“Designing Computer Graphics Courses for Distance Learning” by Schweitzer

  • ©Dino Schweitzer




    Designing Computer Graphics Courses for Distance Learning



    Distance Learning is not a new concept to higher education. Adult correspondence courses using print media dates back to the 1800’s. London University offered an External Degree program to overseas students beginning in 1858. As communication technology advanced, different forms of distance learning emerged. Courses by radio were offered in the 1930’s. Television gave rise to the “Telecourse” which began with Chicago-based Sunrise Semester, broadcasting a teacher lecturing in a classroom, in 1959. Universities that were totally based on distance learning began appearing in the United States in the early 1970’s. A timeline of major events in early distance learning can be found at [Camplese 1999].

    The advent of the internet brought a whole new dimension to distance learning by providing the capability for two-way interaction between instructor and student, a rich environment for multi-media, instant on-demand access to thousands of courses in all disciplines, and a unique technology medium capable of interactive demonstrations of concepts. The proliferation of broadband access has furthered increased both the capability and demand for online education. While the initial intent of distance learning was to reach remote and disadvantaged students, the increased capabilities of web-based distance learning has resulted in an explosion of internet course offerings from both purely online institutions as well as a large number of traditional academic institutions. According to US News, over 90% of public colleges will offer online courses in 2005 [Bosser 2004].

    There are several terms that have evolved for distance learning approaches including computer-based training, technology-based training, web-based learning, e-Learning, online learning, distributed learning, etc. Several definitions have also been proposed over the years. For purposes of this discussion, distance learning refers to learning primarily via the internet by students at remote locations.

    A common experience for anyone developing a course for distance learning is that it is very different than developing a traditional academic course. While the end-goal course objectives and student outcomes may be the same, the approaches for achieving them are, by necessity, different. Not only is the technology and delivery mechanism vastly different, but many issues also arise about how to effectively incorporate student-teacher interaction and feedback, how to organize individual and group projects, how to accurately assess student knowledge, and how to leverage the capabilities of the technology. Fortunately, the proliferation of distance learning has also led to the creation of several organizations, publications, and research initiatives dedicated to the issues and experiences of effective distance learning. As a result of this proliferation, there exists several guidelines, guiding principles, shared experiences, and helpful hints for the design of distance learning courses. The purpose of this paper is to look at the application of a few of these distance learning principles to the design of online offerings of computer science courses in computer graphics. It is the author’s contention that computer graphics courses are well-suited to a distance learning environment and that application of general design principles can result in effective online courses in computer graphics.


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