JVER v29n2 - Internet-Based Learning in Postsecondary Career and Technical Education
Internet-Based Learning in Postsecondary Career and Technical Education
Scott D. Johnson
Angela D. Benson
Olga N. Shinkareva
Gail Diane Taylor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This article presents the results of a national study of distance learning in postsecondary career and technical education (CTE). The main purpose of this study was to identify the current status and future trends associated with distance learning in postsecondary CTE. The results show that community colleges are actively involved in the delivery of CTE via distance learning. Internet-based courses are the most prominent form of distance learning in community college CTE programs, especially for credit courses. While some colleges are creating their own online programs, many are partnering with external providers (e.g., commercial vendors) and other colleges and universities to make credit and noncredit CTE courses available to students. It was noted that the community colleges are relying heavily on low-bandwidth technologies, although significant growth in all forms of Internetbased CTE courses and technologies is expected within the next three years.
The Internet and web-based computer technologies that support online learning have changed the education landscape considerably. Internet technologies now provide easy to use, powerful, and economically sound media for educational purposes. As a result, large numbers of public higher education institutions are offering courses online and they expect growth in this type of education in the near future ( Allen & Seaman, 2003 ). According to the same source, the majority of public higher education institutions indicated that online courses attract growing number of students when compared to traditional education, and achieve the same or even higher learning outcomes. Also, faculty involvement and acceptance of online education is increasing. This growth has come, in part, because of the increase in access to computers, broadband Internet, and software packages, such as course management software, that are designed to make Internet-based learning more user friendly ( Phipps & Merisotis, 2000 ). In addition, the changing demographics of college students support the need of a flexible postsecondary educational delivery system. Students today are older, employed, married and/or have dependents; this creates a need for flexibility of course delivery, both in terms of time and place ( National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2000 ). Finally, traditional students (i.e., those entering higher education immediately following high school) are Internet-literate and have come to expect a high level of technology use in their coursework, making them more receptive to Internet-based courses ( Synergy Plus, 2002 ).
The growth of Internet-based courses has been accompanied by the development of benchmarks of quality based on best practices in institutional support, course structure, instructor student interactions and support, and assessment ( Phipps & Merisotis, 2000 ). In addition, numerous studies have found no significant differences in learning outcomes or student satisfaction between traditional courses and Internet-based courses. Criticisms of these comparison studies have focused on the lack of theoretical frameworks, rigorous controls, or researcher objectivity. However, rather than discrediting the "no significant difference phenomenon," these criticisms have led to the understanding that "it is irrelevant to speak of the effects of using the Web without understanding how it is entwined with instructional design and especially faculty choices about instructional design" ( Meyer, 2002 , p. 19).
Career and technical education (CTE) means many things to many people. To some people, it refers to a single course that provides specific skill training for job employment or advancement, while to others, it refers to a lifelong learning pathway that is used to obtain, update, and extend the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required to pursue a career successfully. Career and technical education imparts both specific occupational skills to those students wishing to enter employment directly and the academic skills they need for advancement and further postsecondary education ( NCES, 2000 ).
According to the Association for Career and Technical Education (2003) , CTE ". . . is about helping students, workers and lifelong learners of all ages fulfill their working potential" (p. 1). Although community colleges are known for providing high school and college students with relevant application of academic subject matter, employability skills, and career education, it also provides second-chance education and training for the unemployed and those seeking to upgrade their employability skills as well as professional development for career advancement through corporate training and continuing education. While CTE continues to be offered at the high school level, a more significant role is now being played by community colleges, technical institutes, and private, for-profit organizations. CTE programs offered by community colleges include health professions, office careers, computer science, agriculture, construction, and automotive A.A.S. degrees and certificates.
Community colleges have played a key role in connecting high school tech prep, industry training, and baccalaureate education 1 . As an institution of higher education known for its adaptability and willingness to provide customized training, the community college has been influenced by industry ( Dougherty & Bakia, 1999 ; Grubb, 1996 ) and federal policy, such as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act. Federal policy has generally acted to increase the workforce preparation role played by the community college. In fact, community colleges are becoming the designated provider of customized training in many states ( Villadsen & Gennett, 1997 ).
