Volume #1, Issue #4

Date: June 1988

Jason Ohler, Director
Educational Technology Program
University of Alaska Southeast


In the industrial age, we go to school. In the information age, school can come to us. This is the message implicit in the media and movement of distance education.>

Issue Volume #1, Issue #4

Date: June 1988

Editor: Jason Ohler

Educational Technology Program Director
University of Alaska Southeast
11120 Glacier Highway, Juneau, Alaska 99801
Technical Coordinator: Paul J. Coffin
Box 34166
Juneau, Alaska 99803 907-780-6211

[NOTE: The editor will be taking off for the rest of the summer and suggests you do the same. He will begin producing the journal again at the beginning of September. WE ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN CONTRIBUTIONS. Please keep them brief, a few screens maximum.]


This issue at a glance:

    Eero Pekkarinen
    ADP chief,The Institute of Business and Data Processing
    Tornio, Finland

    by Bruce Scriven
    Head of Extension Services
    Brisbane College of Advanced Edn
    Queensland Australia

    At The Open University
    Milton Keynes, UK

    by Barry Willis (ANBW@ALASKA)
    and Greg Moore (ZFGDM@ALASKA)
    University of Alaska System

    By Andy Boddington

  6. DISTANCE EDitorial: What If ?
    By Jason Ohler




Distance Education in the Institute of Business and Data Processing in Tornio in Finland

by Eero Pekkarinen

ADP chief, LT-instituutti
PL6 SF-95401
Tornio, Finland

Students coming from the different parts of Finnish Lapland are faced with the following problems:

In response, a training experiment was initiated in the Institute of Business and Data Processing in Tornio in which we are examining the many opportunities of distance education delivery in sparsely populated areas of Lapland.

What follows is a discussion of the many different types of media used to accomplish this.


Basic material is sent to students either in the form of duplicates books or exercises.

Newspaper, comics
Newspaper is a good way of giving a short daily "information shock". We decided to use comics as educational material.They provide information on data technology to students who will later on act as specialists in various ADP operations in companies, to entrepreneurs in provinces as well as to people interested in ADP as a rule. The subject of the above mentioned comics is "Computer purchasing".

Conferencing via phone and telefax
An individual student has the opportunity of attending a discussion, even while on a business trip. Each group is provided with telefax which the teacher uses to send new lessons and exercises. During the evening student use their own telefax to send answer and homework and to ask for further information.

In the beginning there were some technical difficulties with the audibility of sound. In addition to this, many lecturers had difficulties in planning their lectures to be held via phone, but they got used to it quickly. On the other hand, the students didn't use the phone efficiently enough; usually they were just listeners. Both students and teachers are of the opinion that discussion via phone is essential in this kind of distant education regardless of its high costs.

Videotextnet has been used during one training session. Students and local groups used microcomputers as videotex terminals. They were connected with the national videotexnet. During the training session electronic mail program was not sufficient enough at that time, so it couldn't be used efficiently enough. However, current electronic mail programs will improve possibilities to use videotex in teaching

Students using this method had a microcomputer either at work or at the training site which they used to do their homework. In addition to this, a microcomputer is connected with the nationwide videotexnet as well as Micro VAX computer in the Institute of business and data processing in Tornio. There is also talk of using the hardware and software students use at work so that each person could apply training to his or her own work.

Electronic mail
There is a mailbox in Microvax-system of the Institute. Via the box the teacher can send material, exercises and also exams. The students can answer exercises, exams and send informal questions to their teachers. Even if electronic mail is handy and quick in data transferring, compared with e.g. telefax, it does require students and teachers to compose electronic mail messages, sometimes an impediment to using it as opposed to telefax.

Electronic Phone
The electronic phone has been tested in so called terminal telephone calls. This is carried out by means of the program Phone/Microvax. A teacher is able to see the parts of the six student screens on his screen at the same time, while students themselves see on their screen the whole text the teacher is typing on his console.

The electronic phone is an excellent device to help visualize the purely spoken telephone conferencing but each distance education site must be provided with two telephone lines for both telephone conferencing and microcomputer.

Video and cassettes
One part of training process was carried out by delivering videos and cassettes to students. One of the major problems has, however, been the lack of high quality video material.Therefore, we made an attempt to produce a video program of our own.

Our video is designed for new students in distance education as well as in other educational institutions and enterprises, which have outlets in different parts of the country and which need to train their staff by means of distance education.


Electronic mail in Distance Education

by Bruce Scriven

Head of Extension Services
Brisbane College of Advanced Edn
Queensland, Australia

The college currently enrolls approximately 1600 external tertiary level courses. One of these courses is a Graduate Diploma in Computer Education. All students who enrol in this course must have access to a microcomputer

During 1987 the College started a pilot program in which Australia's national electronic mail service, KEYLINK, was used by staff and students to improve communications and reduce delay experienced by students between the time a problem arose and our answer was received.

Twenty-two volunteer students and a group of lecturers involved in Computer Education courses were enrolled on KEYLINK and provided with access to each other and to a bulletin board. Modems were lent to students who needed them. Students could send messages to individual staff mail boxes, to each other or place messages of general interest on the bulletin board. The pilot program proved to be inexpensive and has been expanded.

One interesting finding has been that students tend to communicate more with each other than with their lecturers and hence electronic mail is probably being seen by students as replacing the face- to-face interaction that takes place on campus.

A complete report on this topic is the subject of a paper to be presented at the ICDE conference in Oslo in August.

[The original contribution as I received it was a bit scrambled. Corrections welcome.]



October 7 - 11, 1988

Conference Organizers:

Tony Kaye and Robin Mason
Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University

The conference will examine the educational uses of computer-mediated communication (CMC) - especially computer conferencing, electronic mail, and other on-line facilities - in the context of each of the following themes:


Delegates may take part in any one or more of the following :

- Fri October 7th: One-day INTRODUCTION to the OU

- Sat and Sun October 8th & 9th: A CASE-STUDY of CMC on an OU course

- Mon and Tues October 10th & 11th: A COLLOQUIUM on CMC in distance education


INTRODUCTION TO THE OU: This is designed for delegates unfamiliar with the OU distance education system. It will include visits to various units on the main campus, and to a Regional Centre.

CASE-STUDY: This workshop will present the use of CMC in a new Open University course ("An Introduction to Information Technology"). As well as using print and broadcast media, the 1400 home-based students and 65 tutors on this course also have access, via their micro-computers and modems, to the OU's CoSy conferencing system. The workshop will include demonstrations and presentations by students, tutors, and researchers, and discussions centred on the four conference themes.

COLLOQUIUM: This will include addresses by invited educators and researchers involved in varying educational applications of CMC, interspersed with group sessions based on the four conference themes.

The aim of the colloquium will be to attempt to define the role and potential of CMC in multi-media distance education programmes, in the light of existing international experience. It will also provide a forum for the more general development of ideas concerning effective use of computer conferencing for adult learners.


The following educators and researchers involved in CMC programmes have been invited to take part in the Colloquium:

Angela Castro- Deakin University, Victoria, Australia

Lynn Davie- Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, Canada

Andrew Feenberg, Western Behavioral Sciences Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

Marc Guillaume, Universit Paris-Dauphine, France

Linda Harasim, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,Toronto, Canada

Paul Levinson, Connected Education, New School for Social Research, NY, USA

Elaine McCreary, University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada

Morten Moeller, Jutland Open University, Denmark

Sren Nipper, Aarhus Technical College, Denmark


      Introduction to the OU (Fri Oct 7th)............. 10 pounds sterling

      Case-Study workshop (Sat and Sun Oct 7th & 8th).. 65 pounds sterling (fee includes 2 lunches and Sat dinner)

      Colloquium (Mon and Tues, Oct 9th & 10th)......... 85 pounds sterling (fee includes Conference Dinner on Monday)

      Registration forms and details of local hotel accommodation (there is no on-campus accommodation) can be obtained from :

      Robin Mason, CMCDE Conference Organiser,
      Institute of Educational Technology,
      Open University,
      MILTON KEYNES MK76AA, United Kingdom

      Telephone : (+44) 0908 653782 / 653137
      Telex : 852061

      JANET : rd_mason@uk.ac.ou.acsvax
      EIES : 585, antoine
      CoSy/Guelph : tkaye / rmason
      PARTI/Oise : Robin Mason / Tony Kaye
      Participe Prsent: Tony

      ITEM #4

      by Barry Willis and Greg Moore



      Barry Willis
      Distance Education Academic Planning
      University of Alaska System
      June 1988
      In a "traditional" classroom setting, the instructor (and students) are privy, on both a conscious and subconscious level, to various forms of input and feedback not readily available in a distance education setting. Subconscious teacher/student cues may be as subtle as a wandering eye indicating a lack of attention or a stifled yawn while presenting a supposedly critical point.

      In fact, one factor that separates the "good" teacher from the truly exceptional teacher is his/her ability to constantly remold the critical instructional points being presented to fit the situation at hand. The art here, is not so much changing the actual content being presented, but in capitalizing on the ever changing teacher/student dynamics to insure that critical instructional points are presented (and received) with maximum clarity.

      While attainment of this goal is elusive under any circumstance, it becomes even more challenging in a distance delivery setting. There are a number of strategies, however, that the distance educator can use to build teacher/student linkages and improve instructional effectiveness. These include:

      1. Get to know your students (and let them get to know you) early on in the course...or even in a pre-session before the instruction begins. Exchange photographs, mini-biographies, descriptions of backgrounds, personal interests and anything else that will help you and your students understand each other better as individuals.

      2. Keep your instructional program flexible by offering a choice of delivery methods, time frames, and post-presentation activities to maximize student learning.

      3. Emphasize early on that you and the students are in this together. This will require opportunities for group and individual input and feedback in an environment that encourages open communication.

      4. When developing a distance delivered course, make sure that the "context" as well as the content is relevant to your students.

      5. Be aware of and respect cultural differences in communication patterns.

      6. If at all possible visit and teach class from each site one or more times during the course.

      7. Provide opportunities and encourage students to use available technology to work among themselves. Consider joint presentations in which students from different geographic and/or cultural settings look at specific issues from their unique perspectives.

      8. As teacher, strive to feel comfortable in the role of "skilled facilitator" as well as "content provider."

      9. Whenever and wherever technology is used, technical problems will occur. Don't be embarrassed or defensive when this happens... Work to resolve the problem, then move on.

      10. Even in your "lectures", make sure you build in plenty of opportunities for discussion and interaction.

      Most importantly, don't feel obligated to recreate "traditional" instructional methods in a "non-traditional" distance education. Through effective planning, and constant feedback, both you and your students will enjoy the unique opportunities that distance education offers.

      Planning a Successful Distance Education Strategy By

      Greg Moore
      General Science Instructor
      University of Alaska


      Chukchi College in Kotzebue serves a region of 36,000 square miles in northwest Alaska. There are ten villages and 6000 residents scattered across the service area. The population is 88% Inupiat Eskimo and bilingual in Inupiaq and English; the region is a cross-cultural setting.

      Since 1982, Chukchi College has operated a distance education program which offers developmental and college courses in every village in the region. Though small, Chukchi College has graduated 32 Alaska Native students with the Associate of Arts degree, and has sent 26 of those graduates on to baccalaureate degree programs. Chukchi College has,at times, enrolled as many as 304 students at once from the region,representing 5% of the regional population. Chukchi College represents a successful distance education program.

      This article is a tight synopsis of the actions which have led to a successful distance education program at Chukchi College. The article identifies three priority actions in planning necessary to a good distance education effort.

      Priority One: The Planning Process

      The most important factor for a distance education program is a planning process. The planning must be continuous, underlying all of the important actions of the program. The planning process forces participants to think about students, to self-evaluate, to organize ideas, and to deal with function-versus-cost issues.

      At Chukchi College, the planning process was used to make decisions regarding technology, course offerings, course standards, program evaluation, administrative procedures, and distance education policy.

      It won't surprise good managers to hear that distance education really has to do with people, not technology. Because distance education requires new sorts of effort from people, it tends to amplify relationships among people. If people are working together with a shared sense of purpose, the distance education program will perform well; participants may begin to see themselves as successful pioneers in a new approach to education.

      In contrast, if the planning process has not been comprehensive, people may perceive the distance education program as an undesirable competitor with traditional forms of education, and may resent the new sorts of effort required. In the latter case, the teamwork which is essential to distance education may begin to break down. Managers can use these perceptions as an index to the success of their planning process.

