Curriculum Management for the Global E-Reality

Dr. George Kostopoulos

Professor of Information Systems
College of Business Administration
Texas A&M International University - Laredo
U.S.A.

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This paper was presented at the Ninth Annual World Business Congress,
December 14-17, 2000, San Jose, Costa Rica , and appears in the Congress's Proceedings.

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Abstract

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.





INTRODUCTION

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 cyber-globalization.

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.

TRENDS

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 special teacher.

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 reduced.

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.

CURRICULUM 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.

Curriculum Components

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.

The e-Infusion

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 ones.

Encyclopedic Level

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 semester.



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.



Exploration Level

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, respectively.

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.

Syllabus Management

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 deliverables.



Lecture Management

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.

Conclusion

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.

References

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.

Osborne, D.M. (2000) "It's a Dot-Com Life The first 100 days of Rick Inatome's life as an Internet CEO. Inc. Magazine March 01, 2000

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.

Bibliography

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 papers.

The Author

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 kostopoulos@tamiu.edu, while his cyberspace is at http://www.tamiu.edu/~kostopoulos/.