Higher Education in the Information Age

Distance Education and Globalization I

Question and Answer


Michael Eleey: Thank you very much, Carl. Mike Zastrocky from the Gartner Group can't be with us today. He's with his mother who suffered a stroke. So our wishes are with him. But let's now spend a few minutes and take a few questions for our panelists. Shimon.

Audience Member (Shimon Schocken): A question to Carl. You mentioned that you don't have any length restrictions on the educational experiences or courses that the students take. My question is: what is the granularity of these materials? In other words, what is the atomic building block that makes up a brick in this data base of courses that you described?

Carl Tyson: Well, that like almost everything else depends, but in most cases it's the word. We can go down and manipulate words. All these materials are developed by someone who is an expert, either a professor at an academic institution or in many cases because of our corporate partnerships are experts at a corporation who is teaching something at a corporation.

Audience Member (Shimon Schocken): Because my dream--and this perhaps can be addressed to both publishers here--is a system that enables you to do something like this: to watch, say, interactive TV, and then someone mentions a word like neurometrics and you would like to mark this word somehow and tell your TV set, "I'd like to learn a little bit more about neurometrics." And then the TV set will say something like, "How much time do you have? Do you have 5 minutes? Do you have 90 minutes? Do you want 45 hours a semester?" is there any architecture or system that you know of that just provides or at least plans to provide something like that?

Tyson: Marty, you...

Martin Kenney: Well, we provide something like that to the teacher at the elementary and the secondary level where they will be watching an interactive video and be able to bookmark ideas that they can come back to us for other data bases or other custom print that would apply to that. It's not done right now on a real time basis, but there is a service called "The Now Channel" that we broadcast, and that's where a teacher can come in or a substitute and say, "I'm teaching social studies in the fifth grade and I'm new to this task." We'll ask a few questions about where that teacher is in that process, where the class is, and then, right on screen, preview for them options in video--clips from five to 25 minutes, data bases that go with that, seat work, testing, all kinds of things that they can see right on the screen and then choose, download it to the school, and when they're ready to teach the next day have a full plan for them. So that's done for the teacher, but not for the student to be able to stop right now. There are data bases that accompany the video that we do, but they may or may not match exactly with the request.

Audience Member (Shimon Schocken): Thank you.

Eleey: Michael Lesk

(Michael Lesk):

Audience Member: This is for Sir Graeme Davies. In addition to the Open University, I know there's a trend both here and in the UK to the one week, one course, intensive provision. How do you compare that as a way of reaching out to people for whom conventional schedules are impossible?

Graham Davies: Well, in our experience, most of those one week programs tend to be focused very sharply on continuing provisional development of one form or another. Although there's a great tendency, which I'm sure has developed here, to take what were linear masters courses and turn them into packaged brick master's courses, all of one week segments which have a corpus of people who are doing the whole lot and other people who come and join the course from time to time and do a bit of a week. On the whole, as I say, they're much more focused on the professionals, and in that sense, the professionals have a different form of motivation and usually bring with them a different baggage that allows them to deal with it. With what I might call the non-conventional learner, they find those intense courses extremely difficult to handle because they overload quite quickly.

Eleey: Jim.

Audience Member (Jim Neal): Jim Neal, Johns Hopkins. I would argue with Carl that libraries remain very authoritative and very accurate sources of information, certainly when compared with what one finds on the Internet. But my question is for both Martin and Carl in terms of how they're managing the intellectual property aspects of this development. In particular, how are you providing access or controlling access to the courses that you're developing? And secondly, how are you managing the various media that you're bringing in from a variety of sources into those courses?

Tyson: You want to go first?

Kenney: Well, let's take the second part first. We're managing the media on a relatively traditional way, but it is a little tougher when it comes to royalty allocation. A lot of our materials are developed externally, as opposed to a true collaboration in the higher ed. market. But what we do is we have a royalty system or it's a purchase outright of rights for multiple time uses. The key for us is to get the rights in non-linear as well as linear bases, which is really kind of hard in video. One of the things that's stifled the proliferation of good, solid video is the inability, early on anyway, to negotiate non-linear rights. Because what we're trying to do, like you brought up before, is to be able to target the request to the inventory of assets that we have. So to do that, you're going to need non-linear rights. In the print side it's the same thing, too. You've got to go back to the author and say, "There are some segments of this that will marry very well to data bases and video. Are you comfortable with that?" There has been some discomfort at the higher ed. level in doing that, in feeling that the publisher, whom they may have trusted for years in print because once it's down there it's locked, is maybe not so trustworthy when it comes to putting together different components of content to create a totally different effect. So it's something that we've had to get different types of editors. We've had to work very hard at convincing our contributors that we would be honorable and give them first shot of taking a look at that.

Audience Member (Neal): One of the complicating factors, of course, is that universities have generally not taken a financial interest in the book and journal publishing of their faculties, but are now wrestling through the issues of how to deal with software and courseware development.

Kenney: Well, absolutely, and that's why we are still inventing this as we go along. And it's not as clear as we'd like it to be. But in any embryonic--and this still is an embryonic way of disseminating information--this is going to happen by nature.

