to keep students on track and motivate them to finish. Questions to ask are: Does the software integrate with the CMS? What are the issues if it does integrate? If it doesn’t integrate? Some schools also have as a part of the student information system an online audit for ease of scheduling courses, reminders for requirements they met, and links to appropriate content.

• Community building. This is an area that schools may neglect more than other learner support services. How does the institution build a sense of belonging and identification with the program or school? Faculty and the school should consider services such as a cyber cafe either in or outside the CMS program (some CMSs have a community tab or feature separate from a course) or a blog that students can use to interact outside of the course. Faculty might also consider a regular newsletter or podcast that highlights an event, student, or opportunity. What about a webinar on an issue of concern to healthcare or nursing that is open to students in the program? What about an online student government community? There are other community-building options, but these must engage the students and help them identify with their online learning community.


This section addresses additional issues that relate to distance education—legal, disability, quality, and readiness.


Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) addresses the demands of the digital and internet age and conformance to the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization.57 This is a complex act that is generally outside the scope of this chapter. This chapter highlights those areas of the law that might affect a distance learning program. DMCA protects any copyrightable work. Copyrightable work includes written text or literary works, visual works, graphic works, musical works, and codes that pass between computers.58 Key sections that affect distance learning include the following:

• Prohibiting the circumvention of protection technologies, including encryption or password-breaking programs, and the manufacturing of devices that defeat such protection measures

• Limiting liability of online service providers because of the content that users transmit over their services

• Expanding existing exemptions for making copies of computer programs under certain conditions

• Updating rules and procedures for archival preservations

• Mandating studies to examine distance education in a networked world59

DMCA also established the Takedown Notice, through which copyright holders can demand removal of infringing content. This requires the copyright holder to follow the appropriate process and procedures.

Since this is a complex law, students and faculty should check with the school’s legal counsel if they are in doubt about violating DMCA while preparing and posting educational materials for a distance course. Many schools also have a checklist that can be used as a guide to maintain compliance with this law. This checklist is often posted on the library website.

Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization Act

The Technology, Education, and Copyright Harmonization (TEACH) Act, passed in 2002 and signed into law by President George W. Bush, addresses some of the issues that require attention when planning and delivering distance education. The purpose of this act was to clarify acceptable use of copyrighted materials as it relates to distance education. Many of the responsibilities for compliance with this act are placed on the institution and its IT staff. The TEACH Act permits the performance and display of copyrighted materials for distance education under the following conditions:

• The institution is an accredited, nonprofit educational institution.

• Only students who have enrolled in the course can have access to these materials.

• The use must be for either “live” or asynchronous sessions (permits storage of the materials on a server).

• The institution must provide information to faculty and students stating that course materials may be copyrighted and provide access policies regarding copyright.

• The institution must limit access to the materials for the period of time necessary to complete the session or course.

• The institution must prevent further copying or redistribution of copyrighted materials.

• No part of the use may interfere with copy protection mechanisms.59–61

For the professor, the law includes the following:

• The materials must be part of mediated (systematic) instructional activities (i.e., relevant to the course).


• The use must not include the transmission of textbook materials or other materials generally purchased or works developed specifically for online uses.

• Faculty can use only reasonable and limited portions of such materials, as they would typically use in a live classroom.

• The materials must be available only to registered students and not to guests or observers.

• Faculty must post a notice or message in the CMS that identifies the copyrighted materials and therefore precludes the student from copying or distributing these materials to others, as that would be a breach of copyright law.

• Faculty must pay attention to “portion” limitations (how much one can use).59–61

The latest attempt at revisions to the TEACH Act is H.R. 3505, introduced on November 15, 2013, for the purpose of developing accessibility guidelines for electronic instructional materials and related information technologies in higher education institutions. Congress.gov’s website (https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/3505) provides a copy of the bill, a summary of the bill, as well as information on the progress of this bill, which is still in the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training as of October 14, 2016.

