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New Horizons in Distance Education: Charting New Territory

, , Sam Houston State University, United States ; , St. Martin's University, United States

EdMedia + Innovate Learning, in Montreal, Canada ISBN 978-1-880094-40-2 Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), Waynesville, NC


In a time when modern culture is linked by telecommunications technologies in ways never before possible, people transmit and process information, conduct business, collaborate in research, and engage in social and political discourse in dramatic new ways (Kapor, 1998, Wriston, 1996). Amidst this context, many educators search for a cost-effective way to develop a technological infrastructure that can effectively serve the needs of their students. When their searches yield promising results, educators who attempt to initiate such infrastructures can become stifled by bureaucratic norms and historical values, or thwarted by political and economic crosscurrents within their institutions. Furthermore, the implementation of new technologies within higher education institutions--environments almost perpetually preoccupied with finances and funding--must be done with utmost economic efficiency. The development of new technologies must also support the diverse needs of student populations whose characteristics are continually transforming beyond those of the traditional student (Dalziel, 1997). For example, many contemporary students need flexible scheduling of classes and alternative ways to access and distribute information because they work and attend school. For these students, distance education is often heralded as an excellent way to help them obtain the benefits of higher education while balancing their non-traditional roles and responsibilities. Yet, ironically, the potential benefits offered by something as non-traditional and futuristic as distance education classes may be undermined by their incorporation of pedagogical techniques and traditions that are not consistent with the changing educational needs of society. If distance education classes merely entail the uploading and distribution of didactic lectures, quizzes and paper assignments, then they may be falling far short of their potential to serve contemporary students who want—and need— to become successful members of modern society. Today's highly interactive society demands that its citizens think critically, problem-solve, and see outside traditional paradigmatic structures (Cox, 1997, Frazier, 1997, and Boetcher, 1997), and educators should be preparing students in a manner consistent with the needs and demands of their society. Distance education in particular needs to provide the types and extent of interactivity consistent with the new global society. But the question is: Can distance education courses actually be aligned to pedagogical practices which serve the needs of a rapidly-evolving, technology-assisted, information-driven society?


Hirtle, J., McGrew-Zoubi, R. & Scofield, C. (2000). New Horizons in Distance Education: Charting New Territory. In J. Bourdeau & R. Heller (Eds.), Proceedings of ED-MEDIA 2000--World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications (pp. 1368-1370). Montreal, Canada: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved January 19, 2020 from .



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