II Computing Magazine V1N1
October / November 1985
by PAUL COHEN
About the Author
Paul Cohen is a free-lance writer specializing in business and technology. He is also the former editor of the Atari Connection Magazine.
More than 100 years ago, the first correspondence schools brought the opportunities of an emerging industrial society to those who never had a chance to learn much academically. For people in remote locations, often bound to farms or factories, getting an education through the mail became a practical, ifunglamorous, alternative to attending school full-time.
Today, as well, millions who would like to continue their schooling are stuck at desks or at home with day-to-day responsibilities. Although the problem is much the same, we have the advantage of twentieth centu ry technology. Now, educators are using computers to reach people who want to learn in their own time and place.
A GROWING ONLINE SERVICE
Anyone with an Apple computer and modem can sign up for classes from one of several colleges around the country. These innovative programs allow you to master California cuisine, participate ·in business management seminars, or earn a fully accredited graduate or undergraduate degree. The concept was pioneered by the Electronic U niversity (EU), a “university without walls” opened two years ago by San Francisco-based TeleLearning Systems, Inc. EU has designed a full curriculum to take advantage of the information processing power of the computer. At the heart of the program is an advanced telecommunications system that makes long distance learning personal and interactive.
Once you have purchased an Electronic University software package ($149.95 for Apple II+ , IIe or IIc), you can consult with EU’s counselors and enroll online in one ofseven degree programs. EU will send your course material through the mail – a course diskette, containing a semester’s worth of lessons and assignments, a study guide and course outline, and a list of required textbooks. You’ll also be assigned an electronic mailbox to exchange messages with your instructor. Students progress at their own pace, one lesson at a time. EU also offers its own electronic library- a database of news reports, business abstracts, book index and complete encyclopedia- available on a cost-per-minute basis.
The disk-based courseware is designed as an “electronic blackboard;’ with on-screen diagrams and explanations. At the end of each lesson is an assignment for you to complete and save to disk; you send some of these assignments, along with any questions, to your instructor’s electronic mailbox for review. In two or three days, you hear back from your instructor with answers, comments, evaluations and perhaps further reading or a revised assignment. “The way you go about teaching via computer is very different from the way you teach in a classroom;’ says Dr. Tom Copley, a former Antioch College professor now developing and teaching business cours~s for the Electronic University. “In the classroom, you can prepare for a class the day or week before. H ere you have to take the time to structure the entire course in advance. And it’s interesting to see how people respond. I put a lot of time into responding to each student’s work. It’s possible to establish the kind of rapport you get with a pen pal?’
School officials point out that the Electronic University itself does not issue degrees; it is essentially a network delivery system that allows students access to college-level instruction. You can, however, earn a degree from two fully accredited schools affiliated with EU. The four undergraduate degrees in arts or sciences are offered by Thomas A Edison State College of Trenton, New Jersey; the three graduate M BA degrees are from the City University of Bellevue, Washington. As at any college, you pay for each course you take; a typical threecredit course costs $185 for undergrads, $285 for graduates. After completing your courses at home, you take final exams designed and graded by the degree-giving school and administered in person at a local college. But you’re not limited to degrees from Edison or City University. You can transfer credit from these schools to most other accredited institutions, or you can apply for credit at the college ofyour choice by using EU courses to prepare for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). These standardized equivalency tests are accepted by 1800 colleges and universities for degree credit. Each EU credit course is designed around CLEP requirements. A wide range of noncredit self-improvement courses is also available.
TeleLearning considers the real breakthrough to be its powerful communications software. The menu-driven program allows for simple, singlekeystroke commands and eliminates complicated log-on procedures by linking directly to local Tymnet or Telenet networks. So far 1,700 students have enrolled in the Electronic University, according to university president and TeleLearning chairman Ron Gordon. And since all members of a household have lifetime access to the system, there’s no telling how many people actually use the network. “Our goal is to provide accredited college education to people who can’t otherwise continue their education. Over the next three years, we hope to reach more than a million students all over the world and become the world’s largest private teaching system;” says Gordon. Meanwhile, TeleLearning is expanding in other directions. Pacific Bell and other corporations offering tuition-refund programs to employees attending school have arranged for EU to deliver its courses to employees’ homes and offices. And, says Gordon, companies wanting to save the travel and expense oforganizing training seminars around the country will provide new markets for the electronic educational network in the future.