Audience Member (Neal): What about the first question, the first issue, in terms of how you manage access. Is it largely a subscription based-?

Kenney: It varies. Some is subscription based. Of course the video is. And then there's an a la carte menu of services that go along with it that allow the school system to personalize the service. So, in other words, there are base services that they can subscribe to, and then there are particular ones that they invent. In other words, we had this morning one of Pinchas Zukerman's comments was or somebody said, "Gee, I wish this could be applicable to the arts. Wouldn't that be great." We just did Hamlet as a western last year in three different sites, where it was broadcast from Los Angeles, from Chicago, from New York, and then the commentary was from the director of the Royal Academy in London who commented to the kids as the play went on, and then each of the classrooms who were watching around the country could do that. When President Clinton gave the state of the union address, the kids commented on what they would like to see in there. You know, so it gives you some things where we bring experts in. They've got to be compensated. Sometimes it's the institution. Sometimes it's the individual professor. But in live time you have to invent solutions as you go because that's how the content changes.

Eleey: Mark Wrighton. You had a question?

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): I wanted to ask a question I guess to Martin and Carl, but it also relates to the Open University. And you indicated, Martin, when you are producing educational materials that you have a complete range, top to bottom, from survey courses to advanced. In the early courseware for a subject like chemistry--large freshmen enrollment--publisher's invest full color, nice photography, problem solving, a host of things that make it attractive as a pedagogical element. How do you do this in this new medium? For the advanced subjects are you investing that kind of resource?

Kenney: Well, we are in the sense that if you're looking for other media that go along with that, Carl mentioned there's Web sites that go along with the text books. You can do some things on the Internet that you never could do in the static textbooks.

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): You can read all that, but it takes time. I mean, if you're going to, for example, take a photography program that would be applicable to the freshman chemistry, and then you want to take it to advanced subjects, which only chemistry majors are taking, you still would like to have those photographers and all the other elements of investment. How do you have uniformity of quality throughout your publication?

Kenney: Well, basically that content migrates through more courses digitally. In other words, what you did for a book was the rights were done for that book, that art was done for that book, it was copyrighted, and that was that. It was finite. This way, you're developing content on real time and you have a battery of experts, internally and externally, that monitor that content and it floats along the continuum of courses within a discipline. So you get to amortize really a lot of that cost across a much broader landscape.

Tyson: Well, one of the things about cost, and Marty knows more about four-color costs than I do, but one of the real costs of four-color photography, since what we're talking about is not their permissions--their permissions are enough--but is simply the printing of it. It's a messy, expensive business, and if you digitize it and put it on the Internet, you can use it over and over again without a lot of cost. If you print it in one textbook, then you've got to print it in another textbook, and you're talking about tens of thousands of dollars there. So, you avoid that problem in this delivery mechanism. Digital delivery avoids that problem. You have a picture of a, I don't know, something in chemistry, Marty, that's four colors. You put in one of your introductory books. You can put it in one of your highest level books if it's on the Web for every little cost. Permissions costs are something. They're not nothing.

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): And in the Open University, how are you dealing with the expenses of distributing those kits and so on? How does that work?

Sir Graeme Davies: Well, this is the point I made right at the beginning about being in position of a permanent government input makes a huge difference, because what it does it allows them to build very big portfolio suites for the very large foundation courses, but they can then cross-subsidize to support the advanced courses. Some of them won't have the same depth of material as you have for the--because it's pretty much the same way as, you know, your print runs of advanced texts are a lot shorter than your print runs of basic chemistry texts. But the trick had been that it requires this guaranteed--it's a headcount input from government, which allows the Open University to cross-subsidize. I might say that the cross-subsidy does not come through to you as publishers or purchasers if you buy through the Open University educational enterprises.

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): Just one more question if I might for you. UOL or Simon & Schuster or others, are you contracting with organizations to digitize interesting and valuable educational demonstrations? I mean, are there groups that are doing that?

Kenney: "Demonstrations" meaning actual course presentations? Is that what you're talking about?

Audience Member (Mark Wrighton): Well, to extend this chemistry or physics or other examples, if you do them production quality and digitize them, you have it for ever.

Kenney: Well, we are doing that. In fact this fall we'll be launching a science channel for elementary and secondary schools where there will be experiments du jour if you will. If you don't have the equipment to do the experiment, if you're in an inner city school and you don't have that but you want to teach it, you can get that done as well as other science material. So it's a blend between canned science materials that will correlate to the NSTA guidelines, but also something that can be personalized for the school where there will be experiments that they couldn't afford to or didn't have time to do. So, yes, we are doing that now.

