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January 15, 2002
Balancing Act: Online Learning Becomes the “Third Shift” for Women
By Mary Lou Santovec
uch of the literature on working mothers emphasizes their “second shift.” The term refers to the housework, child-care duties, and other responsibilities women tackle after finishing their first-shift job. In addition to their obligations as both an employee and parent, many working mothers have now taken on a “third shift” — online education. Adding online courses to their already full plate has implications for both higher education and society, said Cheris Kramarae, a professor in the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon. As the 1999-2000 scholar-in-residence at the American Association of University Women, Kramarae authored the study, “The Third Shift: Women Learning Online.” “The majority of online students are women,” she said. “Yet, while they are the key users of the new technology-driven learning, they are underrepresented in college administrative positions and in the design of software and the development of online courses. The many currently proposed and actual ‘revolutionary’ changes in higher education involving new communication technologies make this a critical time to examine what’s happening with gender online.” Women are increasingly looking at
online education as a way, often the only way, of adding coursework to their busy lives. They choose this route for career enhancement or to keep a job as well as for personal enrichment. However,
Many working mothers have now taken on a “third shift” — online education.
“there has been almost no research on how they are incorporating this ‘third shift’ into their lives, or how online courses can best serve their needs,” said Kramarae.
Complex Reasons, Identities
The AAUW study surveyed 481 women and 53 men. Kramarae and her research associates collected data over a 16-month period using in-depth interviewing and an online questionnaire. The interview guide and questionnaire included questions about access to resources needed for online learning, learning styles, best and worst educational experiences, and experiences, worries, and successes regarding online education.
in this issue
Distance Ed: Women’s “3rd Shift”? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 In the Field: Engineering an Online Master’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3 Global Village: Worldwide Copyright Treaty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Tech Briefing: New Frontiers In Video? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6 Resources: Meet You In Lisbon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 In the Field: Afghani At a Distance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
Interviews with students, administrators, former students, business executives, teachers, and online researchers were conducted at various sites including schools, homes, and businesses. Students from all types of schools — proprietary, public, private, and virtual — were represented. Some 60% of nontraditional online learners surveyed were over 25 years old and female. They ranged in age from 20 to “over 80.” “The adult women in this study look to higher education for many reasons including career development, personal development, job requirements, and for obtaining information on a subject,” Kramarae said. “Many of them have complex identities and complex reasons. They bring these complexities to their courses. Preferences for certain kinds of learning styles are aligned with real-life possibilities.” The majority of the virtual students surveyed had educational goals and aspirations similar to those of traditional-age students attending traditional bricksand-mortar campuses. “Online students are seeking the same intellectual engagement and richness that students seek in the traditional context,” said Kramarae. “Most of them report themselves to be highly motivated and self-directed. They often mention specific goals and persistence even when they have great difficulty finding time and/or the money for their courses. It’s important that online learning not give short shrift to these goals and priorities.” Most of the study participants believe that taking online courses is more difficult than those taken on campus. “Many mentioned the necessity of high motivacontinued on page 2
R e p o r t
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Balancing Act...from page 1
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tion, time-management skills, and ‘maturity’ for success in online courses,” she said. “Some of the women mentioned the ability to work late at night or very early in the morning as added benefits.” Despite the positive aspects of online learning, the study also found a downside. Many of the participants reported significant anxiety about fulfilling their other roles while having to study, conduct research, and write papers. “For all the benefits of distance learning for women, these students still have to make tremendous sacrifices to balance the demands of work, family, and school,” said Kramarae. “Despite the motivation and dedication online learners demonstrate, our study found that many of them are still made to feel that they are letting their families down when they try to further their education.” Other concerns included the cost of tuition and equipment, the course load, and the lack of accreditation of many distance learning programs.
In formulating college and university policies toward online education, Kramarae recommends the following: • Treat distance learning students as responsible and intelligent individuals, not as passive educational consumers. • Recognize that older students using distance education are a less homogenous group than on-campus students. • Involve women administrators, students, and teachers as active participants and advisers in the planning process for online courses. • Find suitable mechanisms for the continual evaluation of online programs. • Be explicit regarding the institution’s mission statements on distance learning plans.