Community colleges have not only played a major role in the delivery of CTE courses, but have also rapidly expanded their Internet-based programs ( NCES, 2000 ; Reese, 2002 ). The number of nontraditional postsecondary CTE programs offered through distance learning is increasing — "a trend that should benefit both the students and the workplace of tomorrow" ( Reese, 2002 , p. 24). Lever-Duffy, Lemke, and Johnson (1996) compiled examples of model community college distance learning programs and concluded that distance learning, while "once a fringe methodology, is fast becoming a fundamental methodology for the Information Age institution" (p. vii). In a 3-year trend study of the 700 member colleges of the League for Innovation in the Community College, Milliron and Miles (2000) identified expected trends for instructional technologies and distance learning in community colleges. Most of the participating schools agreed that the trend towards the use of information technology in instruction would increase over the next 3 to 5 years while fewer than 15% expected that the trend towards distance learning would decrease. According to the Campus Computing Survey, 74% of community colleges now offer online courses to students ( Green, 2000 ). In the early stages however, courses were developed that were oriented to the delivery of general education, liberal arts, and business and management courses ( Synergy Plus, 2002 ). Colleges now offer online technical and vocational courses to students as well.
Statement of the Problem
As community colleges expand their role as a CTE provider, they are exploring the potential of distance learning through Internet-based CTE courses and 4programs. Internet-based CTE courses and programs, however, provide a particular challenge because of the need to develop skills at a distance. As with any new area of emphasis in education, there is limited understanding of the scope of distance learning in CTE and its impact on distance learning on postsecondary CTE. Hence, the primary purpose of this study was to determine the current status and future trends associated with Internet-based learning in postsecondary CTE. The study was designed to address the full breath of postsecondary CTE rather than a specific subset of the field. To accomplish this purpose, a national study was conducted to answer the following research questions:
- How prominent is Internet-based learning in postsecondary CTE?
- What strategies do community colleges use to provide and coordinate Internet-based CTE?
- What types of technologies are used to deliver postsecondary Internet-based CTE courses and what technologies are expected to be used in the future?
This study involved a descriptive analysis of the status of Internet-based learning in postsecondary CTE programs. A nationally representative sample of community colleges was asked to participate in the research to answer questions addressing the prevalence of Internet-based learning in postsecondary CTE.
The target population for this study was defined as postsecondary colleges and technical institutes that are members of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). The sampling frame containing 1,015 member institutions was obtained from AACC. This list provided a national representation of institutions, and included all types, sizes, geographic locations, and settings (i.e., urban, suburban or large town, rural).
Based on discussions with AACC researchers, it was determined that their membership, in terms of institutional characteristics, was heterogeneous across states and homogenous within states. Therefore, a proportionally representative sample was obtained using a stratified random sampling technique. A total of 552 member institutions were randomly selected from the AACC membership database with the number selected proportional to the number of community colleges in each state.
The development of the questionnaire for this study involved working closely with contacts at several professional associations that are closely connected to community college research, including studies of distance learning. The associations were contacted to gain insight into related studies they have completed, to seek their advice on increasing response rates, and to identify the critical questions that needed to be included in the questionnaire. In addition to involving these professional associations in the development and validation of the questionnaire, the instrument was pilot-tested with two community college leaders whose institutions were not included in the national sample. Only minor changes were in the questionnaire were suggested.
The questionnaire employed the definition of distance learning used by the National Center for Education Statistics in their studies of distance learning in postsecondary education institutions ( NCES, 2000 , 2003 ). This definition highlighted education or training courses that are delivered to off-campus locations using both synchronous and asynchronous delivery modes of instruction. As with the NCES surveys, courses offered exclusively on-campus, those offered via written correspondence, and those where the instructor travels to a remote site to deliver instruction in person were not included in this definition of distance courses. Data from all CTE courses and programs at the institution were to be included in the responses.