Eleey: Let's take a last question. I think Peter Smith had one.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): I'd be just interested in the group's response to a proposition. As I've listened to the four presentations, three of you, the Open University and the two publishers, are in the business of offering instructional sequences, however staged and platformed, to new audiences through a variety of multi-media. One of you, Alice and the Chauncey Group at ETS, are positioned to harvest the results of the learning wherever it occurred. In crassest terms, I think at the end of the day, what higher education has to offer is changing it seems to me. Increasingly, whether we like it or not, part of this information technology and explosion revolution is that instruction and organized content is more readily available than ever before and will become more so. And at the end of the day, whether it fit our romantic notion or not, the one thing that we have that is still societally valued is the acknowledgment that learning happened and was qualified in some regard. So, I'm just interested in your comment on the proposition that we're at Cal State Monterey Bay or at other institutions where we still have, along with many other distinctive niches or historic contributions we might have to make, but one place where we need to pay special attention is at the qualifying of learning, the accreditation of learning, the certifying that learning happened as it goes forward into the general society in the form of a degree or a certificate. I'm trying to state the separation--separating, literally, instruction or learning from assessment and qualification of learning. And just for the purposes of clarifying the point--it's not that I'm comfortable with that separation necessarily--is that something that you all see?

Alice Irby: Well, I think that was part of my message. I think that's exactly what's happening, and I think there are big issues that surround the whole matter of assessment. We will play a kind of part I think, probably a small, but significant role. I should say that when we develop certainly the most sophisticated simulations of performance instruments, we always involve people from that discipline or that community, from that profession. So it's not something that's done apart form that. Sometimes these are faculty members. Sometimes these are practitioners in the profession. So we make sure that all of our assessments have that component. But my worry is that a lot of them don't. And a lot of them are very--I won't speak about any particular publishers, but a lot of them are sort of simple minded, multiple choice, end of chapter tests, and they don't certify any particular kind of competence. They may indicate that someone learned a few facts during the course of an instructional program. So I don't know what's going to happen there. That's why I have some worries. I think the learning packages and systems are advancing more rapidly than the credentialing.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): Well, I think it's because it's simpler work to do. It's just interesting because we're now working with the agent Pacific Economic Consortium on the staging and platforming of learning, and we find that the most difficult and at the same time the hottest intersection of power and interest is at the point of assessment and not at the point of delivery of instruction.

Irby: Right.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): And whether you get there, or individual institutions get there, or institutions working together to support the WGU or WGVU get there--I mean, whoever multiples will get there--it strikes me that that, it's not a way that we're used to thinking as educators and as higher educators, but in fact that intersection is where the heat will be and I think a lot of the value, because that's where the value gets recognized at the end of the day.

Irby: And that's increasingly what employers are expecting. I mentioned this University of Michigan and auto manufacturers. The auto manufacturers said to the University of Michigan people, "You've got to be able to demonstrate the skills at the end of the program." And somebody may be in Hong Kong or they may be in Russia, and you don't have a faculty member in direct communication with them. You've got to be able to do that. So the assessment is sort of the Achilles heel of that program until they get that solved.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): Amen.

Tyson: Well, I think if you look at the corporate market where we play, that's--O.K., this sounds crass, but I mean it. But there's a great deal of interest in the corporate market in credentials and very little in the process. I mean, they want people they can market with skills, so--I mean we spent a lot of time addressing this issue--a lot of time and money--so that at the end of the day somebody can say, "That's why we don't rank credentials at UOL." We, apart from the people like upstate Monterey Bay, University of California and with corporations, do offer those credentials. So that is where the money is and that's where the big decisions have to be made.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): See, the thing I'm struggling with, and I know we've got to break, but I agree with that, and I think we're all still trying to figure out what this higher education in an information age, what the real impact or impacts are, or what they include. And I think this subject is one of the most frightening or one of the most potentially significant for the traditional structure of post-secondary education in this country, because it raises the question--and it's not a matter of crass or not--but where I learned it, how I learned it, and who I learned it with become less important, and that I know it becomes more important.

Davies: But Alice also made another very important point: who sets the exam?

Irby/Smith: Yes.

Davies: And in a sense the OU's have copped out, because what they have done is they've built a traditional assessment.

Irby: Right.

Davies: regime on a non-traditional delivery regime.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): Precisely.

Irby: Right.

Davies: And it has all the external examination assessments and cross-representation from other institutions and so on. And it requires the candidate to appear at some stage and identify themselves, which is also quite a critical issue, because that's one of the worries.

Irby: Impersonation is one of the big issues. I mean, how can you be sure?

Kenney: That's something that I don't think publishers have any business getting into nor will. I just think that's a good way--to stay out! The one thing you do bring up though is the importance of branding at the university. And the branding issue is something that I don't think will not even not go away, but that's where deans who are nervous about this had better go back and assess the value of the brand and then incorporate that into what the customer...

Audience Member (Peter Smith): We're just not used to thinking that way. It's like: that ain't my style!

Kenney: Well, there are certain people who are afraid of it and will not move forward, but I tend to think of it as a great opportunity for higher education and we're going to do that.

Audience Member (Peter Smith): I agree. I think it should be applauded.

Eleey: O.K., we will take a break now. We can continue this outside. And I know there are a number of other questions we didn't get to, so please hold them and we'll come back to them.



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Last modified: 26 January 1998