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Choosing Appropriate Distance Learning Tools

Faculty need to consider learning objectives, learning styles, accessibility, cost, and available technical support when designing distance learning courses, says Laurie Hillstock, manager of distance learning at Clemson University.

Hillstock works with faculty to develop satellite, CD-ROM, and Web-based courses using a design model that is roughly 80 percent asynchronous and 20 synchronous. Within this model, instructors can choose a variety of technologies that the university’s office of educational technology services (ETS) supports.

The decision to use a given technology needs to be based on a needs assessment of the course, the technology’s compatibility with the institution’s course management system, and the level of technology students have access to.

For example, suppose an instructor decides that his or her students would benefit from view-on-demand presentations. There are many products that can do this, but not all will work as well across different platforms and within a course management system. Also, different products have different end-user technology requirements.

The technologies you use and how you incorporate them into your course can have a major effect on student support issues. Hillstock recommends the following strategies to reduce student support issues: