Who is driving? The technology or the content?

I attended a session presented by the Joint Forces Staff College, an educational institution that utilizes distance education to train military leadership. It was an enlightening session, placing my thought process in perspective, with regards to vision and process in developing a great, not just good distance education program and courses. Moving forward, this session gave me some additional perspective in assisting with the development of distance courses. I urge you to consider the following perspective.
The Joint Forces Staff College is an example of government, allowing a variable of free enterprise to drive the decision making process. There was a consumer demand for distance education courses, particularly for reserve forces in the military, who cannot go to school for an extended period of time on campus. These are individuals with outside of the service careers, therefore the decision was made to do anything to get the education to these reserve forces. They had to decide how to get these soldiers great courses. We are in the same position at SHSU, we recognized a need, and now we deliver quality courses and programs.
In preparing to deliver great content and great pedagogical methods, we have to decide what a distance program will look like and how we frame it. Are we delivering a distance education program using cool technology, that is the driving force, all the while allowing content and methodology to suffer? Or are we using the technology in a way that truly delivers great content in the most effective way?
When we answer the question of whether technology or content drive our courses and programs, we also decide the framework of our courses. Are we copying a face to face (f2f) course and fitting it into a course on the computer? Or are we using the technology to reshape the delivery of the content in a way that drives higher level learning in the content area? I challenge you to look at your course and evaluate it from the perspective of rigorous content that is delivered through useful, effective technology. Let’s not allow our courses and programs be a showcase for technology that is populated by content with no real depth. Allow the content to showcase the great technology we have available to us. We may very well end up with courses that are structured completely different from the exact same face to face course. That is okay, in fact, that’s great! What we have in this circumstance is a course design that, at the very least, considered and acknowledged the potential for technology to do things different and better.
Technology is to be used to make the educational experience positive, engaging, and life changing. Let’s not be afraid to innovate with our technological potential in delivering content. One of the speakers in my session said, ” Do not be afraid to fail,me willing to.” if we are afraid to fail our courses will stagnate, we will never get better. If we are willing to fail we will discover new methods, we will continue to be cutting edge.
Sam Houston State University has one of the better online programs. In order for us to continue to be a leader in delivering high level online courses, I ask you to allow the content of the courses to be the driver and the technology to be our vehicle. Metaphorically speaking, we remember the cool Porche that drove by the other day, at least temporarily. If we spend time with the driver, having an intellectual conversation with the driver. The result will be a long term learning experience from the human interaction. Overall, SHSU does a good job of creating life changing conversations, let’s continue to push forward with great content and great technology.

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