A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
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PLU offers new direction for
By Katherine Hedland '88
With the rapid surge in technology
making it increasingly easier to disseminate information, many universities
are finding ways to educate students who never step on campus.
Faculty like Joanne Lisosky (right) are working
to integrate technology into existing programs and course
work, while keeping personal interaction in the classroom
PLU, while embracing the technological
advances that can enrich education, holds fast to its belief that
the best learning takes place in person.
“Our fundamental approach is to apply
technology, including distance learning, to the improvement and
enrichment of existing courses and programs and modes of instruction,”
President Loren Anderson said.
So far, no complete courses are offered
online, and the university has vowed it won’t offer complete degree
programs via the Internet.
“We have said very clearly that we
will have no distance learning delivered degree programs period,”
Provost Paul Menzel said. Still, administrators and faculty acknowledge
there is much to be gained by incorporating technology.
“We are taking a conservative, go-slow
approach on this,” said Christine Moon, associate professor of
psychology and chair of the Educational Policies Committee. “It’s
clear that distance learning is going to grow, and I don’t think
we should quickly rule out applications at PLU. It has great potential.”
Still, everyone recognizes the important
learning that goes on in a classroom, when bright students and
an inspiring professor meet. That is all part of PLU’s mission
of educating students for lives of thoughtful inquiry.
“We value the spontaneity that comes
from face-to-face interaction and you just can’t mimic that,”
Menzel said. What about speaking skills?” Menzel asks. “They’re
an important part of our education.”
Distance education and online learning
are hot topics across the country. The Chronicle for Higher Education
devotes daily coverage to distance learning, and the concept has
been profiled in national magazines in recent weeks. While many
in higher education applaud efforts for online learning and see
it as a way to reach more students, others fear it diminishes
the quality of education and could even create an elitist system,
in which wealthy students receive degrees from traditional institutions
and the less fortunate end up with digital diplomas.
Taking these concerns into consideration,
as well as the potential benefits, the Educational Poli-cies Committee
is evaluating how much technology is being integrated and reviewing
“We have some faculty that are very
enthusiastic about it,” Moon said.
One is Diane Harney, communications
professor who earned a second master’s in teaching with Internet
technology during her sabbatical. She sponsored a month of faculty
discussions entitled “Technology and Teaching: Utilizing Web-based
Instruction,” in January. Faculty members met to discuss interactive
learning and how to teach with technology.
“The use of technology to enhance
teaching and learning without losing the PLU character is what
we’re really interested in,” Harney said.
There has been talk of offering some
courses to students who live at a distance, such as the master’s
courses in education, nursing and business. In addition, some
professors have students working on projects simultaneously with
students in similar courses at other colleges or even overseas,
then trading information and ideas online.
“Our priority is the face-to-face
personal con-tact, and we can do that so much better than what
you can do in an online environment,” said Layne Nordgren, director
of multimedia systems and li-brary systems. “But we can take advantage
of what the online environment can do. What we can do is incorporate
technology tools into curriculum.”
There has been increasing use of
eCourse, a new tool this year that allows students to access syllabi
and other course materials online. Nordgren oversees eCourse,
which also allows faculty to put some course components online.
More than 100 courses use eCourse in some way.
Students can have online discussion
groups, bulletin boards and other study opportunities outside
of class. Some professors allow students to submit assignments
“It provides a wide diversity of
options,” Nordgren said.
Some say electronic components can
actually improve the quality of classroom time, because professors
don’t have to spend as much time going over details of the syllabus
or background information— those can be easily accessed via computer.
Then, in class, more in-depth conversations can take place because
“I think it’s very exciting,” Moon
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT ECOURSE AND DISTANCE
LEARNING AT PLU, GO TO www.plu.edu/encore.