Total Pageviews

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Modern Pillars of Distance Education. Michael G. Moore

Exclusive Interview with Dr. Michael G. Moore

YG: Yolanda Gayol
MGM: Michael Graham Moore.

YG: Today is the 28 of October of 2007, and we are in Barcelona, Spain, at the EDEN Conference (EDEN stands for European Distance Education Network).
YG: This is the mic.
MGM OK. Question number one
YG: Question one is: can you tell us something about you for the readers?
MGM: Something about me, meaning my biography?
YG: Yes.
MGM: Tell me when to stop. I began a life as an educator in Great Britain in After I graduate from the university and did a graduate study of education as long ago believe it or not in 1959-1960 and after áworking for three years in high school I went to Africa and worked for seven years and there is when I discovered radio and correspondence education which became my interest in what later became known as distance educacion. After seven years in Africa, having met some American academics I went to the United States I was fortunate enough to become acquainted with Charles Wedemeyer, the founding father of scholarship in distance education and after being at the University of Wisconsin for three years working with him I went to Canada and I after three years there in which time I completed my doctoral degree, I came back to Great Britain and worked for the British Open University for nine years and then left and I came back to the United States to work to Penn State University since 1986 until the present time and my main interests there are working with my graduate students and being the editor of the American Journal of Distance Education

YG: Based on this extensive experience that you have in distance education and being one of the three pillars in the theory of our field, can you tell us how do you envision the future of teaching in distance education?

MGM: The future of teaching in distance education. We have a problem at the present time. Perhaps we had the problem before but it is particularly acute at the present time. It is a problem of concept and definition. Large numbers of people who are involved in teaching with use of communication technologies in conventional environments incorrectly defined themselves as being involved in distance education and in fact they are involved in conventional education supplemented by technology. In true distance education, that is when the learners entirely or primarily are separated from the instructor. In the future it is obvious that the principle vehicle of communication will be online technology. But what is sadly missing at the moment in online technology is adequately produced audio and video materials in the presentation of programs and what is less, not as well developed as we would like is the competence of instructors to manage the distance learning experience because most of them are coming out of conventional environments. So, there is great need, whether we get it or not for better training of instructors there is great need for investment in more resources in the design of quality materials, particularly audio and video materials. I am not very optimistic that we are going to see it because so many people in decision making positions think of distance education is simply an extension of the teacher talking in the classroom. But that is what I would hope for anyway.

YG: And what about research? which are the trends that you are envisioning at this moment?

MGM: Well, the main area of interest in pedagogical research is the relationship of learners to learners in virtual groups and the managing of those relationships by instructors. I would like to see more research into appropriate management of financial and human resources and specially resarch into the development of appropriate policy at national and state and other levels. There is the most neglected policy and organization. Most of it in pedagogy although a lot of research is also needed in adragogy.

YG: An what about the literature in distance education?

MGM: Keeping in mind the caveat about definition within distance education itself, it’s been encouraging to see the expansion of research by doctoral students and others. The major journals have survived over the last 20 or more years and are doing well. There are more books, when I started teaching in the US I had to carry one or two books from Europe because there were no American tooks. So the general scene of distance education is, and apart from literature, research and everything else there has been a satisfactory expansion of quality work. The anxiety I have is that there has been also an expansion of other work. As an editor I get more good quality articles than I had 10 or 15 years ago but I get a lot of more bad articles than 10 or 15 years ago. And I may to discriminate but I worry about people who don’t know the field, who are not equipped to understand what is a good research and what is a bad research. Bad research is the one that is not grounded in theory and we do see a lot of that. So, you know, the picture is getting better in many ways but there is no reason to be complacent about it.

YG: If you had to launch a research project in an institution of distance education, which would be the components that you would consider to convert a distance teaching university into a more complete institution

MGM: That is a good question, I suppose I have to choose one thing above all otherd. Ant that would be to get the serious at the top administration to know about successful innovation adoption of distance education which means a study of leaders and leadership, the processes by which change has been brought about in other places. An the changes we need cannot be brought about except with top leadership. And I don’t find top leaders really understanding what is required. So any kind of research project that could inform and enlighthen the change process, specially for senior management would be my top priority. But that is almost asking more that I can hope for. But that is what I would like to see.

YG: I guess you refer to the transitioning of teaching institution into a research institution but which would be the research agenda?

MGM: I meant the transition of conventional institutions into better quality distance teaching and that can only come about if we have better understanding and leadership from top management and they need to. We need literature and research helping people better understand what is required to make the changes in their institutions that are required in order to have better distance education. Simply having conventional institutions as we do, and then to add on distance education to them usually does not work or does not very well. And that is what concerns me.

YG: Tell me about extension and outreach. The trends that you are observing in extension and outreach

MGM: That question does not make any sense to me. Outreach? distance education defined as a form of outreach?

YG: You know that Mexican institutions of higher education have three major concerns in their missions, one is teaching the second research and the last one extension. Since you travel all over the world, which are the trends that you observe in your international visits in this area of distance education?
MGM: Well, still find the questions a little hard. The idea of outreach is a United States concept. It is the land grant concept invented in the middle of the nineteen century. It was very very foreign in European countries until very recently and it has been inherited in some other parts of the world under the influence of people and institutions in the United States. But it has been always been part of the American practice, research, teaching and service. And distance teaching originally in form of correspondence is part of the outreach function of the university going back to the University of Wisconsin, Penn State University, at the turn of the XIX century it has always been there and being an important part of the American practitioners is being taken out in Asian countries. In many universities, African countries, and that is a large part of the mission of distance education. Using the communication technology and extending the resources to people not able to travel to the campus. It has been a remain of the components of outreach and any institutions that doesn’t having it today is behind the times. Like Penn State University when we set a Task Force 10 years ago to establish what we call theWorld Campus. The opening statement was for the XXI century: any university that expects to keep up with progress has to have distance education as part of its institutional mission. So it’s essential, it’s essential.

YG: Finally, from the set of questions designed for the three theoretical thinkers in our field, do you have something to add that your readers should be aware of?

MGM: Consistent with what I said about conceptual confusion, the most important thing is to read and study before thinking and read, study and thinking before acting. There are too many people acting without understanding what is all about and you can’t think through amnesia on an empty sheet. There is considerable literature as we have been discussing here. Theory. That does not mean for the future yory to follow and se that we did in the past in a thinking way and you need to find out what has happened, what is going on and don’t be … by careless use of terminology. Here