||Educational Technology &
Society 5 (4) 2002
Distance Education at a Glance
Dept. of Educational Technology Research & Assessment
Distance Education at a Glance
Objective of the site
The main objective of this website is to assist teachers,
administrators, facilitators, and students in understanding distance education
The site is appropriate for a wide range of people -
especially for those who are interested in DE such as: instructors, administrators,
facilitators, researchers, and learners. The site provides very useful
information including two guidebooks for the field of DE. Moreover, if
the audiences have questions they can contact the books’ author and staff,
who created the site.
Main topics covered
This site is hosted by the Engineering Outreach Program
at the University of Idaho,
which is designed in the form of an online guidebook. The guidebook is
divided into 13 chapters that deal with various aspects of distance education.
The links for the various guides are located on the left hand margin of
the introductory page of the website. The material for the various chapters
is taken from two books, "Distance Education - Strategies and Tools"
and "Distance Education - A Practical Guide." The author of
the two books is Barry Willis, associate dean for the Engineering Outreach
Program at the University of
Idaho. The site categorizes
information on DE into 13 sections:
- Distance education: An Overview
- Strategies for Teaching at a Distance
- Instructional development for DE
- Evaluation for Distance Educators
- Instructional Television
- Computers in DE
- Print in DE
- Strategies for Learning at Distance
- DE: Research
- Interactive Videoconferencing in DE
- DE and the WWW
- Copyright and DE
- Glossary of DE Terminology
When a user clicks on one of the 13 chapters on the homepage,
it directs the user to the corresponding section. The site still shows
all of the chapters’ navigator links but instead of showing them in the
left-hand margin of the introductory page, it moves them to both the beginning
and end of each chapter, for convenience. These functions or icons are
easy to follow. One can choose which chapter one wants to explore. For
example, if users wants to know why the educators use the World Wide Web
(WWW) for DE, they would click on the “Guide #11 Distance Education and
the WWW.” Then it will show them all 13 chapters on the top of “Guide
# 11.” Users can either click on the next guide or explore the “Guide
Comment on usefulness and richness of each topic
The guidebook deals with a variety of topics pertaining
to the field of DE. Some of the topics are as follows: overview of the
field of distance education, teaching strategies for DE, instructional
design for DE courses, the role of computers in DE, learning strategies
for DE, popular research topics in the field, the role of interactive
videoconferencing in DE, and several other topics. Each guide contains
rich resources for educators who are interested in the field of DE.
Appropriateness and quality of external links
This site includes appropriate and useful external links
for audiences to learn about DE. For example, the citations in the text
are hyperlinked to the actual references. Also, in the reference section,
the authors provide links to the material if it is available online. Overall,
I think this site provides adequate external links for the 13 chapters.
This site can be loaded very quickly because it is mostly
text based. It can be opened by any web browser such as Netscape, Internet
Explorer, or Mozilla. No additional software such as plug-ins are required.
Interface related aspects
The chapter links are located on the left-hand margin
of the homepage. All icons and links work well and are easy to follow.
There is an introduction in the center of the page that gives a brief
overview of the contents of each of the 13 chapters. All pages have white
background which makes the pages easy to read in both soft and hard copies.
The site could be enhanced with some sort of search engine facility.
Each chapter of the guide is divided into several sub-sections
and the site provides links at the beginning of the chapter to jump directly
to any of the sub-sections. It would be useful if the author also provides
“top” link after each sub-section, hence giving user possibility to go
to the list of sub-sections without having to scroll back up.
The information flow on the site is quite logical. Starting
from an overview to further advancement to detailed information makes
the site interesting and motivating, even when the site does not offer
any audio, video, or special effects.
This site belongs to University
of Idaho Engineering Outreach.
As per the information available on the website, the site was last revised
on June 18, 2002.
There is no advertising except for the Engineering Outreach promoting
its distance-delivered degree programs. Overall, the site contains very
useful information for the audience interested in learning about the field