New AFT Report Proposes Standards for Online Programs
The American Federation of Teachers has recommended a set of quality standards for college-based distance education programs, the organization announced last month. The recommendations, entitled “Distance Education Guidelines for Good Practice,” resulted from a survey of AFT members who teach distance learning classes, past studies by the union and resolutions passed at AFT’s last convention.
The guidelines urge clear standards for content support, technical support and counseling for students, protection of intellectual property rights and proper training for faculty. The AFT survey shows that among distance learning practitioners an overwhelming majority liked to teach distance learning classes. Eighty-four percent of respondents say they would readily teach another distance education course.
Half of those polled got no additional compensation or release time for the extra time necessary to develop an online course. Ninety percent of those surveyed say distance learning required more time for preparation than the traditional classroom courses.
“Clearly the growing popularity of distance education calls for a close look at its application and an emphasis on developing and maintaining high standards,” AFT President Sandra Feldman says.
“While online and distance learning are in general good options for taking a particular course or a set of courses, this does not automatically mean that it is acceptable for an entire undergraduate degree program to have no in-class component,” she adds.
Distance education is one of the fastest-growing developments in higher education. Seventy percent of the nation’s 4,000 two- and four-year colleges offered online courses in 2000, up from 48 percent in 1998, according to Market Retrieval Service.
“It is critical that we hold online programs to a high standard of academic rigor and ensure that the necessary interaction occurs between students and faculty,” says Bill Scheuerman, an AFT vice president and the chairman of AFT’s higher education program and policy council.
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