January 15, 2002
• Establish places for online students to talk face to face when possible. • Find ways to make women students feel welcome online. • Combine efforts to make political leaders and policy makers aware of the problems, especially financial, that adult women face in trying to continue their education. • Consider rent-to-own or interestfree leasing options for required equipment. “I could add that many teachers expressed concern about how decisions about online programs are being made,” Kramarae said. “A director of a distance education network at a private university suggested that while most community colleges and private schools have a long history of bottom-up interest and planning in distance involvement, ‘the publics,’ with their history of extension schools, have been accustomed to distance learning decisions being made by top administrators.” This lack of involvement on the part of faculty will eventually slow down online learning’s forward momentum on many campuses. “Faculty members at several universities talked about how administrators were assuming that faculty did not need to be centrally involved with making decisions about distance learning,” she said. “They think that in part this was because the administrators did not want to talk about online partnerships they were arranging with other universities, businesses, and venture capitalists.” Online learning offers many women a chance to achieve an education while balancing other responsibilities. Institutional understanding of the challenges women face can significantly improve their educational experience. q
Distance Education Report
in the field
Engineering Online Excellence: Wisconsin’s Engineering MS the Product of Careful Planning
by Ellen Cook hen Tom Smith, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Professional Development Program (EPD), envisioned a distance education masters degree program in 1994, he knew that planning the Internet-delivered program would mean a huge investment of time and work for the development team. He seems a little surprised now that he can also describe the process — and the resulting interactions among students, faculty, staff, and administrators — as “delightful.” In 2002, the Masters of Engineering in Professional Practice (MEPP) program is fully operational. The first class of 24 students graduated in May 2001. The presence of every class member on campus for that first graduation is testimony to group enthusiasm and cohesiveness. Two more groups are working their way through the two-year curriculum. Applicants outnumber spaces available in these second and third cohorts.
UW-Madison campus for one week during each of the two summers of their program. They take the remainder of classes (two per semester) via weekly hour-long Internet presentations, using asynchronous threaded discussions in chat rooms. They work on problems in small groups, using materials provided by faculty as well as resources made available by the Wendt Engineering Library on campus. They are expected to study and
New Levels of Student Support
A unique aspect of the program has been an almost lavish attention to the learner, inside and outside the program. Prospective students are contacted at an early stage and informed about financial and time requirements. They are encouraged to discuss the program with spouses, bosses and others who will be affected by it. The program staff wants every student to be successful but also wants student to know that success will come at a price. Faculty members and staff are alert to the pressures that life can place on learners and work hard to make sure that there are support systems in place. They stay aware of family events such as births and illnesses. They reach out to students who haven’t been “seen” on the Internet at the expected times. Karen Al-Ashkar, admissions committee chair and MEPP program counselor, has herself been an adult graduate student. She knows the complications, including those of registering at a giant research university with almost 40,000 students. She works to help students concentrate on their studies, not on organizational details. It is her job “to make sure that the relationships with various entities on campus continue so there can be support for the students” — so that, for MEPP students, the face of the school will be helpful human faces, not bureaucratic barriers. With the rest of the program staff, Al-Ashkar works to make the technology a helpful rather than frustrating part of learning and communication. While large organizations can present bureaucratic roadblocks to innovation, an organization the size of UW-Madison also has much to offer a developing technical program. Planners drew from a variety of resources in designing MEPP: • staff who know how to use advanced (and changing) technology
continued on page 5
A unique aspect of the program has been an almost lavish attention to the learner, inside and outside the program.
work on problems 20 hours a week. They make presentations online using PowerPoint and other technology. The courses, which every student takes, include Network Skills for Remote Learners; Engineering, Economics and Management; Communicating Technical Information; Quality Engineering and Quality Management; and International Engineering Strategies and Operations. Tuition for the cohort starting in June 2002 will total $33,150 plus a few other expenses. Most students are able to obtain the financial support of their employer for all or part of the tuition. Participants must be accepted by the Engineering School and must have had four years of post-bachelor’s degree experience working in the field. All students go through the same course sequence together, studying under the direction of senior faculty.
