History of Telecourses
Distance education is often viewed as a
recent development when in fact, correspondence courses were
established in the 1870s. By 1882, the University of Chicago
had established a home study division. In 1915 the National University
Extension Association established a Correspondence Study Division.
By 1923 over ten percent of all broadcast radio stations were
owned by educational institutions which delivered educational
programming. In 1926, the National Home Study Council was established.
Over 55 million students have studied at
In 1934, Congress established the Federal
Communications Commission. The Association of College and University
Broadcasting Stations and other associations were organized at
that time and pushed to keep frequencies open for educational
uses. During the 1940s and 1950s, these same groups applied for
television station licenses.
In 1947, the Truman Commission articulated
a strong position on universal education; this action was followed
by even stronger pronouncements by the Eisenhower Commission.
In 1952 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) assigned
frequencies to establish public broadcasting, one of the objectives
was the provision for instructional television.
Efforts to produce educational materials
for television broadcast are almost as old as the medium, but
early efforts bear little resemblance to the soundly designed,
sophisticated telecourses available to today's students. In the
1950s the first educational television programs were created
for open broadcast. In 1951, the City Colleges of Chicago pioneered
the first large-scale instructional television programs for credit
by organizing an institution through which students could obtain
a degree by taking only television courses. It has served over
200,000 students. The soldiers returning from World War II wanted
to utilize their educational benefits with distance education
programs, but the Veterans Administration prevented this arguing
that off-campus programs would be abused. Disabled veterans were
able to attend classes via telecommunications courses when their
counselors approved it.
WOI-TV at Iowa State University went on
the air in 1950. It was the world's first non-experimental, educationally
owned television station. Following an early and fairly enthusiastic
acceptance of educational television in the early 1950s, more
producers entered the field and used a variety of methods to
teach via television. As there were more failures than successes,
disenchantment followed in the 1960s as it became apparent that
television could not solve all of education's problems. Early
programs tended to use the medium as an electronic blackboard
for elementary and secondary teachers, and televised lectures
at the college level. Educators regarded television as an extension
of the classroom, not as a medium with its own enormous advantages
and capacities and this is largely, still the case today. The
capacities and strengths of the medium were not recognized for
a long time and early efforts to teach by television were largely
disappointing. Yet the telecourse evolved from these blackboard
and talking-head approaches as well as from the older independent
study models long familiar to higher education, and recognition
of television's unique potential came with this evolution.
Many have recognized and criticized the
failure of educators to use the medium to its best advantage,
noting that taking pictures of a talking head or what is done
in a regular classroom and televising it was not using television
for the unique medium that it is. Television must involve careful
design, scripting, and production that provide a high quality
that could never be replicated in a regular classroom presentation.
Use of the community cable television (CCTV)
facility to prepare telecourses was one of television's potentials.
A CCTV system enabled an institution to tailor its telecourse
to fit the local needs. Videotape and kinescope made packaging
and storing educational programs possible. The University of
Denver reported programming telecourses in accounting and zoology.
At Iowa State University, sixteen classrooms in a new building
were equipped with two receivers each to receive taped programs.
The University of Akron (Ohio) used CCTV to telecast seven required
courses and students had no alternative as CCTV was the only
way the courses could be taken. In 1960, the University of Missouri
presented 27 taped television courses; 19 were presented on the
University CCTV channel and the others were split between CCTV
and broadcast stations including four on St. Louis' PBS station
KETC-TV. Institutions continued to perceive television as a partial
solution to burgeoning enrollments and instructor shortages.
In 1963, Instructional Television Fixed
Service (ITFS) was created by the FCC which mandated that the
microwave spectrum channels be used for educational purposes.
The first university to apply for licensing was the California
State University (CSU) System.
During the 1970s and 1980s, there was a
renewed acceptance of educational television based on an understanding
of the medium's potential, strengths and limitations, and an
increasing sophistication in the development of a system of learning
elements which were integrated to reinforce mutually the learning
experience. In the 1970s several new United States organizations
began to produce and offer telecourses. In 1970 the Maryland
Center for Public Broadcasting and the Southern California Consortium
for Community College Television produced and offered telecourses
regionally and nationally. The Consortium makes college credit
telecourses available to its member colleges and usually has
three or more new telecourses in development. In 1972, three
community college districts began producing and offering telecourses;
Miami-Dade Community College District in Florida, Coast Community
College District in Costa Mesa, CA, and Dallas County Community
Since the early 1970s numerous organizations
have produced and offered telecourses. Chief among these was
the now defunct University of Mid-America, a consortium that
consisted of nine state universities. Telecourses produced by
this group are now available through the Great Plains Network
The rush of institutions and their students
to take advantage of instructional television began suddenly
toward the end of the 1970s and accelerated rapidly thereafter
(Hewitt, 1982). Purdy(1980) and Grossman (1982) refer to the
revolutionary nature of the swift increase and the extent to
which telecourses were used in the 1980s. Likely catalysts for
this increase were the refinement and sophistication of telecourses
and the technological means to deliver them (Munshi, 1980). These
concurrent events have had strong impact, spawning several other
developments of national significance. These include: establishment
of the PBS Adult Learning Service - a public programming service
which is devoted to national delivery of educational programs;
the Annenberg/CPB Project, a $150 million fund to encourage the
development of innovative television and radio courses; establishment
of the National University Consortium and the University of Mid-America;
organization of large and small consortia representing hundreds
of institutions which share production and licensing costs; and
the emergence of several multi-campus community colleges as leaders
in the production and use of telecourses.