Consult the school’s policy and legal and library authorities when in doubt about materials necessary for the course. The American Library Association has an excellent website that further explains the roles of the institution (administrators or policy-makers and IT staff), faculty, and librarians.

Higher Education Opportunity Act

The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) of 2008 is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. It requires postsecondary institutions to be more transparent about costs and requires that the institution post a net price calculator as well as security and copyright policies on its website.62 While many of the provisions in this act do not directly affect faculty (since they relate to administrative offices that deal with fees, growth, public relations, credits, etc.), the following do affect faculty: the textbook information provision, the definition of distance education, and the requirement to establish that students are indeed who they say they are.63,64

HEOA compliance entails the following:

• Faculty must select and submit textbook requirements to the campus bookstore before posting the next semester’s schedule and registration. Each institution establishes the process for this. Under certain circumstances, the institution may post a “to be determined” notice if textbook selection was not practical before the school posts the next semester’s schedule.

• Schools must pay attention to the change in terminology from distance learning to distance education. Education describes the process from the institution’s perspective; it includes the use of one or more technologies to deliver instruction to students who are in a separate location and to support regular and substantive interaction between faculty and students. Learning describes the process from the students’ perspective; it focuses on how the student interacts with the course content, classmates, and instructor in mastering the course content.

• Institutions must have a process in place to verify that the enrolled student is actually the person completing the course. Faculty may assist in determining how this process will work and with the development of a policy to cover this provision.

There are periodic updates to HEOA and the related regulations. These changes can be found at sites such as https://www.naicu.edu/special_initiatives/hea101/publications/page/updates-on-regulations-and-regulatory-process. Most educational institutions keep abreast of these updates and notify faculty during faculty in-service days.

Intellectual Property

The issue of intellectual property is coming to the forefront as a major concern in the digital age. Faculty are increasingly concerned about the ownership of distributive course materials and the use of those materials. Many faculty assume that these course materials are their creative property, meaning that a requirement exists for others to obtain permission to use them. Since these materials exist in digital form on a school’s accessible server, others may have access to these materials with or without faculty consent. In today’s world, some of these materials may have commercial value, and institutions are increasingly taking ownership of these materials. A clear institutional policy will convey to all persons involved who owns what and what constitutes allowable use of the materials.

Some questions to consider in developing an intellectual property policy are:

• What works are included under the policy (e.g., artworks, writings, software, course learning objects, PowerPoint slides, podcasts)?

• To whom does the policy apply (e.g., all employees, professors, researchers, postdoctoral fellows, administrators, students)?

• Under what circumstances does the school own the materials? Under what circumstances does the faculty member own the materials? Can there be joint ownership? Is this a work for hire or within the scope of the faculty member’s employment?

• What institutional resources did the faculty member use to create the materials?

• What key words should the policy clearly define?

• Is there a clear, definitive written agreement between the faculty member and the institution as to ownership and rights?

• Who is responsible for obtaining copyrights, trademarks, etc.?65,66

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that requires colleges and universities to give 533students access to their educational records. Colleges and universities must maintain the confidentiality of personally identifiable educational records. See www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html for the U.S. Department of Education’s summary of FERPA. While distance education courses were not a direct concern to those who wrote the FERPA rules, any time a faculty member or a university generates student information electronically, you must take precautions.

Consider the following guidelines for distance education and student records:

• Only enrolled students and the faculty teaching the course should have access to the course. However, the CMS administrator also has access to the course to manage and troubleshoot problems in using the CMS. The school must make the administrator aware of FERPA policies.

• If a college uses a hosting client (someone off campus that maintains the CMS), this arrangement makes the hosting client a third-party vendor. While the client should not have access to information that links a student to a grade, the client’s systems administrator does have access to the servers and ultimately to everything on them.

• Students should be able to view only their own grades in the online grade book. They should not be able to see other students’ grades.