January 15, 2002
Incorporating Twenty Years of Experience
The UW engineering department has designed and delivered local and distance education programs to working engineers for 20 years. Over the years, professional engineers and their employers have told the Engineering Professional Development faculty about their learning needs. Engineering faculty know the audience and they know how to plan. Even so, the success of the new program has been a surprise. EPD is designed to provide working engineers with the skills and knowledge to master new approaches, solve on-thejob problems, and advance their careers; to make participants more effective in their jobs and their companies. MEPP is a two-year program for people who continue to work in an engineering field while they study. Each cohort of about 30 students comes to the
Distance Education Report
rotection of intellectual property is critical to economic growth, economic development, and wealth creation. A delegate to a October 11, 2001 conference stated, “Any country that wishes to achieve economic stability and growth needs a strong system of protecting and promoting intellectual property, which should induce trust and confidence of investors and stimulate creation.” Protection of intellectual property has become increasingly complex with technology taking creations to worldwide audiences via satellite broadcast, compact discs, the web, the Internet, etc. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), based in Geneva, leads the ongoing international discussion about copyright protection in cyberspace. WIPO administers the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty (WPPT), which establish international norms for preventing unauthorized access and use of creative work on the Internet or other digital networks. On December 6, 2001, the country of Gabon acceded to the WCT. Now 30 countries have ratified the treaty, paving the way for it to take effect on March 6, 2002. WPPT addresses the rights of producers and performers of sound recordings. Twenty-eight of 30 countries have ratified this agreement and WIPO expects it to be in force soon.
ry by ensuring that rightholders can use technology to protect their rights and license their works online. The anti-circumvention provision addresses the problem of hacking by requiring countries to provide adequate legal protection and effective remedies against the circumvention of technological measures. The treaties do not include enforcement provisions, but encourage all signers to institute appropriate measures. The WCT and WPPT require signers to “provide adequate legal protection and effective remedies against the circumvention of technological measures, such as encryption.” (from an article by Rick Perera, 12/7/01 for IDG News Service) Both treaties also contain provisions on rights of distribution and rental and rights to be remunerated for certain forms of broadcasting or communication to the public.
letter to the U.S. Patent Office, objecting to its adoption saying in part: “these far-reaching proposals were not yet ripe for action, in many cases were simply mistaken and would have a negative effect on privacy, free speech, academic research and commercial innovation on the Net. … We believe that this rush to achieve internationally that which was rejected domestically is … unwise.” <www.public-domain.org/copyright/lawprofs.html>
WIPO established the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore (IGC) in October 2000. It is open to all member states of WIPO and the Paris Union for the Protection of Industrial Property, with observer status for United Nations members. In December 2001, the IGC approved a number of tasks and discussions: • establishment of model intellectual property clauses for contractual agreements regulating access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources • further work on intellectual property aspects of the documentation of public domain traditional knowledge and its inclusion in the patent examination process as part of searchable prior art • further discussions on whether the traditional intellectual property system is sufficient in addressing traditional knowledge and folklore with a future meeting scheduled in June 2002. A copy of the WIPO copyright treaty can be found at <www.loc.gov/copyright/wipo/treaty1.html>. The treaty was drafted in 1996. q
Reaching for Consensus
Only the United States and Japan of the major industrialized countries have ratified the treaty. The European Union is expected to ratify it, but the parliaments of all 15 EU member states must first separately pass an EU directive with similar provisions. This process is expected to be completed in 2002. The director general of WIPO, Dr. Kamil Idris, said that the WCT and WPPT are vital for the further development of the Internet, electronic commerce, and thereby the culture and information industries. He stressed that the treaties must be adopted by countries throughout the world to be effective. “While we have reached the key number of 30 countries required for entry into force, I urge all other countries to follow suit and to incorporate the provisions of the WCT and WPPT into their national legislation. This will create the conditions necessary for the broad-based and legitimate distribution of creative works and recordings on the Internet.” When the WCT was proposed in 1996, several U.S. law professors wrote a
January 15, 2002
Both treaties affirm that the copyrights which protect reproduction of original works are protected in the Internet and digital media. The treaties clarify that the traditional right of reproduction continues to apply in the electronic and digital media and confirm the rightholders’ right to control making available their creations to members of the public. The treaties, however, also clarify that countries have some flexibility in establishing exceptions to limitations of rights in the digital environment. Further, the treaties enter new territo-
Distance Education Report
in the field
Engineering...from page 3
• programming aces with the ability to adapt course software • the ability to identify and hire nationally known curriculum development specialists • prominent, experienced faculty members • staff in existing programs that have developed distance education courses
same curriculum and technology delivery systems as the regular courses, started in January 1999. The first students were admitted in March 1999 and classes began in June 1999. The extensive experience of the planners is one factor that has led to the success of the program. Smith, when asked about possible mistakes in planning MEPP, said, “I’ve made hundreds of mistakes in distance education programs.
for the unique opportunities it presents and not as a big get rich quick opportunity. Deliver a quality product and you can make a program successful financially, but don’t be driven by the motor of making a lot of money. Get the curriculum, get the faculty, get the instructional design right from the start and price it to cover your costs, not with the grand plan of getting rich over a program.”
