Study of Issues Associated with Cyber Education







Dr. George K. Kostopoulos

Dr. Kamal Dean Parhizgar

Texas A&M International University, Laredo





Abstract

This paper describes the issues associated with the delivery of higher education via the Internet, including academic, instructional, behavioral, as well as technical. The paper's position is that eventually a cyber-academia will be formed, with its own recognition, culture and institutions, which will offer students unprecedented quality of education, as well as flexibility, as to time, form and place of instruction.





INTRODUCTION

Re-engineering the entire traditional academic programs, within the contextual boundaries of the new scientific innovative and knowledge-based distance learning concept, is a strategic complex task for management. Distance learning guides academic navigators toward enhancing their meaningful and purposive path of mass-education. This path of thinking and practicing mandates an overall reassessment of academic system designs at all echelons of management, levels of curricula, and domains of instructional knowledge.

The reality of departing from the educational scholarly philosophy to the academic info-market technology necessitates a simultaneous re-engineering of academic administration, inventing new academic and educational systems, and re-energizing faculty members' specialization in distance delivery skills.

In this rapid knowledge-based global free market economy, science and technology bring nations together by facilitating the sharing and exchange of technologies, products and services. This dynamic mode of thinking and behaving mandates that corporate managers be familiar with host countries' socio-cultural and politico-economic forces. Thus, managers need be periodically trained through short term executive training programs.

All profit-making, not-for-profit, and non-profit organizations have realized that self-sufficiency in information technology is becoming increasingly difficult in today's global markets which demand more strategic focus on viability, reliability, availability, durability, affordability, and efficacy of information.

Thus, all these issues should be periodically revisited by managers in order to be able to make the right decision and take appropriate action. Corporate employees need to be infused periodically with ever changing market values and practices.

Scientific advancement, technological development, and econo-political changes have caused people to strive for lifelong updates and learning. Adult education is the center piece for economic development and growth. Every year, private corporations spend billions of dollars in staff development programs. These training programs are especially designed for adult learning and educational enhancement. Therefore, continuing education is an ongoing process in all industries.

Contrary to the belief that corporate success or failure in the globalization of a firm is often the result of decision-making processes in practice, in most cases it has been observed that successful globalization depends upon the realization of corporate ethical, moral and legal value systems. Corporate managers and employees need to be oriented to the ever changing corporate mission through practical training programs.

Distance learning has provided new opportunities for the community of learners to alleviate their infomarket technologies. It provides tremendous opportunities for accommodating the economic growth and social development of nations.

Global academic joint ventures, partnerships in higher education, can synergize both providers and users with tremendous research resources. Qualitative distance learning programs can be very cost effective delivery and receiving systems.

The major difference between traditional degree programs and continuing education is the integration of natural and artificial intelligence. That is, the integration of Natural Cognitive Intelligence with the technology provided Artificial Intelligence will result in the Kinesthetic Intelligence.

Distance learning can liberalize learners' mind through worldwide superhighway information systems. Continuing education is updating the knowledge and skills of professionals with ever changing environmental changes. It is a continuous effort to keep specialists, researchers, and skillful people abreast of the latest information system.

There should be three main objectives in Cyber delivered education. Namely, to offer tele-instruction in a time and place independent mode, to enhance the information/knowledge retention through multimedia instructional technology, and last but not least to provide educational credibility for the acquired information/knowledge.

THE ISSUES

The issues that are associated with distance learning are academic, , instructional, behavioral and technical. These issues need be comparatively addressed in the context of the traditional mode of education, which will be replaced in numerous instances.

Academic Issues

The academic recognition of course work, that has been completed outside of the physical campus of the degree granting institution, has always been a debatable issue. Even if the courses are offered by the institution's own faculty, accreditation agencies frown if the number exceeds one or two courses, let alone credit earned through non-traditional learning modes, like cyber distance learning.

However, several exclusively cyber universities have already been accredited by regional accrediting agencies.

Cyber education, will be the secondary education delivery mode of the next millennium, which will provide education to millions, for whom education would otherwise have been beyond reach.

At this point in time, Spring 1999, in the U.S., well over one hundred regionally accredited institutions of higher education offer close to 4,000 courses via the Internet (New Promise, 1999).

A research by the authors, as to what today constitutes Internet delivered courses, has indicated that the practice varies from mailed video tapes or CD-ROMs to fully interactive multimedia web based courses with audio conferencing. In all cases, however, there is instructor accessibility via e-mail, and often by telephone as well. Furthermore, complete undergraduate and graduate degree programs are currently being offered. In many cases, the courses allow open entry, so that students may start their cyber attendance at practically any time. This option will eventually become the practice.

Instructional offerings over the Internet, can be complete courses, with sole Internet interaction, or may be supplementary to an in-campus course. In this case the student - faculty personal interaction remains .

Properly designed, structured and offered Internet courses may result in significant competitive advantage for an educational institution. There are tremendous financial gains ahead for the publishers of high quality multimedia Internet deliverable courses. Today, a very small percent of the Internet delivered courses fall in this category. But with time, and as appropriate course authoring tools are developed, there will be an abundance of Internet delivered educational programs provided for a subscribed access, and for free, as a public service.

