Dr. George Kostopoulos
Professor of Information Systems
College of Business Administration
Texas A&M International University - Laredo
In this paper the socio-techno-educational trends and the resulting issues are being
discussed. The need for curricula management is pointed out, and specific areas are
being identified. The paper's thesis is that, at the undergraduate degree level four
courses need be included on the utilization of cyberpower, while at the individual
course level, the syllabi must contain deliverables that are Web-researched and
Web-presentable. In addition, the student - faculty response time need be minimized
to maintain an efficient and effective teaching-learning environment.
As a result of the multifaceted
technological advances and consequent social
trends, the educational process, examined
either from the teaching or from the learning
viewpoint, displays a need for a vigilant and
continuous curriculum management that
takes into account the e-factor, namely, the
This means that the respective
processes, that have been followed over the
years, regarding a offering so called balanced
curricula, need be analyzed and redesigned.
Today, we need to take into consideration the
marketability of the offered knowledge and
skills in the new global socio-techno-educational scenario.
In this scenario, there are three
prevailing characteristics that should be
molding the new educational process. First,
the availability of new technological
resources, second, the Web as the major
transaction processing interface, and third,
the changing social perspective toward the
pursuit of education.
In every aspect of life, we are experiencing the presence of a Dual World, the traditional one and the Cyber world. Distance education is progressively becoming an education delivery mode that every educational institution, and every educator, will eventually have to reckon with. Furthermore, Distance education is becoming a synonym to e-education, since the cyberspace and its technologies are most cost effective and globally accessible.
Socio-Technical Trends and Challenges
The presence of cyberspace, is an
irreversible fact, which is steadily affecting
every traditional way of human interaction,
ranging from the interpersonal relations to
the international ones. For their mere survival,
professionals need to know how to capitalize
on the availability of this resource, and how to
incorporate its use into their activities.
The availability of the cyberspace,
with its wide spectrum of technologies, has
offered education unprecedented ways of
teaching and of learning. Ways, which
although they are powerful and impressive,
they have not yet been institutionalized.
However, because of their perceived
high promise, the entire educational system is
gearing up toward conquering the cyberspace,
even though it is recognized that formal cyber
education demands a special student and a
In today's world of high speed and
highly technical level, the acquisition of
technical literacy and the subsequent
continuous maintenance of that literacy,
pose a major challenge in every sector.
Undoubtedly, the required computer skills for
an e-student are by far more demanding than
those for an in-class student. This premise
equally applies for the teacher.
Socio-Educational Trends and Challenges
Traditionally, pursuit of higher education required a total devotion of time and effort. It was a multi-year period in a person's life, viewed as the last pre-employment years, and the preparation for a career.
Today, such luxury is being enjoyed
only by few. The majority of college students
are walking on a tight rope of employment
and education. Studying for a skill, or for a
degree, is not anymore an exclusive
occupation, but in most cases a secondary
one, with the primary being employment, or
parenthood. As a result, while the curriculum
material is not decreased, the students
available time for education is significantly
Consequently, the efficiency of that
time, whatever its amount, has to be
increased. This can be achieved through the
minimization or elimination of travel to
school, through the availability of instruction
on demand, and through learning processes
that focus on time effectiveness.
In this new social trend, e-education
appears to be Pandora's basket,
accommodating all student needs for off
classroom study, without compromising the
institution's academic objectives.
While the mechanics of e-education
delivery have been found, the major socio-educational challenge has become the
development of an effective student -
instructor electronic relationship and its
subsequent successful management.
Embarking into the curriculum management process in order to capture the power of the cyber technologies and to successfully operate in cyber space "... is a strategic complex task for management ..." [Kostopoulos, Parhizgar 1999] which requires"... embracing ... Internet economy's values and "rules"....." [Osborne, 2000].
Organizations, including academic institutions, should not expect to ripe the fruits of e-Reality by assigning this strategic complex task to a professor or to an administrator, as a side chore. In the academic world, this monumental task calls for a Dean or Vice President for Cyber Resources, a position that needs to be accompanied with all necessary political, moral and material support.
The fact is that, at this point in time,
the majority of organizations, especially the
academic institutions, with certain exceptions,
are underestimating the future impact of e-education, and are hardly allocating any
resources toward it. These institutions will
eventually join the ranks of the have nots,
because e-Education is not just distance
learning, but the incorporation of the
powerful cyber technologies into every aspect
of teaching and of learning.
As for the instructors themselves, in
depth cyber technologies literacy, in the
educational context, is becoming a
prerequisite to efficient and effective teaching.
