The Computer Revolution: New Technologies for Distance Teaching

Jones, Ann; Scanlon, Eileen and O'Shea, Tim eds. (1987). The Computer Revolution: New Technologies for Distance Teaching. Brighton: Harvester Press.


This book is concerned with the ways that new information technologies can be applied in education. The types of technology covered include microcomputer, large mainframe computer, telephone, videodisc, radio, speech synthesiser, computer graphics, real time control system and various hybrid combinations of these technologies. These new methods of developing and delivering instructional materials are ideally suited for use in distance education. Round the world more than twenty major university-level institutions and many of the industrial training divisions associated with large corporations use open learning techniques. There are social, economic and philosophical reasons behind the spread of this new model for education and training. The social reasons include making higher education more accessible and providing workers with greater job satisfaction. The main economic reason is the need to help large numbers of students acquire new skills (especially in the area of information technology). The third type of reason can be found in many contemporary philosophies of education which emphasise the need to give learners greater autonomy as they study hour by hour, greater choice of learning topic and medium, more freedom to organise the pattern of their own learning and the opportunity to commit themselves to a programme of life-long education. The success of distance education to date has depended on older information technologies (such as the correspondence text) rather than the new ones. But the new technologies are obviously critical because they provide ways of reducing delivery costs, because they are often the subject matter taught, and because the difference between new computer-based information technologies and the old technologies is that the new technologies make it possible for an autonomous learner to be provided with individual adaptive instructional interaction supported by graphics, synthesised speech and modelling software.

All the work described in this book was carried out with a distance education or training setting in mind. These settings impose greater demands than conventional educational settings because it is not possible to rely on a human tutor or trainer to patch any deficits. Accordingly the work described here is relevant to conventional settings as far as educational design is concerned but some of the work described would almost certainly be too expensive for any institution that could not rely on the economics of scale associated with distance education.

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