Ever since he used a $400 loan against his car to purchase his first
cable television system in 1967, Glenn Jones has been interested in
using cable technology to broaden educational horizons. A pragmatist
from the start, Jones persuaded the owner of the Georgetown, Colorado,
cable system to accept $1,000 down on a purchase price of $12,000. He
raised the down payment by borrowing against his Volkswagen and
collecting the remainder from delinquent subscribers. A month later, and
with another cable purchase under his belt, he found himself stringing
cable from telephone pole to telephone pole. "I went from lawyering to
working in the bucket of a bucket truck," says Jones.
Often referred to as the "poet of technology," the chairman and chief
executive officer of the country's seventh-largest cable operator has
broken new ground in the distance-learning field. A unique partnership
between Jones Intercable and more than 25 colleges and universities
makes it possible for nontraditional, adult students to go back to
school without ever leaving their homes. All they need is a television,
a VCR, and the desire to reach their higher education goals.
Mind Extension University (ME/U) is the only basic cable television
network devoted to interactive distance learning, and it currently
reaches 26 million households in more than 8,500 communities. ME/U
offers a broad range of accredited undergraduate- and graduate-level
courses via cable television and satellite. The required course work for
the distance learner is exactly the same as that for the classroom
student. Papers and assignments are faxed, mailed, or e-mailed via
ME/U's bulletin board system, and exams are administered by an approved
local proctor and then sent to the professor. Students receive credit
from the partner university in which they are enrolled.
Progress by Degrees
ME/U offers master's degree programs in education and human development
and in library science. Bachelor's degree programs are offered in animal
sciences and industry, business and administration, interdisciplinary
social sciences, management, nursing, and social sciences.
Last May a graduating class of eight students from around the nation
received their M.A. degrees in education and human development from
George Washington University--the first fruits of the educational
partnership between Mind Extension University and GWU. By providing
students with the knowledge and skills to become leaders in the dynamic
field of educational technology, this degree program targets those who
are either beginning or advancing their career in school, higher
education, museum, library, business, and government settings.
"One of the reasons I chose this technological side of the program was
[that] I wanted to be able to keep up with what is going on in the
working world," says graduate Janet Smith Clayton, director of media
operations at Morris College in South Carolina. "If I am going to help
students learn about computers and educational aspects in technology,
then I felt I needed to be abreast of all those things."
The University of Maryland offers a bachelor's degree in management
through ME/U, and last May, 10 students from across the country
completed their degree course work in contemporary business management
theory and practice. Jackie Westfall, an accounting manager at the New
Mexico Potash Corporation, was hired on the condition that she complete
her bachelor's degree. Her busy schedule is what led her to choose to
complete her degree through ME/U.
Beginning this fall, California State University, Dominguez Hills, in
partnership with ME/U, began offering a bachelor's degree program for
registered nurses, available to students nationwide through cable
television, satellite delivery, and videotape. This program is the first
national distance education nursing program, and it is accredited by the
National League for Nursing and the Western Association of Schools and
Colleges. The program is also a member of the American Association of
Colleges of Nursing, the National League for Nursing, and the Western
Institute for Nursing.
"As health care undergoes dramatic changes with unprecedented economic
challenges, the demand for highly knowledgeable professional nurses has
never been greater. Nurses must have access to quality education
programs to succeed as transformational leaders in the 21st century,"
says Sarah Sanford, chief executive officer of the American Association
of Critical-Care Nurses. "We are pleased that professionals in urban and
rural areas will now have the opportunity to take advantage of new
technology and dynamic learning opportunities for their professional and
For adults who do not want to pursue a degree program but still are
looking for advanced educational opportunities, ME/U offers a broad
range of short courses and noncredit courses, including French, German,
and Spanish courses; personal finance and money management seminars; and
computer literacy programs.
Gene Frasier, a retired longshoreman from Portland, Oregon, had no
interest in pursuing an advanced educational degree. Instead, he wanted
to learn to understand and speak the German language in order to get
around easily when visiting his daughter and her husband in Berlin.
Frasier has been working toward his goal of fluency for two years and is
looking forward to using those skills on his next trip to see his
"I've got a big shelf that's loaded with tapes of my course for the past
two years. I want them; they are a treasure to me," explains Frasier.
"I'm going to be able to read and write German when I'm done. I don't
care how long it takes me because I'm having fun doing it."
This fall, ME/U debuted a series of short course programs developed by
the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) that focuses on
career transition planning and opportunities. The AARP Works series is
designed to foster employability skills for the self-directed job
seeker. Each program consists of three primary objectives: assessing
personal skills, interests, experiences, and abilities; increasing self-
confidence; and learning effective job-searching techniques for finding
meaningful employment. The AARP series is being cablecast exclusively by
ME/U for one year. In addition, a hot line is staffed with AARP
volunteers to answer viewers' questions.