An analysis of traditional curricula indicates, that typically, a curriculum is made of the following four components:
Encyclopedic Level. This is the early part of the curriculum that aims at the enculturation rather than at the training of the student.
Foundation for Learning. Here, the student acquires the knowledge infrastructure prerequisite to embarking into a career study.
Preparation for Career. This is the focal area of the curriculum, where the student is taught the theory and practices of the respective real world career.
Exploration Level. This, is the last part of
the curriculum, covering specialized topics
within the context of the curriculum.
Each of the above components has to
be managed with two objectives; to better
prepare the graduates for their careers, and to
enhance the learning process quantitatively
and qualitatively. This management will
require the introduction of new courses, or
the inclusion of new material into existing
At this level, the use of the various
e-communication modes need be covered and
practiced, since they now constitute a
prerequisite to any learning, much more to
cyber learning, where the student to instructor
contact is critical component. These
communication modes are:
Electronic-mail. Here, there is a lot more than what meets the eye. Harnessing the power of the advanced e-mail clients can result in a significant increase in one's communication efficiency and effectiveness.
Text Chat. Despite its apparent simplicity, this may be a very powerful instrument in cyber classroom discussions.
Voice Chat. This medium coupled with material that is available in a website can add real life into a cyber presentation made by a student or by an instructor.
Video Conferencing. It used to be that a third party server was needed for Internet video conferencing. Now, peer-to- peer software are available making video conferencing more accessible.
Browsing the Web. While everyone is familiar with the basic use an Internet browser, formal in-depth training can become a valuable asset. Telnet. The ability to reach and search available databases is a prerequisite to research effort.
FTP. The ability to upload or download files to or from accessible directories.
Web Presentations. With cyberspace being
the medium of communication, and
considering the simplicity and the power of
HTML, audiovisual expression in a Web
deliverable mode is an absolute necessity.
The importance of the above skills definitely calls for a rigorous early course in cyber literacy, let it be named E-Communications 101, and include it in every curriculum. Penn State named their similar course World Campus 101 [Young 1999].
Foundation for Learning
In this part of the curriculum the student starts exploring sources beyond the instructor and the required textbook. These sources are well structured electronic libraries, that will further flourish in the next ten years [ACRL 1998]. Some already exist [Lee, 1999]. In addition, there will be the websites of other instructors, where complete courses will be accessible, industry directories on product and services, archives of journals, magazines and of conference proceedings, etc.
It must be pointed out, however, that,
while the cyberspace is an unprecedented and
irreplaceable resource, it may easily turn into
a time sink for the student. Formal training in
Web researching will greatly help students in
their knowledge acquisition and information
mining efforts, and will minimize the frequent
syndrome of them being lost in cyberspace.
Consequently, another course is
needed at this level of the curriculum, with
extensive workshops, let it be labeled Cyber
Research 201. The time invested in such
course will definitely pay for itself in one
Preparation for Career
There is no area of life that is not
trying to capture the cyber wind in order to
advance itself in one way or another. This is
the main part of the curriculum, where
students need be exposed to the role of
cyberspace in the respective field. Here, a
special course is recommended on the
utilization of cyberspace in that field, let it be
named Cyberspace in the Discipline 301.
Furthermore, this level of the curriculum should be heavily Web supported in order to raise the student's awareness of the supportive but very important role of the Web.
By this level, the student has reached
a cyber maturity, and can now become a
contributor, if not of knowledge, at least of
filtered and analyzed information. The
presentation and dissemination of such efforts
can only be in Web form and in cyberspace,
The course recommended at this level is one that will help the soon graduates in their careers by enabling them to make Web deliverable presentations that are powerful in content, aesthetic in appearance and viewer-friendly in navigation. Let this course be named Cyber Presentations 401.
Let us review the components of a
typical syllabus, and identify the respective
areas of cyber enhancement. These are:
Course Objective. Part of the objective should be the utilization of the cyberspace in support of the course.
Course Goals. Besides the other more direct goals, included should be familiarity with the twenty, or so, major websites that contain pertinent to the course information.
Course Resources. Included need be a long list of useful websites that directly support the various aims of the course.
Course Research. Here, the students need to demonstrated their ability in finding needles in the cyber hay stack.
Course Deliverables. Most, if not all of the deliverable, should be in Web presentable form and delivered via the Web.
Course Grading. Considering the
significance of cyber literacy in every aspect
of professional activities, a component of the
final grade may be on the student's cyber
fluency, as displayed in the course
Similarly, let us review the
components and the delivery mode of a
lecture, or of a cyber lecture for that matter.
Regardless of the mode - in-class
lectures or over the Internet presentations -
the supporting material provided to the
students by the instructor should be accessible
over the Internet. The material should be
viewable either with a Web browser, like the
Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, or
with a Multimedia browser, like the
RealPlayer. This implies that, all files must
reside in an appropriate server (in an http://
server for html/java files, or in an rtsp://
server for streamed ra/rm/smil files).
As a matter of principle, all course
material should be archived, and be available
on demand after the first, and possibly live
introduction of that material.
The components of a typical lecture
can be identified as being the following.
Theory Presentation. This is usually the first part where lecturers describe certain topics, utilizing their own audio/visual support. Interweaved in this presentation one may have online access to other authoritative sites.
Demonstration of Examples. Typically, the theory is followed by examples, which could be drawn from the Web, demonstrating the cyber availability of information.
Asynchronous Discussion. The most natural follow-up to theory and examples is, of course discussion, which may be asynchronous - meaning that the student and instructor are not interacting in real time. For this purpose one may use the e-mail or an electronic bulletin board. One philosophy on distance education claims that all interaction must be free of time and place, and thus electronic and asynchronous.
Synchronous Discussion. Another philosophy on distance education claims that real time, that is synchronous, student - instructor interaction maximizes the information retention, as well as the bonding between the two. In this regard, text or voice chatting can create a very live cyber classroom environment. Video conferencing would be the ideal medium.
Course Administration Management
Course administration can greatly
benefit from cyber technologies, and for that
matter there are numerous services available.
However, it is highly recommended that cyber
instructors develop their own Web design
expertise, and prepare their own presentations
in a manner that is believed to be best suited
for the particular subject.
Part of course administration is
student testing and presentation of works.
While proctoring is a solution, a better one
might be live cyber video conferencing. It is
true that the quality, at this point in time, is
not the greatest, but it does provide
satisfactory student identity verification.
E-reality, as applied to education,
calls for curriculum management that focuses
on the utilization of the numerous Internet
technologies toward the enhancement of the
educational process. This is regardless if that
process is distance learning or in campus
lectures. E-education will undoubtedly be the
knowledge delivery mode of the future.
Only through a cyber multimodal and
multimedia educational process the learning
time can be minimized, thus, maximizing the
utilization time of the acquired knowledge.
The curriculum management,
regardless if it is for in-campus or distance
learning programs, is today's best mechanism
for the qualitative and quantitative
enhancement of these programs.
Incorporation of cyber education into
the academic process is a strategic task that
requires techno-academic talents with vision
and availability of resources.
Kostopoulos, G.K. & Parhizgar, K.D. (1999) "Study of Issues Associated with Cyber Education, Eighth Annual World Business Congress, June 30 - July 3, 1999 Monterrey, California USA.
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http://www.inc.com/incmagazine/article/0,,ART17277_CNT53,00.html Retrieved on March 6, 2000.
Young, J. (1999, 4 June). "Penn State Offers an On-line Course about Taking On-line Courses". The Chronicle of Higher Education. June 4, 1999.
ACRL (1998, July) "Association of College and Research Libraries Guidelines for Distance Learning Library Services: The Final Version Approved July 1998". http://www.ala.org/acrl/guides/distlrng.html. Retrieved on March 6, 2000.
Lee, A. (1999, July). "Delivering Library Services at a Distance: A Case Study at the University of Washington". The Journal of Library Services for Distance Education. Vol. II No. 1 - July 1999.
Butler, J (1997). "From the Margins to the Mainstream: Developing Library Support for Distance Learning". Library Line: An Occasional Newsletter of the University of Minnesota Libraries - Twin Cities, 8, No. 4, 1997.
Jones, D. (1999, July). "Florida Christian College Conducts Study to Help Institution Plan for Needs of New Distance Education Program". The Journal of Library services for Distance Education. Vol. II No. 1 - July 1999.
JLSDE (1997 - 2000) The Journal of Library Services for Distance Education http://www.westga.edu/~library/jlsde/
PSB (2000) "Enrich Your Curriculum" http://www.pbs.org/als/curriculum/index.html Retrieved on March 6, 2000.
CTL (2000) Web Based Teaching and Learning http://www.bgsu.edu/ctl/navigation/
webbased.html. A collection of related
Dr. George K. Kostopoulos is a
Professor of Information Systems at the
Texas A&M International University. His
teaching and research interests are in the
utilization of cyber technologies to education
and commerce. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org, while his cyberspace
is at http://www.tamiu.edu/~kostopoulos/.