Consolidating Gains, Planning Ahead
Pferdehirt also stresses the importance of evaluation and continuous improvement. There is a new program impact survey indicating the extent to which MEPP has helped with various proficiencies and advancement of careers. Program administrators get input from co-workers and supervisors of former students. Program staff share the same concern for the future. They want to keep all aspects of the program, and the technology, updated and as responsive to student needs as possible. MEPP started with loans from EPD and the Engineering School; they are already being paid back. Companies such as Harley-Davidson, Motorola, Mercury Marine, and GE Medical Systems send employees as students because of the quality education offered. Pferdehirt compares the development and implementation experience of MEPP to launching an airplane. “It should fly, but you’re never sure. Now, we know it flies.” q
The Importance of Planning
Smith says that the program was planned “the right way,” using strategic planning principles. It started with a meeting in October 1994. The timeline developed as follows: 1995 Concept paper 1997 May: Business plan September: Academic proposal 1998 May: Implementation plan August: Preliminary user interface design September: First three course plans November: Student and faculty training material drafted December: First three courses drafted 1999 January: Pilot courses start March: First Students Admitted June: Class begins 2001 May: Inaugural class graduates MEPP’s courses were all piloted with a small group of six or seven students before they were offered through the program. Pilot courses, which used the
“I’ve made hundreds of mistakes in distance education programs. We tried not repeat [them] with this program.”
We tried to go back to experience and not repeat it with this program. We may have misjudged some things about who could do what, but we kept moving. A deliberated and structured approach kept us from making mistakes.” He mentions that content (designed precisely for these students) and format (consistent and dependable delivery mechanisms) are keys to the program. When asked if he had advice for others considering distance programs, MEPP Director Wayne Pferdehirt, responds, “Most public or private universities should be sure to look at e-learning
Tech Professionals Mentor Teachers in Free Online Program
TECH CORPS, a national nonprofit organization sponsored by Compaq Computer, recruits information technology professionals to volunteer for a free online technology-mentoring program for K-12 teachers. Its “techs4schools” program gives educators with varying degrees of techDistance Education Report
nology experience the opportunity to talk with certified tech-ies, via the web. Educators and IT volunteers are arranged into teams of 10 to discuss the applications of technology in their schools. Users are required to register before taking part in discussions, but the service is free. Once registered, educators can ask anyone on their teams about a host of issues, including networking, hardware, video, broadband, the Internet,
January 15, 2002
and operating systems. The goal of TECH CORPS is to put technical support within reach of all schools, regardless of an institution’s resources. Because the forum is free and entirely web-based, it can reach educators located in remote areas or those who may have minimal or no tech-support teams at their schools. Trial runs are offered to newcomers. <www.techcorps.org/techs4schools/index.html>
Let’s Go to Video: Video Transmission in Distance Education
Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti
hatever your distance education curriculum or design, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually want to incorporate video transmission technologies. Choosing the right technology to fit your curricular needs, student base, and budget can be the difference between success and failure of your project. Warren Osterndorf, director of distance education and multimedia at Rensselaer at Hartford (CT), a branch campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, understands this well. One video transmission technique used by Rensselaer is ISDN-based video conferencing, the same technology used to conduct remote meetings and training sessions for the business community. Osterndorf finds that the quality of transmission is good enough to allow students in remote locations to “see, hear, and interact with the professor,” and, since the university owns the ISDN lines, it is sure of the state of the technology. Because the university has made the initial investment in setting up the network of remote locations, “the expense factor is not that great.” However, there are two major drawbacks to using traditional video conferencing. First, you must make an initial investment in technology — the alternative, renting video conferencing facilities from those who provide them for corporate users, can be costly. Second is class format: by its nature, video conferencing necessitates a site-based model in which students congregate to see transmissions as a group. While this may work quite well for regularly scheduled, synchronous class transmissions, there is a whole distance education population that is increasingly demanding any time, any place learning. For this population, video delivered over the Internet may allow for what Osterndorf calls a “student-based model” of distance education. This model allows students to access course video at any time using their own computer, a con-
nection to the Internet, and commonly available video software like Windows Media Player or Real Player.
However, this increase in flexibility comes at the price of some loss of control by the university. Schools no longer have control over the network or the hardware used at each end of the interac-
of video for distance education is by using a method called “video over IP.” In this approach, each user installs a piece of software on their computer that allows for smooth, consistent video transmission over existing Internet connections, approaching the high quality of video conferencing.
Building In a Solution?
