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A Model and Principles for Effective Internet-Based Distance Education

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A Model and Principles for Effective Internet-Based Distance Education
Dr. Robert W. Mendenhall
A dissertation submitted to the faculty of Brigham Young University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Instructional Psychology and Technology David O. McKay School of Education Brigham Young University, May 2003. Abstract: Internet-based distance education is becoming an increasingly accepted and important part of U.S. higher education, creating a unique opportunity to explore new models of effective education that take advantage of the unique strengths of the technology. This dissertation documents a new model for Internet-based distance education, and identifies the underlying principles of effective education incorporated into that model. The model has been developed over the last four years in the form of a new university, Western Governors University (WGU), and has been modified and refined through a program of action research. The key underlying principles of the model include an emphasis on individualizing learning, made possible by a focus on measuring competencies, facilitated by modular and interactive courseware, and strengthened by a program of active mentoring. The advantages of learning opportunities independent of time and place are explained, along with the importance of creating learning communities and pacing elements to support and encourage student progress and completion. Other principles include the concepts behind institutional sharing of courses and other learning resources, and the advantages in online education of differentiating and specializing faculty roles. Finally, principles of measurement and evaluation are applied to both assessment of student learning, and to an institutional program for continuous improvement. The presentation of the model and principles in this dissertation is designed to be helpful to all those with an interest in improving the quality of online distance-delivered higher education.
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