"It is extremely important for midlife and older workers to keep their
job-hunting techniques sharp," says AARP President Eugene I. Lehrmann.
"The AARP Works program has been designed to build the skills and self-
confidence to help people compete in today's job market."
Close-Up on Computers
In 1993, Mind Extension University responded to growing consumer demand
for more information regarding computers and all forms of new
information technologies by offering a four-hour prime-time block of
computer literacy programming. Its popularity inspired the launch of
Jones Computer Network (JCN), which became a full-time cable network on
September 6. Jones Computer Network's primary mission is to help
individuals become more knowledgeable about computers, communications,
multimedia, software, and microcomputer-based technologies and,
consequently, to stimulate society's broader utilization of these new
information and communications tools.
JCN isn't only for technowizards, but has programming with broad appeal
for kids and adults. With more than 100 million computer users in the
United States and the technology changing daily, Jones Computer Network
has filled an important new niche. Educational degree and certificate
programs in such areas as computer science and computer literacy are
available from George Washington University, Regis University, and other
noted educational institutions. JCN's wide-ranging programming mix
encompasses computer and new media product previews, leadership
profiles, college courses, how-to shows, and tips and techniques.
In addition to using cable television, Jones Education Network offers
interactive services via the Internet's World Wide Web server. Users can
find general information, university partnership information,
programming highlights, airdates and times, course and registration
information, and computer tips. "We want to take our users into the 21st
century," says Bernard Luskin, president of global operations for Jones
Education Network. "As television, computers, and information services
converge, this type of offering will become more common. As a leader in
cable television, education, computers, and interactive services, Jones
Education Network is spearheading this convergence."
ME/U's bulletin board system (BBS) has been operative since 1991,
providing an interactive, virtual classroom where students can
communicate with peers and teachers. Students "chat" online, exchange
files with other students, turn in homework assignments, and take exams.
The BBS is also used for e-mail and access to UseNet groups and is
available to nonstudents for discussions of educational subjects and
trends, such as distance learning and instructional technology.
In keeping with its global outreach program, Jones plans to set up five
worldwide administrative "campuses" to broaden the reach of the network.
Located in the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America,
the campuses will be responsible for enrollment, program development,
and billing services.
And of Course Multimedia
Building on the momentum generated by ME/U and the Jones Computer
Network, Jones Interactive, Inc., is entering the multimedia world with
a CD-ROM version of the "Jones Cable Television and Information
Infrastructure Dictionary" (4th edition). "We are aiming to create a new
visual literacy, and interactive multimedia projects represent the
genesis of this goal," says Jones. Plans call for more than a dozen
titles by the end of 1995.
"Technological advances have created an environment where time and
distance are erased--where education and information can be delivered to
the student instead of delivering the student to education. It is time
now to fuse our electronic tools of the information age with our great
teaching institutions and repositories of information," says Jones.
With a reputation among his peers as an "entrepreneur's entrepreneur,"
there's a good chance that Jones will realize his vision.
To find out more about Mind Extension University, call the ME/U
Education Center at 800-777-MIND, or contact the Mind Extension
University bulletin board system. By Internet, telnet to bbs.meu.edu.
ME/U Education Center student advisers help students register for
classes, order books and materials, and receive catalogs and
applications. The Education Center also offers academic and career
counseling and tuition reimbursement benefit application counseling.
*Steve Gorski is vice president of advanced development projects at
Jones Education Networks.
*Education Network of Maine*
Charged with creating a community college system without walls in a
state with a huge land mass and a geographically dispersed population,
the University of Maine at Augusta worked with New England Telephone to
implement an electronic network that serves in lieu of the traditional
community college system. A $3.5-million grant from the U.S. Department
of Education enabled the university to negotiate a deal whereby it paid
the up-front cost of laying fiber to connect all seven campuses, in
exchange for minimal annual maintenance costs. "The governor was very
supportive," remembers Pamela MacBrayne, dean of Telecommunications and
Academic Development. "The system is used by small businesses and
associations for teleconferencing and training, and having that access
of course made the concept more attractive."
