Multimedia delivery systems re-shape distance education

Flexibility (Oliver Yu)

Rebecca Burgess

No longer the snail-mail, correspondence system of old, today’s distance education courses are multimedia shows of intellectual depth.

“With 85-100 courses offered each year, students at Saddleback College are able to complete most of their general education requirements from home,” said Sheri Nelson, senior administrative assistant.

The Saddleback College program utilizes the media of television, radio, internet, and podcasting.  Owning a computer is not a requirement for internet-based courses as computers are available on-campus in the Library, Learning Assistance Lab, and the Business Sciences Lab.

Nor is television ownership a requirement. Course videos can be borrowed from the media desk and viewed within the library.

A common misconception about distance education is that it is entirely off-campus.  In fact, distance education courses have more to do with flexibility and media variety than with physicality.

“In the 2008-2009 academic year, over 10,000 enrollees made the  choice for flexibility in their course selections,” Nelson said.

Reasons vary but range from lack of childcare or transportation, demands of full-time employment or a preference for independent study.

A recent achievement for distance education at Saddleback was the creation of the Center for Instructional Design and Distance Education. In addition to offering one-on-one curriculum design services to faculty, the CIDDE contains a video library of over 3,000 clips.  These are high-quality videos from sources such as the National Geographic, and PBS.

Also noteworthy, is the increasing use of CIDDE resources by on-campus faculty. Hybrid courses (on-campus courses with internet components) are frequently the result of on-campus faculty experimenting with the tools of distance education technology. In addition, on-campus faculty are finding it useful to post lecture notes and course syllabi on Blackboard.

“I see it growing by leaps and bounds,” Nelson said

Distance education courses undergo a rigorous approval process.  They must be at least as good as on-campus courses and often are more demanding.

“You get more in-depth in the course, its very focused subject matter,” Nelson said.

Distance education is not for students who need face-to-face contact with their instructors.  To be successful, a distance education student must be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and have excellent communication skills.

“Reading comprehension is crucial,” Nelson said

A potential student should consider the questions in the sidebar or take an on-line self-test at to determine if distance education is the right fit for them.

On-line academic counseling at can assist the student with information on courses, prerequisites, certificates, degrees, and transfer requirements.

After registration, students are encouraged to view the Getting Started video tutorials at for information on technical requirements and troubleshooting Blackboard or to read the document at On-line technical support is available with a click of the “help” button on the Blackboard home page.

Library services are accessible through an off-campus link that enables students to browse the catalog and read full-text articles from home, and  textbooks can be ordered through the bookstore and shipped directly to the student.

For more information visit


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