The questionnaire contained 14 items that asked for specific data regarding courses, programs, enrollments, and technologies used in distance CTE. The estimated amount of time needed to complete the questionnaire was 1–2 hours. The anticipated length of the questionnaire and projections of respondent burden were determined based on estimates used by NCES in their national study of postsecondary institutions ( NCES, 2002 ).
Data Collection Procedures
This study involved mailing a questionnaire to the executive officers of each of the postsecondary institutions identified in the sample. A four-round data collection process was used to obtain responses to the survey that included sending questionnaires to the institutions in the sample and using several follow up techniques to increase the response rate.
The procedure used for response rate calculation was based on the guidelines established by the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and used by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (2000) . Forty entries were removed from the originally selected sample because of incomplete contact information, leaving an accessible sample of 512. Using the CASRO RR2 formula, a final response rate of 53.3% was achieved, which compared quite favorably with a study conducted by AACC. AACC obtained a 19% response rate for their study that involved chief academic officers at more than 1,100 community colleges, and 205 colleges responded ( Nock & Shults, 2001 ).
An important consideration in survey research is the degree to which the survey respondents are representative of the target population. To verify the representativeness of the respondents to the population, several statistical comparisons were performed, including demographic comparisons, respondent versus non-respondent comparisons, and early versus late respondent comparisons. Because no apparent differences were found between the groups, one may conclude that the respondents are representative of the nonrespondents within the sample and the target population in general. Overall, the useable responses represent 26.6% of the target population.
Data Coding and Analysis
The current status of Internet-based CTE was determined by describing the characteristics of a nationally representative sample of community colleges at one point in time. In accordance with the research questions, the examined variables reflect the extent of colleges' participation in Internet-based CTE, types of courses offered, technologies used, and future trends in technology usage.
The current status and future trends of CTE distance learning was determined by measuring the characteristics of the nationally representative sample of community colleges at one point in time. Pre-specified variables and several types of groupings were used (i.e., urban, suburban or large town, and rural; East, Midwest, West) to organize the data and to calculate frequencies and trends associated with Internet-based CTE. Groupings were based on the categorizations used by AACC. Version 11 of SPSS was used to complete the analysis.
Institutional Participation in Distance CTE
Overall, the majority of community colleges provide some form of CTE courses and programs through distance learning. Of the responding community colleges, 76.3% offered CTE courses via distance learning in 2001-2002 (Table 1). CTE distance learning courses were more likely to be offered by community colleges in urban (82.8%) and suburban/large towns (80.5%) than in rural (66.3%) areas. Large community colleges were also more likely to offer CTE via distance learning than were small community colleges. About 82% of the colleges with 3,001-10,000 students, which represents 42% of the respondents, offered CTE courses via distance learning. In comparison, 70% of the colleges with 1,001-3,000 students and about 52% of the colleges with fewer than 1,000 students offered CTE courses via distance learning. No substantial differences in offering CTE courses via distance learning were found among the responding community colleges located in East, Midwest, and West regions of the country.
Internet-Based Courses and Programs in Postsecondary CTE
The community colleges that offered CTE distance learning courses were asked to report the number of credit and noncredit Internet-based CTE courses. Table 2 shows that an average of 36 Internet-based CTE courses are offered for
Distribution of Community Colleges Offering CTE Courses
Note . Percentages are computed within each classification variable; n represents the actual number of responding institutions.
Institutional Characteristic N Institutions Offering Institutions Not Distance CTE Offering Distance CTE (%) (%) All respondents 270 76.3 23.7 Regions East 114 76.3 23.7 Midwest 81 76.5 23.5 West 75 76.0 24.0 Institution Locale Urban 93 82.8 17.2 Suburban or Large Town 82 80.5 19.5 Rural 95 66.3 33.7 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 23 52.2 47.8 1,001-3,000 90 70.0 30.0 3,001-10,000 114 81.6 18.4 More than 10,000 43 88.4 11.6
Average Number of Internet-Based CTE Courses
Note . Of the 206 responding institutions that offer distance CTE, 185 provided CTE credit enrollment numbers, and 151 provided CTE noncredit enrollments for Internet courses.