Debby McDonald is CEO of Vugenix, a company that provides software for video over IP. “I’ve seen people use hardware solutions [for distance education]; it’s good quality video, but very expensive,” McDonald said. Instead, she suggests that using a piece of software such as that produced by Vugenix can open up distance education to a wider population. The Vugenix software is approximately $50 for each person. “[We’re] going to have to continue learning for the rest of [our] lives,” said McDonald. For this reason, she believes that higher education will benefit from finding cost-effective ways to provide video conferencing-quality transmission to students over their own computers, broadening the potential student base. Osterndorf also predicts an increase in the use of technology to expand the population accessing college courses. He see an increase in the use of wireless Internet connections for true “any place” education, and he believes that “online access through [your] computer is going to become more transparent.” With over twenty years in the distance education field, Osterndorf understands that distance education “is a tool to meet the needs of our students.” A solid understanding of the video transmission options available can help make distance education a better and more powerful tool. q
“We try to reduce the amount of full-motion video,” said Osterndorf, noting that Rensselaer uses graphics that are less affected by a potentially choppy transmission.
tion, which means that the quality of the transmission will be affected by a variety of factors. Students will be at liberty to use their own desktop or laptop computers, the configuration of which may affect their ability to access the course. Also playing a large role is the student’s Internet connection: DSL, cable modem, fiber optic network, or dial-up connection will all have an impact on transmission speed and quality. There are ways to compensate for the variable quality associated with streaming video. “We try to reduce the amount of full-motion video,” said Osterndorf, noting that Rensselaer uses graphics that are less affected by a potentially choppy transmission and audio that requires less bandwidth to transmit. Rensselaer also stipulates minimum hardware requirements for its students to help minimize the frustrations of outdated computers. Another way to improve the quality
January 15, 2002
Distance Education Report
Quality Enhancing Practices in Distance Education: Student Services (ITC Publications 2001)
Written by 10 college administrators, this new publication of the Instructional Telecommunications Council includes the latest insights on: • providing a comprehensive orientation • new student assessment • helping students develop successful career planning skills; creating a model online student service center • a consortial approach to providing disability services • flexible starts • online library services • online tutoring • providing student life, bookstore, and health and wellness services online. Quality Enhancing Practices in Distance Education is edited by Christine Dalziel, ITC, and Michele Payne, Kirkwood Community College. Copies are $20.00, and may be ordered from the ITC website. <www.itcnetwork.org/publications.htm> international agencies, the training and adult continuing education industries, the computer software and hardware industries, television, print and multimedia publishers, satellite, telecommunications, and cable companies. The conference program also offers a variety of learning opportunities. On the first day, May 21, the program will include keynotes, panels and special sessions. <www.wemex.com/>
Field Trips to the Louvre, Minus the Bus
With the launch of louvre.edu, one of the world’s greatest art museums is open to students around the world. The Louvre museum, Pages Jaunes (the French Yellow Pages), and the French Ministry of Education have collaborated on <www.louvre.edu>, a website that allows students to take a virtual tour of the museum from classroom computers. Over 3,000 works of art and 350 exhibit halls have been brought online. The site features a cyberdesk where students can “store” artwork for easy reference. With louvre.edu, students can simultaneously gain experience with art, and with the Internet. The website was created in response to a mandate from French Prime Minister Jospin to make the web accessible to French schools and administrative offices.