      The planning process should involve all the key personnel in the program. What was formerly a relationship between the teacher and the student in a traditional classroom is somewhat altered to a relationship with a teaching team in a distance education class. The teacher still takes the lead role, but the registrar, the administrative staff, the business office, the faculty secretary, and the librarian all need to understand that their role with distant students is more direct. The planning process helps personnel to understand that the different effort required for distance education is a function of student needs.

      Managers may also find that distance education also tends to amplify interpersonal relationships in the institution. Teaching is a personal profession; good teachers give of themselves and feel their work closely. As a result, emotions can run high around important decisions. In addition, computing and telecommunications technology is very personal. People tend to form close, almost symbiotic relationships with their electronic tools and tend to form very definite opinions about their tools. Only the consensus bred of close communication and working together can transform high emotion into effective teamwork.

      The planning process should prioritize the needs of students, keeping this focus in balance with concerns for technology and administrative needs. The primary purpose of distance education is to teach human beings, not to brandish the latest technology, nor to make the registrar's life easy. Whoever coordinates or chairs the planning process should perceive themselves to be an advocate for students. The best distance education planning processes continually assess and re- assess the needs of students.

      The planning process should include the needs of teachers. It has been our experience that the commodity needed most by teachers is time. The best teachers tend to fill their time with tasks designed to benefit students. Imagine the reaction of a busy teacher suddenly confronted with learning an unfamiliar technology for an unspecified purpose and which will fundamentally change the teacher's relationship with the students. The teachers are the experts on tools needed in the classroom, and are the ultimate pragmatists on what is worth their time and what is not. Teachers should be involved in the planning process.

      The planning process should contain a continual review of computing and telecommunications technology, with the purpose of identifying technology appropriate to the needs of the students and the teachers. Most distance education programs have at least one "wizard"; a person especially skilled in technology and with boundless enthusiasm for its possibilities. "Wizards" live in the future. While wizards sometimes have difficulty coming down to earth, they often can be lured with an invitation to describe new advances, or better, to demonstrate the latest equipment. Truthfully, there is a lot of excitement and innovation in the microelectronics industry, and those attitudes can happily infect a distance education program.

      Finally, most distance education planning processes discover the need for good applied engineering advice. The planning program should have access to computing and telecommunications engineering advice as needed. The experience at Chukchi College was that engineers were not needed on a continual basis in planning, but were definitely required in any important decisions regarding technology.

      Priority Two: A Distance Education Policy

      It is important for the manager of a distance education program to ask that the planning process generate long-term goals for the institution, which may be expressed in the form of a distance education policy.

      The planning process for distance education will, of necessity, be occupied with short term goals -

      • what courses to offer
      • what procedures to follow in registration
      • what standards to use for courses
      • what technology to use in delivering the class, and so on.

      Naturally there will be a flurry of activity in planning prior to a semester, and lull in planning as classes actually get underway. Every institution has its cycle of activities. Within this cycle, there occurs a point where the manager can ask for a reflective planning effort; an effort which looks back on what has been done in the short term and assesses what worked and what did not work.

      The manager should be aiming to build institutional knowledge based on experience. In short, the planning process should result in a distance education policy.

      A distance education policy is a statement of values about students, the uses of technology, and what the institution hopes to accomplish. Rather than a policy in the restrictive sense, a constructive distance education policy is a positive statement about the underlying themes in a program which lead to good education. A good distance education policy is almost like a business card; a tight statement about the institution which can be easily communicated.

      Good policy has several beneficial effects. First, it tends to draw participants in the program together and to generate a mutual, working respect for each other. Good policy is open to innovation and creativity, and may even identify those themes as desirable. Good policy recognizes that sometimes, standards are necessary, but that the purpose of standards is to improve function rather than to exercise control over people. It has been the experience at Chukchi College that good education policy can move people toward excellence in education.

      A good distance education policy also has the effect of attracting the support of communities and industry. A positive statement of values can generate a sense of partnership between the institution and service communities, and a better understanding of the costs of distance education. That sort of positive relationship is not lost upon the microelectronics and education industries, especially where their public service roles can find an expression.