• Some issues may arise regarding discussion forums, depending on how the faculty use them. Faculty should not post evaluative comments or grades for students’ comments in the discussion forum. Faculty should also state in the course requirements that students are required to post to the discussion forum, share their papers, and so on.

• If faculty use Excel to keep a record of student grades, they should remove the students’ ID numbers from the spreadsheet, leave no storage devices where others may access them, password protect the spreadsheet (but faculty must remember the password), and use an encryption program that comes with some external drives. This will protect the confidentiality of student data.

• If faculty lose a portable device such as a thumb drive that contains student grade sheets where the student names and grades are identifiable, they must notify the proper college or university authorities to determine what additional action must be taken.

• If faculty require students to send or post information to sites outside the college (e.g., blogs; social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube; etc.), a clear policy must be developed and followed. This type of assignment can be ripe for FERPA violations.

Disability Issues

Distance learning opportunities can open doors for millions of Americans with disabilities. When planning for the delivery of distance education courses, faculty must not create access barriers for the disabled. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit discrimination due to disability, and sections 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act provide protections to learners with disabilities.67

What constitutes a reasonable accommodation for a particular learner will depend on the situation and the type of program. The accommodation, however, may not be unduly costly or disruptive for the school or be for the student’s personal use only. In colleges and universities, the student has the primary responsibility to identify and document the disability and to request specific support, services, and other accommodations. Most schools have a person responsible for assessing students with disabilities and providing an accommodation letter to faculty. Each accommodation letter details modifications for each student with a disability. The modifications may include the following items:

• Providing extended time to turn in assigned work

• Providing extra time for timed exams

• Administering an exam in an alternative format, such as a paper exam when others will take the exam on a computer through the CMS

• Allowing spelling errors on papers or exams without deduction of points

Given the disability of the student and the nature of distance education, the student may need computer assistive devices. Students with disabilities may need adapted keyboards; magnification software; screen reader programs, such as Job Access With Speech (JAWS) (http://www.freedomscientific.com/products/fs/jaws-product-page.asp) or Dolphin’s SUPERNOVA (http://www.yourdolphin.com/products.asp), that convert the text and images to speech; voice recognition; and alternative communication programs. Most operating systems support persons with disabilities by incorporating accessibility utilities into the system.

For faculty, this may mean providing alternative experiences for a student with a disability (e.g., use of a captioned video for the hearing-impaired student). Faculty that teach distance education courses should review the tutorial entitled Ten Simple Steps toward Universal Design of Online Courses (located at https://ualr.edu/pace/tenstepsud/) that addresses these issues. It lists 10 steps and provides examples and details for each one.


The traditional model of quality evaluation is site based, but distance and distributive education are not site based.68 Distance education is changing the thinking about quality assessment methods. Pond suggests that this new paradigm creates opportunities and challenges for quality assurance and accreditation.69 Pond further suggests that the traditional items of quality assurance, such as physical attendance, contact hours, proctored testing, and library holdings, are impractical or simply not rational in a distance education course. Pond makes the following three suggestions:

• Use a consumer-based means of judging quality much like Amazon or eBay.

• Accredit the learner by having the learner demonstrate competencies rather than earn credits or certify the teacher’s competencies.


• Move quality assurance toward an outcomes- or product-based model.

This new model will look at quality indicators such as continuity between “advertising” and reality, personal and professional growth of the learner, relevance, and multidirectional interactions.

Eaton states that accreditation institutions or agencies need to do the following70, p. 6:

• Identify the distinctive features of distance learning delivery.

• Modify accreditation guidelines, policies, or standards to meet the needs of this distinctive environment.

• Pay attention to student achievement and learning outcomes.

In the Eaton article, Appendix A features guidelines for quality assurance in distance education, and Appendix B includes 12 important questions about external quality review that are worth examining.