ED-MEDIA 2002: World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications, June 24-29, 2002, Denver, Colorado
ED-MEDIA 2002 will be held June 24-29, 2002 in Denver, Colo., organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). The conference’s scope includes major topics relating to the educational and developmental applications of multimedia/hypermedia and telecommunications, including: • tools and content-oriented applications • new roles of the instructor and learner • universal web accessibility • design of distance learning systems • www-based course-support systems • authoring tools • evaluation of impact • www-based course sites • www-based learning resources • www-based tools • policy and law • site management considerations. More information and registration materials are available at <www.aace.org/conf/edmedia/call.htm>
The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can’t See (CyberAge/Information Today)
According to authors Chris Sherman and Gary Price, some of the best online resources are virtually invisible to search engines. This team of Internet search consultant and reference librarian has discovered dozens of categories that are simply not indexed by most search engines, either because the engine’s technology can’t access them or because search companies decide for business reasons not to include them. They list hundreds of examples of valuable resources that search engines will not turn up, from databases of museum art to realtime information such as weather reports and stock prices. The Invisible Web is available at most book stores, or may be ordered online at <www.invisible-web.net/> for $29.95. ISBN 0-910965-51-X. q
Third Annual World Education Market, Lisbon, Portugal, May 21-24, 2002
The World Education Market (WEM) is a large-scale professional event and marketplace dedicated to the international business of education and training. Last year over 1,700 participants from 62 countries attended the second World Education Market in Vancouver. WEM showcases educational resources for all levels and ages of learners. WEM brings together administrators, decision-makers and executives from the public and private sectors to exchange ideas and develop business partnerships. Participation is international, with representation from school systems, technical institutes, universities, governments,
Distance Education Report
January 15, 2002
in the field
Afghani at a Distance: Closing the Language Gap
he events of 9/11 have affected both instructional content and the way it is delivered at some U.S. institutions of higher education. This is particularly true of programs that address America’s “Achille’s Heel” — the language gap. After the Sept. 11 attacks, the FBI put out urgent appeals for citizens fluent in Arabic and Farsi. Less common languages, such as those of Afghanistan and former Soviet Republics, have even fewer speakers, teachers and translators available in the United States. This language deficit is part of a larger national problem that is rooted in the U.S. education system. Distance education and technology may provide some answers to filling the language gap and alleviating teacher shortages. Four U.S. institutions of higher education are moving to address the situation, partly with the use of distance education. Nova Southeastern University, University of Pennsylvania, the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif. and Florida International University are considering programs. The initial focus is on Pashto, the language of the Pashtun, the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan, which is not presently studied in American colleges. The Pashtuns are ethnically related to the Kurds in Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria. Pashto belongs to the IndoEuropean family of languages and is distantly related to English (the Pashto word storee shows an historic echo with the English word, “star”). Despite the fact that Pashto is written in a variant of Arabic script, and has many Arabic loan words, particularly from the Koran (Qu’ran), it is not related to that language group. A now famous Arabic loan word is taliban, meaning students.
its own distance-learning course in Pashto, says Martha Smith-Singleton, executive director for the university’s NSU Communiversity. The course, which mixes traditional teaching in the classroom with online options, should be ready in early 2002. Nova could provide its Pashto courses to eArmyU, says Smith-Singleton. Because there are few teachers, NSU
Schools are grappling with how to teach languages in the face of a shortage of qualified teachers. Nova may offer an online Pashto class if it can’t find enough local interest, said Alejandra Parra, an academic director at NSU’s Language Institute. Florida International and Nova Southeastern are both considering using Donahue’s program. Hoping to meet the new need for Pashto classes, Donahue says his “dictionary on steroids” is a “quick and dirty field manual that students can use to learn core vocabulary. It can stand on its own or serve as a language laboratory for a traditional classroom course.” But will the interest to build this kind of foreign language course last? NSU’s Parra doesn’t know whether there will be interest in Pashto in a year, especially because of the fast pace of the military campaign in Afghanistan. Will students still be interested in learning Pashto if the U.S. goes somewhere else? “We’ll get this organized, do the marketing and see what happens,” Parra says. Commenting on the critical need to teach less commonly taught languages, Ray Ferrero, Jr., President of NSU said, “I think it is going to be very important. I am glad that we are at the forefront of trying to provide this type of education.” Dr. Smith-Singleton, and the others think that interest in Pashto will only grow in the near future, even though the American campaign in Afghanistan has almost ended and the Taliban militia dismantled. Peacekeeping and rebuilding Afghanistan’s government and infrastructure will take years, and knowledge of Pashto will remain important. q
Distance education and technology may provide some answers to filling the language gap and alleviating teacher shortages.
plans to offer a technologically blended program to students interested in Pashto. Nova is considering using a language training system developed by MiamiDade Community College Professor Steven Donahue, who has adapted existing language-education software into a Pashto primer. Donahue teamed up with a native Pashto speaker who works for the Voice of America, the U.S. government’s worldwide radio station. A distance education-centered vocabulary system of 1,000 Pashto words was produced. The system allows a student to learn basic words and phrases through a smorgasbord of choices. Access options include the Web, through Internetenabled phones or Palm Pilot-like devices, on CDs, or even “Pashto-byPhone” via an Automatic Speech Recognition system that evaluates a student’s pronunciation and sends a report to an online database. “It’s like a language laboratory, but with the convenience of a toll-free number,” says Donahue.
Rapid Linguistic Response
Nova Southeastern University, located in Davie, Florida is one of 24 schools where soldiers enrolled in AUAO (Army University Access Online or eArmyU) are able to take courses. NSU is creating
January 15, 2002
Distance Education Report