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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:22 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #47: February 27, 2002

Information, Communication & Society

Journal Name: Information, Communication & Society,
Volume 3, Number 4, 2000


Competition and Collaboration in Online Distance Learning
By Walter S. Baer (RAND, California, USA)
For-profit firms use the internet to offer classes, courses and degree programmes in direct competition with nonprofit and government supported colleges and universities. At the same time, many firms seek to partner with academic institutions in offering online instruction or distance learning. This paper outlines and discusses alternative models of academic/ for-profit collaboration that are being developed in the USA. Collaboration requires the partners to define responsibilities for technology, administrative services, content development, promotion and student selection, instruction, awarding of credits and overall quality control. Firms may want to 'unbundle' the traditional faculty role of both course designer and teacher, and use different professionals for the two functions. Although most collaborations today involve non-degree programmes, many schools of business are working with for-profit firms to offer MBA degrees online. The diversity of higher education in the USA means that many different models will be tried. Collaborations will expand the markets for online distance learning, but a number of difficult issues remain to be resolved.

Distance Education Provision by Universities: How Institutional Contexts Affect Choices
By Oliver Boyd-Barrett (California State Polytechnic University, Pomona)
Decisions about distance education are made too often without adequately considering the broader institutional context. This paper explores how a better understanding of 'macro' contexts can lead to more successful choices at the ‘micro’ level of designing and developing specific programmes. Six models derived from distance learning practices are examined. Analyses of these experiences highlight three primary institutional and political characteristics that have a critical influence on distance education outcomes: private or public emphasis; degree of dedication to distance learning; and holistic or incremental strategy. Three secondary dimensions are also discussed: technology mix; financial and production models; and target markets.

Infrastructure and Institutional Change in the Networked University
By Philip E. Agre (University of California, USA)
Many people believe that information technology will bring massive structural changes to the university. This paper draws on concepts from both computer science and social theory to explore what these structural changes might be like. The point of departure is the observation that the interaction between information technology and market economics creates incentives to standardize the world. Standardization can be a force for good or evil, depending on how it is done, and this paper develops normative ideas about the relation between the forces of standardization and the places in which university teaching is done. Information technology allows these places to be more diverse than in the past, and a good rule of thumb is that the places in which learning occurs should be analogous in their structure and workings to the places in which the learned knowledge will be used. Universities can support this increased diversity of learning places with appropriate structural reforms, including decentralized governance and explicit attention to certain aspects of the university organization, such as media services and the career centre, that, historically, have been marginalized.

The Virtual University Is...the University Made Concrete
By James Cornford (University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK)
The application of information and communications technologies (ICTS) to higher education has recently gained a new impetus, fired by the promise, and also perhaps the threat, of the 'virtual' university. While there has been much empirical research on individual ICT initiatives, most of this has been narrowly evaluative with little attention paid to their cumulative impacts on the university as an institution. Equally, while there has been much writing on the development of virtual higher education, much of this has been speculative, concerned with the advent of still marginal new institutions and little of it has been empirically grounded. This paper is based on in-depth studies of ICT initiatives in four established universities in the North East of England. It argues that one of the consequences, often unintended, of the introduction of these technologies has been to generate demands and pressures for a more corporate institutional form in which goals, roles, identities and procedures are made explicit and standardized across the institution. To the degree that these demands are met, the result appears to be that the closer that institutions move towards the goal of becoming a virtual university, the more corporate, or 'concrete', their institutional form becomes.

The Constitutional Context: Universities, New Information Technologies and the US Supreme Court
By Sandra Braman (University of Alabama, USA)
The legal context in which universities operate is among the forces shaping the ways in which new information technologies are taken up and used. In the USA, constitutional law - that law which addresses how society is to be structured and what types of processes should be permitted within it - is particularly important in determining what institutions can do. The ultimate arbiter of constitutional law is the US Supreme Court, the decisions of which establish basic principles for the US legal system. This article reviews the entire body of US Supreme Court decisions that deal with higher education and mines them for their implications for the use of new information technologies by universities.