THE IDEA CATCHES ON
Although TeleLearning is the only private company offering this kind of service, several schools and universities around the country are picking up on the idea. New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), a private, accredited school based in Old Westbury, New York, offers undergraduate degrees through its American Open University(AOU) program, designed to give high school graduates college credit for prior experience and training. AOU, located at NYIT’s Central Islip campus, operates like many correspondence schools, sending course assignments through the mail. But in a program started last year, students can augment their course work with use of the school’s computer teleconferencing system. Called Participate, AOU/NYIT’s system allows 24-hour access; you can send and receive comments to and from the instructor and other students, contribute to an open online discussion, or use an electronic mailbox for personal dialogue with the instructor. “The system brings students an intimacy you don’t get in a large lecture;” says AOU provost Don McNeil. “Rather than being an inhumane machine, the computer becomes a tool for personal, one-on-one interaction:” It costs $25 for six hours of connect time in addition to normal fees and tuition ($75 per credit for students outside the New York City area).
Accessed through local Telenet networks, the Participate system is also available to special interest groups such as writers, physicians and professional organizations that want to open their own teleconferencing board. For more information online, you can log onto the system by dialing your local Telenet number and typing C [SPACE] 51630; use COLLEGE [RETURN] as your user name. Personal computers are also an integral part of a degree program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. For two years Purdue’s Graduate School of Management has offered an Executive Education Program in which business people can earn a master’s degree in management while on the job. Executives spend six weeks a year on campus, two weeks at a time. In between, they use computers at work or home to fulfill assignments, take tests and send or receive lessons and messages. Purdue also uses its telecommunication system in a special training program for General Electric executives.
“Anyone with an Apple computer can sign up for classes from one of several colleges around the country.”
Other schools are developing educational networks. John F. Kennedy University(JFK), an accredited adult-learning institution in the San Francisco Bay Area, is putting its curriculum online through TeleLearnings delivery system. Starting this spring with its graduate and undergraduate business programs,JFK hopes to expand its enrollment in distant Western communities. School president Donald]. Macintyre hopes to take the Electronic University concept one step further. “We’re looking for a way to get distant students into a campus setting at least once per quarter;’ he says, “either through local businesses or community colleges.
Direct, human interaction is very important:’ Buffalo State College, part of the State University of New York, also plans to go online through the TeleLearning system this spring. The 9,000- student college is developing a program to transmit an English composition preparatory class to new students. Eventually, this course may be offered to all incoming freshmen prior to their arrival on campus, according to Dr. Robert Stephens, director of Lifelong Learning at Buffalo State. If all goes well in this year’s pilot program, says Stephens, the school plans to expand its electronic curriculum next fall. In Alaska, where the public schools’ 5,000 Apples give the school system the highest computer-to-student ratio in the nation (1/23), the University of Alaska is about to go online. By spring semester, students at remote locations who enroll at the Fairbanks campus will be using a statewide computer network – along with audio conferencing and written correspondence – to communicate with teachers and classmates in selected courses.
The Fulcrum Network, on the Telenet system, offers professional level, noncredit seminars in business systems and the social sciences. System operator Saul Eisen, of the Department of Management at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, describes Fulcrum as “a multidisciplinary, research and development network for developing human systems:” Fulcrum seminars allow for computer conferencing and private messaging and cost about $125 per seminar. Eisen is also working on online credit courses he hopes will be offered by Sonoma State.
Meanwhile, schools such as Penn State, Ohio State and the universities of Maryland and Nebraska are considering similar programs. Dozens of other universities have on-campus systems or plans for systems to allow faculty and students to communicate by computer. Educators are moving beyond the rote drill-and-practice routines that characterize much computer-based learning as they discover the incredible potential of computers as a medium for interactive learning. //
The following institutions are offering degree program s using personal computers:
American Open University of the New York
Institute of Technology
Central Islip, NY 11722
TeleLearning Systems, Inc.
·505 Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
800-44LEARN (in California)
(Contact EU for information regarding
Thomas A. Edison State University and City
University of Bellevue.)
John F. Kennedy University
12 Altarinda Road
Orinda, CA 94563
Executive Education Program
Krannert Graduate School of Management
West Lafayette, IN 47907
For information on noncredit seminars on the
Fulcrum Network, contact:
Dr. Saul Eisen
Department of Management
Sonoma State University
Rohnert Park, CA 94928
(707) 664-2377 //