Faculty must answer these questions: How will they evaluate quality in the distance education environment? How will the approach be the same as or different from that used for on-campus courses or programs? What are the current criteria that educational accrediting agencies will use to accredit or review the program? How do faculty address these criteria? What issues arise when states serve as the primary arbiters of policy and governance issues in U.S. education but the student population resides in one state and does not physically go to the campus in another state where the student is taking distance education courses?71


This section examines both the institution’s readiness and the learner’s readiness for teaching and learning in a distance education model.


Some institutions may enter the distance education market to maintain competitiveness; others may do so because their recruitment staff identified a market need. Some see this movement as a means to increase revenues in these difficult financial times without the need for brick and mortar facilities. Regardless of the reason, the critical issues for readiness are as follows:

• Does the movement to distance education fit with the institution’s missions and goals?

• Is the institution ready to invest in the technologies necessary to produce a quality program?

• Does the institution have the resources—people, money, and time—to develop and implement the program?

• Does the institution have faculty buy-in? Does it have administrative commitment? Does it have staff buy-in?

• Are faculty ready and prepared? Some institutions, such as Pennsylvania State University (PSU) and SUNY, have developed a faculty readiness assessment; the SUNY document is available at https://hybrid.commons.gc.cuny.edu/teaching/getting-started/faculty-self-assessment-preparing-for-online-teaching/. Does the institution have such an assessment or survey?

Without this readiness and commitment, distance education will not work or at best will result in a program of marginal quality. Just as the institution needs to be ready, it also needs to assess the students and potential student population for their readiness. That being said, the move to this method is moot for many institutions, because competition is forcing distance education solutions and most universities have already made this transition. In the corporate world (i.e., hospitals), it is also moot because of the need to provide mandatory training that takes into account employees working all shifts and all days. What is essential is the assessment of technologies necessary to deliver the training, resources necessary to make it happen, and trainer readiness to prepare the training materials.

Students (Learners)

Students who enter distance education courses need to consider their interest and ability to succeed in this learning environment. Inappropriate expectations about requirements for succeeding in these types of courses can lead to frustration and failure. Key questions include:

• What information does the institution provide to these learners to assess their readiness to learn in distance courses?

• Does the institution provide learners with a self-assessment tool such as Kizlik’s readiness assessment (http://www.adprima.com/dears.htm) or Cypress College’s readiness assessment (http://www.cypresscollege.edu/DistanceEdquiz/CCDERQ.aspx)?

• How will the institution make learners aware of the requirements for learning in this manner? For example, do learners know that distance courses require discipline and organization in setting aside time to complete the learning, as well as reading and comprehension skills to understand the concepts and develop the skills necessary for this program or course? Do students have the ability to follow directions and ask questions and the ability to work on their own under the guidance of a faculty member?

• How does the institution make eLearners aware of their responsibilities? For example, students will have to meet course deadlines, check in to the course regularly, interact with faculty and classmates, ask questions as necessary, and conduct themselves in a professional manner in all interactions.

The institution should list or outline learner requirements in a policy and procedures document and make this document available to students to ensure that they understand their responsibilities.

Conclusion and future directions

The changes in our educational environment are reflective of shifts in our demographics, economic conditions, and technological developments. Web 2.0 tools are opening up educational opportunities for lifelong learning to a diverse global 535community. Emerging terms, course management and learning management systems, and issues related to the development and implementation of distance education and distributive learning are all elements resulting from these budding educational opportunities.

The next generation of CMSs and LMSs will be integrated portals that are smarter, track more information, and analyze learner data across functions such as e-mail, wikis, chats, forums, and so forth. They will include personal learning environments (PLEs), immersive, 3D learning worlds with better communication channels and collaboration for any time and any place learning with tablets and mobile devices.72 This will result in just-in-time, customized learning environments where the focus is on outcomes rather than traditional credit hours. This emerging environment is about the learners, the learners’ needs, and the integration and use of appropriate technologies.


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