      Priority Three: Doing Distance Delivery

      There is no substitute for simply going out and doing distance delivery. While planning and policy are definitely important, neither need be completely articulated before initiating a distance teaching effort. If this advice seems in contradiction to the planning and policy which has already been described, it is only to remind the reader that there is no substitute for good judgement. Some institutions which should be doing distance delivery seem to study and talk the matter to death, and never get started. It is not possible to know everything about distance education before starting out; the field is too new, and, in any case, other institutions do not know your students and your service region. Whoever is managing the distance delivery effort needs to exercise judgement in simply getting started.

      As a suggestion, one good place to start is to have teachers themselves participate as students in distance education classes. The mysteries of alien technologies are suddenly revealed when a person has to use the technology to earn a grade. The participants will gain a better appreciation of the kind of program support necessary to mount a successful distance education class, and can communicate those necessities to their own institutions.

      ITEM #5

      [Network Jargon and What It All means]

      Andy Boddington

      Thanks to Andy Boddington for providing this handy list of definitions for those of us awash, yay, DROWNING, in the world of netspeak.

      Australian Computer Science Network.
      Advanced Projects Agency Network. Largely American network. Now known as the INTERNET.
      Japanese extension of BITNET.
      "Because Its Time NETwork". The main American academic network.
      Coloured Book Protocol-
      A set of protocols governing mail, file and job transfer between JANET sites. So named because each protocol is in a book with a different coloured cover.
      A network or subnetwork (subdomain)
      European Academic Research Network. An extension of BITNET linking European computers.
      Educational Domain of ARPANET
      FTP File Transfer Protocol-
      A protocol that allows transfer of files between different sites and different machines.
      FTP manager-
      The VAX software that manages incoming and outgoing mail.
      Grey Book Protocol-
      The protocol that JANET uses for sending mail between sites.
      A network NODE that has mailboxes and users (as opposed to a node that just forwards mail).
      The PSS to international network gateway.
      An emerging rationalisation of North American networks, including ARPANET
      Joint Academic Network linking UK university & research centres computers.
      Canadian extension of BITNET
      A set of computers using common PROTOCOLS
      A computer in a communications network.
      Name registration scheme for JANET sites (including some commercial sites)
      A standard that defines the method of communication between a set of computers.
      Packet Switching System. the UK public communications network.
      NRS address of the University of Kent at Canterbury (short form)
      Unix to Unix CoPy. UNIX mail mechanism.
      ISO standard message handling system protocol

      ITEM #6

      DISTANCE EDitorial:

      Suppose we had won an award, say, the Sensitive Innovators Award, and as a prize we had won a year's appointment at Nicholas Negronte's Media Lab at MIT with unlimited access to money and scientific intelligence, carbon and silicon-based, to build THE distance ed tool, THE electronic notebook/workstation for the distant or even local student who wanted to expand educational opportunities beyond his or her immediate locale. What would we build?


      First let me step outside the illusion to cite the basic problems with building such a machine, not because I feel ultimately defeated but in order to placate the realists:

    1. we don't have the networks in place to take advantage of
    2. such a machine
    3. it will take forever to develop the software
    4. quality training will be scarce,
    5. society couldn't handle it
    6. etc.
    7. How I Deal With All of This:

      The machine will be so dynamic and so empowering that the infrastructures will be built around it. It will be something so powerful that it causes the networks to be assembled, the software to be crafted, the training programs to be developed, the sanction of society to be realized. I assume that it at least CAN be that powerful. Whether or not it WILL BE depends upon what the public is willing to demand from industry.

      Besides, by making these assumptions I get to dream about the perfect machine, which is all I really wanted to do in the first place.


      Before we build it, let's take a quick look at criteria, based on today's understanding of learning needs, leading edge technology, and ergonomics. Assume this to be Phase One Thinking in a life of endless upgrades.


      Phase One is considered to be something producable in the next fives years and viable for five to ten after that before its first major upgrade, (Phase Two, I would assume) to be dealt with in the Journal some time in the future.