New Media and Distance Education: an EU-US Perspective
By Alain Dumort (European Commission)
This paper presents an overview of the development of new media in the secondary and higher education systems of the European Union (EU) and USA. A combination of driving forces in pedagogical thinking, technological progress and business models have raised new expectations for the widespread use of educational technology, such as by providing major market opportunities as in the adult training segment. Many public sector and private commercial initiatives for connecting schools to the Internet, first adopted in the USA, and then in member states of the EU, have met with marked success. Most of the secondary schools are, or are being, wired, if but to a limited extent. The diffusion of information and communication technologies (ICTS) in the EU schools is particularly rapid given their initially low penetration rate. If American organizations are indeed leading the development of online courses and programmes in the higher education sector, European universities have now realized the importance of investing in this field. However, for new media to significantly improve the educational process in the EU and in the USA, they must be embodied in the complex school or university environment, and be nurtured by new partnerships between business and the academy.

Student Distress in a Web-based Education Course
By Noriko Hara (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) and Rob Kling (Indiana University at Bloomington, USA)
Many advocates of computer mediated distance education emphasize its positive aspects and understate the kinds of communicative and technical capabilities and work required by students and faculty. There are few systematic analytical studies of students who have experienced new technologies in higher education. This article presents a qualitative case study of a small graduate-level web-based distance education course at a major US university. This paper examines students' distressing experiences due to communication breakdowns and technical difficulties. This topic is glossed over in much of the distance education literature written for administrators, instructors and prospective students. The intent is that this study will enhance understanding of the instructional design issues, instructor and student preparation, and communication practices that are needed to improve web-based distance education courses.

Virtual Learning and the Network Society
By Martin Harris (Brunel University, UK)
A wide variety of organizational structures and technologies are associated with the ‘Virtual campus’. This paper compares the UK’s two largest distance learning initiatives: the Open University (OU) and the University for Industry (UfI). The comparison suggests four alternative approaches to ‘Virtualization’ and shows that debate has often under-estimated the variety of possible approaches. The relationship between ICTs, knowledge and organizational structure is complex, reflecting a diversity of values and rationalities embodied by learning institutions.

Promoting Scholarship Through Design
By Tamara Sumner (University of Colorado at Boulder, USA)
How can new media positively transform scholarly practices? One possible way is for scholarly archives such as e-journals and digital libraries to better support the needs and practices of their users, instead of the publishing process. This article examines what it might mean to promote cognitive and social aspects of 'scholarship' through innovative archive design. Design requirements for supporting both scholarly tasks and scholarly communities are derived by analysing existing cognitive and social theories. A theoretical framework for guiding archive design is introduced: the contextually enriched document framework. This framework suggests that: document interfaces should enable practitioners to progressively enrich documents with important contextual information arising from social processes; and archive managers should engage in proactive practices to facilitate use and assist practitioners in realizing the benefits of the new technology. Both the design requirements and the framework are illustrated with examples from an existing electronic journal - The Journal of Interactive Media in Education.

Making the case online: Harvard Business School multimedia
By Sylvia Sensiper (Harvard Business School, USA)
New media technologies provide opportunities to expand academic curriculum offerings and enhance student learning. Yet web-based and online learning tools should not be just "repurposed" text and information, or videotaped faculty lectures. Instead, the web calls for the inclusion of sound, text and visuals for learning tools that provide a media-rich environment. This allows faculty to create multidimensional experiences that cater to different learning styles and provide opportunities for problem solving. Drawing on my production experiences at HBS, as well as my own experience teaching visual anthropology and creating films, videos, photographs and web products, I discuss the teaching opportunities that new technologies and media can provide.

Targeting Working Professionals: a Masters of Arts in Gerontology
By Edward Schneider, Maria Henke and Carl Renold (University of Southern California, USA)
This overview of an online degree programme aims to develop a concrete illustration of an exploding array of courses and programmes. The approach at the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California, seeks to address a targeted audience and to build on the special strengths and more unique degree programmes of the University

The Virtual University: Jones International University, Ltd
By Pamela Pease (Jones International University)
This overview of an online degree programme aims to develop a concrete illustration of an exploding array of courses and programmes. The approach at the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center, at the University of Southern California, seeks to address a targeted audience and to build on the special strengths and more unique degree programmes of the University.

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