|"Effective with the incoming freshman class of 2001, Fairleigh Dickinson University will be the first university in the world to recognize the Internet as a fundamental learning tool by requiring every undergraduate to participate in a distance learning course each year."|
J. Michael Adams
September 27, 2000
Distance Learning Initiative
Since its inception, Fairleigh Dickinson University's new distance learning initiative has engendered wide press coverage. Among others, The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The Detroit Free Press, USA Today, CBS Radio, National Public Radio and The Associated Press wire service have all reported that our university is the first in the nation (and perhaps the world) to require all undergraduates to take four distance learning courses during the course of their studies.
The press coverage has positioned Fairleigh Dickinson as unique among universities. But we believe that our reasons for this distance learning requirement are fundamentally more important than the requirement itself. In fact, our rationale may represent a truly unique position among institutions of higher education.
For most universities, distance learning represents a way to use technology and the Internet to create new income streams through the sale of their courses to a new worldwide market of students. We see different opportunities. As the Internet rapidly becomes a premier learning tool, our unique requirement for facility in this environment prepares our students, more than others, for life-long learning - for their jobs, their careers and their own personal growth. Secondly, if the Internet can reach out to the world, it can also be used to bring the world to campus. These simple ideas are the basis for a new view of what part distance learning can play in education and it parallels our thinking about what our university must become.
Our Distance Learning requirement has evolved from a new view and vision of the purpose of the university:
- We see our mission as preparing global citizens who can function and succeed across cultures and environments in an increasingly interdependent world.
- We view the Internet as a fundamental learning, research and communications tool for global citizens.
The WWW is a transforming medium:
- It is a transforming communications tool. We can almost instantly link with individuals anywhere in the world
- It is a transforming information tool. We can find more information in a few hours working at our computer than we could 10 years ago through a week at a traditional paper-based library
- We believe it is a transforming learning tool. It can organize and present information and ideas in a new way, provide resources typically unavailable or difficult to bring to the classroom and allow students and teachers to redefine learning styles.
With these assumptions and beliefs as background, we will pursue a new purpose of the use of distance learning in our curriculum: distance learning can offer something different from traditional classroom education, something that will enhance the total learning experience.
This view has led us to develop what we believe to be a new paradigm for distance learning and its benefits. Along with providing facility with what has become the world's most important communication/information tool, distance learning can offer global education perspectives unavailable through standard classroom learning models. Consider the possibilities of Anthropology I students spending two weeks on line with a paleontologist working on site at a dig in New Guinea; or students in Economics regularly joining a threaded discussion with an attorney from the International Criminal Court in the Hague, or an Economics Professor from the University of Moscow; or perhaps students in a World Cinema class are joined in weekly on-line discussions by a director from Korea and a production designer from Egypt. This is our aim for distance learning.
In that regard, Fairleigh Dickinson University has formed a new cadre of global virtual faculty by partnering with world-class scholars, experts, artists, politicians and business leaders around the world. These individuals will be a resource for new ideas, different cultures and alternative views. It's possible only through our distance learning initiative.
Fairleigh Dickinson University is creating this new model of distance education in furtherance of our mission of creating global citizens. We began with the freshman class of 2001. All incoming freshmen are taking The Global Challenge -- a course that makes use of the resources of the Internet as a learning, research, collaboration and communications tool. This course focuses on issues such as science and the global challenge, moral reasoning, the global environment, global conflict in the 21st century, and global population and health, all the while examining the social, cultural and political determinants from around the world that underlay these issues. The Global Challenge will provide a foundation for the type of broad, global thinking we believe to be critical for success in the 21st century.
Our vision is to expand the course offerings over the next 4-5 years to approximately 100 courses; some common to all students, some specific to each discipline.
We are also in the process of re-evaluating and enhancing our technology infrastructure, evaluating methods of delivery and creative production, developing faculty training and expertise, considering methods and instruments of evaluation, and identifying at least one hundred virtual faculty from around the world.
It is an ambitious undertaking and one we begin with the full commitment of the entire institution -- both the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees approved the requirement. In terms of both human and financial resources it represents the most costly single curricular endeavor this institution has ever attempted. We estimate that our distance learning initiative will require approximately $6 million over the next 3 years, and we are currently involved in identifying both internal and external sources of funding. Yet, this initiative is directly driven by our mission and curricular goals, and thus it has become central to the academic reputation of Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Links of interest:
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