GW expands distance learning

GW’s new Center for Distance and Mediated Learning is the latest initiative in the University’s efforts to enhance the way professors and programs use electronic communication in the classroom, said center Director William Lynch.

“Distance learning has been occurring at GW in a very high quality manner for more than 15 years,” said Lynch, who previously headed GW’s education technology leadership program, a precursor to the center. “GW has always been a leader in this field.”

The center is just a few weeks old, but Lynch said he hopes eventually to present seminars and conferences on ways to use distance and mediated learning.

“The goal of the center is to increase the flexibility and quality of programming for students,” he said.

Mediated learning is used in a variety of ways at GW, from the use of the Internet in classes on the main campus, to the Program for Afloat College Education (PACE), which allows Navy personnel to take classes via videotape aboard submarines and surface ships, he said.

Some of the most frequently used types of electronic communication include teleconferencing, using the Internet to post class information and asynchronous conferencing, a type of electronic “bulletin board” in which students and professors conduct class discussions through electronic messages. Another form, compressed video conferencing, also known as two-way video conferencing, uses special equipment to transmit video and audio information over telephone lines. The technology would allow a professor to teach a class at GW’s Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses at the same time, Lynch said.

The compressed video system is more expensive than traditional videotape because it requires special equipment, Lynch said. But its popularity is growing because it allows participants at different locations to see and hear each other.

For example, the educational technology leadership program graduates students who may have earned their degrees without ever stepping on a GW campus.

Distance learning enables students to take GW classes without being at a GW campus, but Lynch said on-campus students also benefit from the technology.

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