Examining the trends, and the expected windfall returns to schools, one may foresee that degree programs will eventually have two components, the in-campus courses and the cyber courses, with certain courses being offered through both media.

The way the Internet technology advances and the way it is globally accepted, it will not be too long before Internet course offerings by academic institutions, will be expected by the students, the same way informational websites are being expected to be on the Internet today.

Eventually numerous entire degree programs, from B.S. to Ph.D. will be offered over the Internet. Most interestingly, they will be offered not only by currently established academic institutions, but by new ones as well, that are exclusively virtual - academic institutions with no finite campus, but the entire world.

Presently, there is a debate as to the academic status of courses and programs that are offered via distance learning. Accrediting agencies, administered by the old generation of academicians, in fear of losing control over the new world of cyber education, deny recognition even to high quality programs. These programs are, slowly but steadily, comprising the global cyber campus, an academic community, which will eventually, establish its own scholastic standards, accreditation criteria and its own culture. Currently, seventy-two institutions offering distance learning programs are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council.

"Distance study accreditation is an institution-wide source of national accreditation that covers all distance study courses offered by an institution. It is unique in American accreditation because it is one based upon a method of instruction rather than educational level or subject matter discipline. It covers all programs, courses and distance study endeavors of an institution, including degree, non-degree, vocational and avocational programs. Unlike regional or specialized accrediting agencies, the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council provides distance education institutions with a single source of national recognition."(DETC, 1999).

Instructional Issues

The prime instructional considerations in Internet delivered education are two. The first is the technical support the instructor will need in the preparation and delivery of the cyber course, and the second is the mechanism for the evaluation of the cyber students performance.

Not too long ago, professors were using the services of graphic designers for the preparation of visual aids, and the services of typists for their notes. These days are past and gone. Today, professors are computer literate, by necessity, and are expected to prepare their own electronic presentations, using appropriate software applications - Corel, Powerpoint, Harvard Graphics, and the like. In the near future professors will be similarly expected to use cyber courses development tools as part of their instructional responsibilities and develop cyber deliverable courses (Asymetrix, 1998), (Real Education, 1999).

Such cyber course development applications provide users with a ready structure, a template, where stand-alone files (text, audio, video or animation) can be linked to through this template and result in a complete Internet deliverable and Internet administered course.

In a cyber instruction environment student evaluation as well as course evaluation, is indeed a major issue that affects the credibility of the granted award or grades. (Woolf, 1998).

Its solution may take one or both of two equally valid forms. One is the traditional examinations, which, in this case, can be proctored by an institutional representative. The other is, video or audio only, live Internet presentations, technically similar to those of the instructor, where the student can be verbally examined, or make a long live multimedia presentation that may very well reveal the level of the acquired knowledge. Thus, eventual competency assessment is not a viable concern, when the available technology is being used.

Behavioral Issues

It is true that cyber education does not have the traditional campus and classroom ambience, which is very important in the enculturation process. But, if the cyber education aims at only delivering instruction and not culture, then may not be viewed as a disadvantage.

However, with Internet audio and video in multi broadcasting and multi receiving mode, we may create a very practical live global conferencing environment. (Real Networks, 1999). It is quite possible, that because of its global nature, student cyber attendance may be more interesting and more punctual than traditional classroom attendance. Undoubtedly, it will be most fascinating, for once or twice a week, to be meeting in cyberspace with classmates from various parts of the world.

Thus, while the traditional classroom environment is not maintained in an Internet based instruction, a totally new concept is being created, that of a live global cyber classroom, with its very own merits.

Table 1 illustrates a parallel between the Traditional Degree Education and that of Distance Learning - two different yet similar worlds.

Technical Issues

It has to be recognized by academic administrations that the Internet technology, besides being most fascinating, is evolving very fast, and no amateur can keep track by casually flipping through the pages of related publications.

Mastering the Internet technology is no more a one specialist's full time job. It requires a dedicated multi-member staff that not only follows the technology's evolution, but also practices the various technological advances in a real world educational environment.

For an academic institution, mastering the Internet technology is not a luxury, but a necessity, because without a thorough knowledge and expertise of this technology, every effort will end up in vain.

Internet tele-education literacy for the faculty is a major and critical issue, because faculty participation is of paramount importance. Here, however, there are two obstacles.

The first is time. In today's fast pace world, available time is a scarce resource. Faculty are already preoccupied with being abreast in their own fields, and can hardly find time to learn the Internet technology that even outpaces the experts.

The second is lack of will, on the part of most faculty, to leave their beloved blackboard and chalk, and to learn new knowledge delivery skills - that of the tele-education technology - a technology that is useless, unless it is mastered in full.

Presenting lectures over the Internet is not showing a video of the instructors in front of a blackboard with their back turned to the audience while writing solutions to problems. Internet delivery of education is a multimedia production, prepared for a multi-year use, where every second of video and audio content effectively conveys quanta of knowledge.

In the classroom, an instructor may write five words on the board and deliver a one hour lecture. In tele-education, to re-enforces the aural delivery, the visual content,, should be changing continuously.

Therefore, courses will have to be redesigned, so that the visual flow, video or animation, and aural flow, speech or music, are both continuous and captivating.

It has to be realized that developing a course for Internet delivery is a very serious undertaking, like the development of a good movie.

On the other hand, the academic as well as the financial rewards can be very significant. Academically, this form of learning for many students may be their only chance to education. Financially, for the academic institution, a well developed cyber course repeatedly offered can pay for itself within a semester.

CONCLUSION

Today, information-seeking directly identifies with the Internet, tomorrow, education-seeking will similarly identify with the Internet. For a major academic institution, the question is not whether to offer, or not to offer, tele-education via the Internet. The question is what courses and in what timetable and what format. With time, no academic institution will have exclusive geographical territories by virtue of proximity, because Internet tele-education will be available in every home around the globe.

In an institution, the first cyber course may be the result of a professor's own initiative, or a departmental pilot program. Eventually, however, every major academic institution will need to have an Internet tele-education department, that will administer the institution's cyber campus. This department headed by a dean or a vice president, will conduct global marketing, will service the courses and most important will strive for technology mastering, because the future belongs to those who learn fast..

Similarly, the future belongs to those institutions, who can capture the power of technology and use it to solve problems and to capture opportunities. Much the same way, the sailors capture the power of the wind and use it to navigate the seas.



REFERENCES

New Promise (1999), New Promise On-Line Education, www.newpromise.com (April 2, 1999).

DETC (1999), Distance Education and Learning Council, www.detc.org.(April 2, 1999).

Asymetrix (1999), Toolbok II Assistant/Instructor/Librarian, www.asymetrix.com.(April 2, 1999).

Real Education (1999). Virtual Campus, www.realeducation.com (April 2, 1999)

Woolf (1998). Assessing Online Courses for the Adult Learner, www.caso.com/iu/articles/woolf01.html (September 2, 1998)

Real Networks, 1999. www.real.com (April 2, 1999)



Traditional Degree Education


Distance Learning Education


1. Knowledge-Based Resources.



2. Theoretical Knowledge.

3. Generalized Scientific-Knowledge.

4. Transfered Knowledge.

5. Imitative Knowledge.

6. Analytical Knowledge.

7. Communication Skills.

8. Structural Conceptualization



9. Deal-Making and Contact

10. Gain Prerequisite Basic Skills.



11. Understand Free Enterprise.



12. Understand problems of employers.





13. Learn Entrepreneurial and Professional Training.

14. Learn how to be Creative.



15. Obtaining Participatory Mentoring Guidance.

16. Understanding Achievable Objective Setting Knowledge and Skills.

17. Formal Curriculum Education, Certification.



18. Early-Life Education.



1. Technological Knowledge-Based Resources.

2. Pragmatic Knowledge.

3. Specified Empirical application of Knowledge.

4. Comprehensive and Mechanical Self-Knowledge.

5. Imaginative and Innovative Knowledge.

6. Search skill-knowledge.

7. Organizational Skills.

8. Environmental Assessment and Formulation Skills.

9. Harvesting Skills. Networking Skills.

10. Identify Career Options and Opportunities.

11. Discover and Enhance Personal Competency.

12. Understand Personal Strengths and Weaknesses of Employees.

13. Apply Specific Occupational Competencies.

14. Learn how to be Self- Employed and a Problems Solver.



15. Obtaining coaching and Knowledge-Based Skills.

16. Understanding Risk Taking and Innovative Knowledge and Skills.



17. Professional and Practical and Degree-Planned Diploma.

18. Long-Life Education.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Eddy, John, et al. 21st Century Leadership Practices in Higher Education, Education, Volume 117, Number 3, ISSN:0013-1172. Spring/1997, pp. 327-331.

[2] Eddy, John, et al. Technology Assisted Education, Education, Volume 117, Number 3, ISSN:0013-1172.Spring/1997, pp. 478-480.

[3] McCabe, Lester. Global Perspective Development, Education, Volume 118, Number 1, ISSN:0013-1172. Fall/1997, pp. 41-46.

THE AUTHORS

Dr. George Kostopoulos is a Professor of Information Systems at the College of Business Administration at the Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. He holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Arizona State University (1971), and An M.S. in Economics from the California State Polytechnic University (1977). He is the author of two books in computers and in economics, and of numerous papers appearing in refereed journals and conference proceedings. His professional interest is the Internet, as it applies to Electronic Commerce and Global Education Delivery, while his academic interest is International Education. (kostopoulos@tamiu.edu)

Dr. Kamal Dean Parhizgar is a Professor of Management at the College of Business Administration at the Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas. He holds a Post-Doctoral Research Degree in Management from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University (1972); MBA and MHA Degrees from the University of Teheran, Iran (1966). He has published eleven books in the field of Management and more than 100 articles in refereed journals and conference proceedings. His main area of teaching and research is multicultural organizational behavior. (parhizgar@tamiu.edu)