After checking into the alternatives for linking to the university's six
technical colleges and other off-campus centers, university officials
decided to use Instructional Television Fixed Service via microwave
because of the lower costs over the long term. The total cost of the
system was $7.5 million, with the balance borrowed from the university
system. Operation and maintenance are paid for through a special
allowance allocated by the state legislature. The system also links 69
high schools and college centers, and is used by the state department of
education four hours a day for educational programming and in-service
Like most distance-learning systems, the Education Network of Maine uses
several technologies in combination: interactive video (one-way video,
two-way voice), computer networking, and audioconferencing. Each of the
72 courses offered electronically each semester to more than 80 sites
applies a mix of technologies, with video used for material
presentation; computers used for student-faculty contact, student work
groups, testing and placement, research, and assignments; and
audioconferencing used for small-group discussions between isolated
students and between study groups and faculty. The network also supports
ME-LINK, a dial-in bulletin board and e-mail system, and URSUS, the
university system's online library catalog that students can access from
remote locations. UMServe is a new statewide database that provides
information on public service capabilities at each campus.
"Our success is based largely on the fact that we had a really
significant problem to solve and were looking at the technology with
specific outcomes in mind. We were not shopping for technology and then
figuring out what to do with it," says MacBrayne. "In fact, our success
is now our biggest challenge. The average electronic class size is 120
students--quite a difference from our small, on-campus classrooms.
Faculty are compensated for each class with a $500 stipend for course
preparation and are credited with two courses for every distance-
learning course taught."
*National Technological University*
National Technological University is a private, nonprofit, accredited
institution founded in 1984 to offer graduate-level engineering courses
via satellite to participating corporations and government agencies. NTU
is governed by a board of trustees consisting primarily of industry
executives; courses are taught by faculty at 46 participating
During the 1992-93 school year, NTU offered 22,702 hours of aca- demic
credit instruction and 2,980 hours of noncredit instruction in its
Advanced Technology and Management Program. NTU offers master of science
degrees in chemical engineering, computer engineering, electrical
engineering, hazardous waste management, management of technology, and
software engineering, among others. The Advanced Technology and
Management Program consists of short courses and workshops to introduce
a broad range of technical professionals to new advanced technology
concepts. Undergraduate bridging courses for nonmajors wishing to enter
M.S. programs in computer engineering, computer science, and electrical
engineering also are available. NTU has 626 graduates and currently has
more than 1,830 students admitted to its various master's degree
Most of the 46 participating universities operate uplinks equipped for
broadcasting compressed digital video signals. The network operates on
Ku-band, using a single transponder to provide up to 14 channels of
video. The signals are received via VSAT downlinks at or near the
corporate sites they serve, and telephone lines are used to provide live
interaction with the instructor. That interaction is supplemented by e-
mail, computer teleconferencing, and telephone office hours.
"We've found in evaluations that NTU students generally score a little
higher than the on-campus students," says NTU Marketing and Database
Administrator DeAnna Bell. Employee participation in the courses
usually takes place during the workday and is paid for by the
subscribing corporation, which explains in part the discrepancy in
grades. Students in the NTU program tend to be highly motivated by their
employer's support, and the employer realizes benefits in turn from the
opportunity to keep key staff up-to-date technologically.
The first accredited online doctoral program is being offered by the
School for Transformative Learning of the California Institute of
Integral Studies. The program is designed to create a learning community
and to produce learning practitioners who can create environments
conducive to transformative learning in academe, business, religious
organizations, and government. The program has three central learning
strands: learning and change (transformative learning processes in
individuals, groups, and larger systems), foundations (epistemology and
philosophy), and conduct of inquiry (research). "We focus on taking
theory and translating it to practice. Our students in essence become
'action researchers,'" says Prof. David Fetterman. "We want them to be
reflective practitioners--not create change, but create an environment
for transformative learning."
The institute has about 1,000 students, 20 of whom have been in the
online program since its inception in 1993. Another 25 joined the group
in September, and it is anticipated that the first degrees will be
granted in three or four years. The students make an initial commitment
to complete a two-year course of study with their cohort; dissertation
work thereafter is individual.
The program is offered via America Online's network, and infrastructural
costs include the expenses for a computer, a modem, an online service,
and a telephone line. Faculty and students communicate primarily in an
asynchronous mode rather than at the same time or place. Online
"folders" contain assignments, comments, reports, and discussions. The
faculty member critiques a student's assignment, while students read and
critique each other's work and read the faculty member's comments as
well. Private electronic "rooms" are used for real-time counseling or
specific discussions about projects between students or faculty members.
For their assignments, students use the virtual library accessible
through the Internet. Online services also provide a wealth of resources
for faculty and students, ranging from hundreds of forums for discussion
to Smithsonian photographs of the earth from the moon. Traditional
places such as a student union and admissions office also exist online
to facilitate the academic mission.
"We're getting an incredible response to this. We have people interested
from all over the world," says Fetterman. "This isn't like an
engineering or a math course, where the material is fairly cut-and-
dried. We're actually able to demonstrate that we can build a community
this way. Doing a program like this online is a constantly evolving
process, and as we find out where the kinks are, we listen to that
feedback and modify our organization."
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