University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456,

January 11, 2000 Contact: Bill Burton (312) 996-2269,
  Lex Tate (217) 333-6400,


With the rush to create and implement online courses and distance learning programs, few have stopped to question the methodology of such pedagogy -- until now. Sixteen researchers from the three University of Illinois campuses have released results of a year-long study of online pedagogy and the changing needs of students and faculty in a new world of technological education.

"The essence of teaching is the relationship established between a professor and his or her students," said John Regalbuto, a UIC chemical engineering professor who spearheaded the Teaching at an Internet Distance study. "Great teachers may well be able to establish a great rapport over a distance, but great teachers had never been approached as a body to help plan the implementation of distance learning."

The two-pronged study -- the first of its kind nationwide -- examined both administrative and faculty roles. Findings indicate that even with new technologies, professors need to maintain attentiveness and a personal touch with students and that new approaches to distance learning must compensate for the inherent alienation. It would be inappropriate to provide an entire undergraduate degree program online, the study concluded.

The study further found that lower student-to-faculty ratios are needed with online learning because there is much more material to be monitored than in traditional classrooms. "High-quality online teaching is not just a matter of transferring class notes or a videotaped lecture to the Internet," the study says. "New paradigms are needed."

The study also cautioned that quality online instruction is likely to cost more than traditional instruction.

The Teaching at an Internet Distance study came in response to a vision statement by President James Stukel citing the university's commitment to advancing technology operations.

"Indeed the Internet, and the technology which supports it, may well constitute the third modern revolution in higher education," he said in 1997. "The land grant movement in the 19th century brought access to higher education to the middle class. The community college movement of the 20th century brought universal access to higher education. The technology revolution of the 21st century can bring access to all beyond the bounds of time and place."

The study was prepared for Chester Gardner, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs. Its goal was to focus exclusively on "pedagogy and the quality of the educational experience, including both student and faculty satisfaction."

According to Regalbuto, the objectives of the seminar were met. "From our fundamental study of pedagogy, online as well as in the classroom, we have fashioned practical guidelines both for faculty interested in teaching online, and for administrators wishing to formulate online teaching policy," he said.

Gardner says the findings should prove to be valuable. "We believe these guidelines will save much time, effort, and expense of students, faculty, and administrators, and most importantly, will improve the quality of our teaching," he said.

With 25,000 students, the University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest and most diverse university in the Chicago area. UIC is home to the largest medical school in the United States and is one of only 88 national Research I universities. Located just west of Chicago's Loop, UIC is a vital part of the educational, technological and cultural fabric of the area.


Copyright © 1999 by B&P Consulting, Inc. and University of Illinois at Chicago. All rights reserved.
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