Since the mid-1970s, immense improvement
has been made in telecourses through application of sound principles
of academic design and the participation of professionals in
the fields of television, writing, editing, and publishing. Both
the concept of the telecourse and the use of telecourses are
still changing and evolving, and it would be incorrect to suggest
that all the problems of this form of education have been solved.
There is still room for improvement in the quality of telecourses.
When ordinary broadcast delivery or closed-circuit
channel is not possible, telecourses are being relayed by cable,
satellite, telephone, videotape, and videodisc to hundreds of
adult learners who probably never could - or would - attend courses
offered on campus. The use of television in higher education
today is widespread and growing. Establishment of the Annenberg/CPB
Project continues to stimulate the production of superior courseware
and the growing number of consortia, task forces, and commissions
will encourage and expand the use and production of telecourses.
The Public Broadcasting Service has identified
adult learning as one of its primary objectives. Colleges, universities
and public broadcasting stations are working together to make
education available to individuals who would not have this opportunity
without the intervention of telecommunications. As cable becomes
more available and new technologies offer additional avenues,
more opportunities will become possible.
Problems continue to beset distance education
programs but despite this, growth continues. Accrediting agencies
are still dealing with how to accredit courses that cross state
lines as well as accrediting agency borders. High front end costs
for equipment and production discourage many entrants as their
funding shrivels, but educators continue to find imaginative
new solutions such as wireless cable, computer conferencing,
audiographics, and audioconferencing to augment the more expensive
television programming. Unfortunately, educators continue to
try to capture the essence of the traditional classroom in telecommunications
classrooms, but are steadily moving toward a new model which
is a paradigm shift brought on by the use of electronically mediated
courses and a new understanding of learning and learning styles.
This new learner centered model includes components which utilize
the concepts of instructor facilitation, student learning styles,
interaction, collaborative and self-directed learning, electronic
access to resources, hands-on experiential learning, authentic
learning or problem based learning which is based on reality,
authentic assessment, and a mix of media. Ultimately, when a
national infrastructure is in place, the mix of media will be
delivered as multimedia on a telecomputer.
A major advance in instructional television
and telecourses was made by the establishment in 1969 of the
British-Open University. It was designed to offer students non-traditional
opportunities for education and placed particular emphasis on
instruction by television. Probably no institution has had such
a dramatic impact on the use of television in higher education
as has the Open University of Great Britain. Perry (1977) writes
that the Open University evolved from the convergence of three
major educational trends: adult education, educational broadcasting,
and the spread of educational egalitarianism. In the United States,
the success of the Open University rekindled interest in the
use of educational television (Hewitt, 1982).
The Open University enrolled its first
students in 1971 and continues to enroll about 40,000 students
each year, many of whom earn regular degrees. Some telecourses
produced by the Open University are used by American institutions.
Several dozen distance learning institutions now exist in many
countries around the world.
The Open University sees satellites as
an important development in the next few years to make telecourses
available and to extend its work with industry and commerce in
the field of professional and technological training.
The end point of what can be done when
television is combined with other media for education has not
been reached; rather, this is probably just the beginning of
a revolution in education which will involve many forms of telecommunications.
Where Are We Now?
As has occurred with many introductions
of media, the once new have been replaced at the front of the
line with newer mediated programs. Yet the old ones are holding
their own and continue to have a lively usage.
New telecourses are still being produced
and funding for their production continues from PBS and other
Satellites are still being heavily used,
but the costs for time have led educators to collective purchase
of large blocks of satellite time. When one satellite used heavily
by educators was apparently rendered useless by solar flares,
no satellite owner provided discounts so that education could
continue via satellite. Instead, the market responded by increasing
costs. This led many educators to rethink the use of satellite.
As a result of the price increases, many could not afford the
original hours they had purchased, and moved content to Internet
Web pages with great success.
Courses delivered via the Internet are
now quite common as Internet access has become easy and inexpensive
for adult learners. While many courses are available on the Internet
for K-12 learners, access is still a consideration. Inventive
teachers have learned how to cull the material they want for
students and make it available to them through classroom display
or use in a computer laboratory. Many computer labs are now closed
in favor of having computers available with Internet access in
the classroom. This has allowed many teachers to fluidly integrate
technology into the classroom and access the rich resources of
information as students have questions. This model provides a
new way for students to think about getting information and using
it. No longer is the information located in a library that they
can access infrequently. Now it resides with them in the classroom
and the student has become a reference librarian with search
and retrieval skills.
We are steadily moving toward a mediated
model of learning that incompasses many types of media. It has
been called distributed learning and it depends on a new model
where textbooks may no longer printed and then distributed, but
where information is distributed and then printed.
A class of computers called net computers
has been teasing educators because of $500 price tag. The price
is so low that it makes possible a true block grant --where one
is able to give a computer to the children who live on a block
so that they can learn and collaborate regardless of age group.
The net computers are so inexpensive that many families may be
able to buy them instead of Ninentendo games. The basic idea
of the net computer is that the primary computing structure resides
on the net and the computer contains only the components required
to connect with and use the Internet. The concept is intriguing.
from "A Technical
Guide to Teleconferencing and Distance Learning," 3rd edition