      Functional Description

      Specifically, PHASE ONE would support:

    8. Keyboard, mouse and typical computer functions,
    9. Telecommunications
    10. Light pen drawing
    11. FAXing
    12. Audio-conferencing
    13. Multi-functioning, allowing at least three of voice, data, FAX, and light pen transmission to occur simultaneously
    14. Our machine would be about the size of the new IBM laptops, with a thin, rock hard bottom plate that pulls or swings out to form a writing or mouse desktop surface [there would be would be right AND left-handed versions]. Pulling out the desktop would expose a FAX apparatus. Thus, to FAX one would need to set the machine on the document to be scanned.

      A set of operator's headphones (with mic), and light pen snap out of the molded hard plastic casing. Standard inputs would include RS 232C serial port (with adapters for other common communication port configurations), coax RF, parallel printer, phone jack, MIDI and RCA jacks.

      It would have Mac II computing capabilities, with at least 4 megabytes of RAM, and at least a 40 megabyte hard drive and one 800 K floppy.

      It would be made of a durable plastic, available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, with optional wood trim.

      The First Three Peripherals To Be Developed

      1. an analog port board, with audio cassette and VCR cassette ports that would would clip on to the bottom, beneath the swing out desktop
      2. fiber optic hookup
      3. CD ROM attachment, anticipating the day when students are popping gigabyte-size disks into their machines which carry full motion video encyclopedias or entire expert systems in, say, geometry or the Russian language.

      If industry gets its act together, transmit/receive capabilities, similar to those offering by Geostar, allowing students true mobility. This may well be in a future round of peripherals.

      A mighty crowded piece of plastic, but, he said, tossing down the gauntlet to those in industry, doable. The name of the machine: the equalizer.


      ITEM #7

      by the editor


      [What follows is an excerpt from the first issue of the Journal. Feel free to send suggestions to the editor.]

      This first issue will be primarily concerned with the Journal itself. Once we provide an idea of the Journal's identity and direction, we hope you will contribute to this rapidly growing field of education and communication.


      We want short contributions, 4 screens maximum. Rather than trying to compete with a paper-based magazine which does a much better job of presenting long articles, we want contributions that present overview information. Based upon information gleaned in contributions, readers can directly contact the author for more details.


      The issues that the Journal is concerned with fall into four basic content areas:

      Content Area #1- Distance Education

      The Journal is interested in distance education as the organized method of reaching geographically disadvantaged learners, whether K-12, post secondary, or general enrichment students. Areas of interest include:

      • delivery technologies,
      • pedagogy,
      • cross cultural issues implicit in wide area education delivery,
      • distance education projects that you are involved with,
      • announcements and workshops, or programs of study,
      • anything else regarding the theory and practice of distance education.

      Content Area #2- Distance Communications

      The Journal recognizes that education encompasses a broad area of experience and that distance education includes distance communications that fall outside the domain of formal learning. The Journal welcomes contributions that deal with serving people at a distance who aren't necessarily associated with a learning institution. The Journal welcomes information about, for examples:

      • public radio and television efforts to promote cultural awareness,
      • governmental efforts to inform a distant public about social issues,
      • or the many training programs run by private business to upgrade employee skills.

      Content Area #3- Telecommunications in Education

      Once the distance education infrastructure is solidly in place, local learners will want to tap into it, because they simply prefer learning in a decentralized setting or because they want to expand their learning opportunities and resources beyond those immediately available to them. This phenomenon, which we call 'bringing distance education home,' will grow in the coming years and we look forward to hearing from people about telecommunications in education, as a tool or a content area.

      Content Area #4- Cross Cultural Communication Efforts
      Particularly Between the US and the USSR

      The Journal is interested in projects concerned with overcoming cultural barriers through the use of electronic communication. The Journal particularly looks forward to contributions concerning:

      • efforts to improve electronic communication between the USSR and the US
      • international electronic conferences
      • cultural domination through the inappropriate use of media
      • the use of telecommunications to promote understanding of the human condition

      To subscribe to The Online Journal of Distance Education and Communication, send the following command to LISTSERV@UWAVM :

      SUB DISTED your_full_name

      All contributions should be sent to JADIST@ALASKA

      Any other questions about DISTED can be sent to:

      Jason B. Ohler, Editor
      Paul J. Coffin

      Disclaimer: The above were the opinions of the individual contributors and in no way reflect the views of the University of Alaska.

      End of the Online Journal of Distance Education & Communication