Institutional Characteristic Internet-Based CTE Internet-Based CTE CTE Credit Courses Noncredit Courses n M n M All Institutions 185 36.0 150 67.0 Region East 76 32.2 62 25.5 Midwest 57 41.4 47 57.5 West 52 35.5 41 13.5 Institution Locale Urban 69 47.6 61 25.6 Suburban or Large Town 58 33.9 44 57.8 Rural 58 24.0 45 16.9 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 11 12.6 9 15.3 1,001-3,000 60 35.9 43 41.6 3,001-10,000 79 32.2 69 14.6 More than 10,000 35 51.6 29 65.7
credit and 67 noncredit Internet-based CTE courses per academic year. The average number of Internet courses offered for credit was higher in urban colleges (47.6) than in community colleges located in suburban areas or large towns (33.9) and rural areas (24.0). The average number of noncredit courses for colleges located in suburban areas or large towns (57.8) was higher than for colleges located in urban (25.6) and rural areas (16.9). Overall, larger community colleges offered more credit and noncredit Internet-based courses.
Table 3 shows that, on average, community colleges offered 74.8% of their credit CTE courses and 46.6% of their noncredit distance CTE courses via the Internet. These credit and noncredit percentages remained fairly constant across locale. Although larger community colleges tend to offer more courses, there was no significant correlation between institution size and the percentage of credit ( r = - .0046) and noncredit ( r = -0.05) Internet-based CTE courses offered.
Number and Percentage of Community College Distance CTE Courses Offered via Internet
Note . Of the 206 responding institutions that offer distance CTE, 131 provided the total number of distance and Internet CTE credit courses, and 77 provided the total number of distance and Internet CTE courses.
Institutional Characteristic Internet-Based CTE Internet-Based CTE Credit Courses Noncredit Courses n % n % All Institutions 131 74.8 77 46.6 Region East 61 70.6 33 54.1 Midwest 39 75.8 27 41.2 West 31 81.8 17 32.8 Institution Locale Urban 48 74.3 36 43.7 Suburban or Large Town 39 78.7 19 50.0 Rural 44 71.9 22 48.4 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 7 76.3 5 66.0 1,001-3,000 50 75.5 20 35.5 3,001-10,000 50 73.5 40 53.6 More than 10,000 24 74.9 12 33.4
Table 4 shows the percentage distribution of community colleges offering credit and noncredit CTE courses via the Internet according to the total number of Internet-based courses offered. As a group, 95.1% of community colleges offer credit courses and 41.1% offer noncredit courses. Of the responding community colleges, 52.4% offered 1-25 Internet-based courses for credit, 22.2% offered 26-50, 20.5% offered more than 50 courses, and 4.9% offered no credit CTE Internet courses. Similar numbers were reported for noncredit Internet-based courses. Of the responding colleges, 58.9% offered no noncredit Internet-based courses; while 21.9% offered 1-25 courses and only 19.2% reported offering more than 25 Internet-based courses.
Percentage of Internet-Based CTE Credit and Noncredit Courses
Note . Of the 206 responding institutions that offer distance CTE, 185 provided CTE credit enrollment numbers, and 151 provided CTE noncredit enrollments for Internet courses. Row percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.
Credit Internet Courses n None 1-25 26-50 51-100 >100 All Institutions 185 4.9 52.4 22.2 13.5 7.0 Region East 76 7.9 50.0 23.7 11.8 6.6 Midwest 57 1.8 54.4 21.1 17.5 5.3 West 52 3.8 53.8 21.2 11.5 9.6 Institution Locale Urban 69 5.8 42.0 23.2 18.8 10.1 Suburban or Large Town 58 3.4 46.6 29.3 15.5 5.2 Rural 58 5.2 70.7 13.8 5.2 5.2 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 11 0 81.8 18.2 0 0 1,001-3000 16 6.3 62.5 12.5 0 18.8 3,001-10,000 79 5.1 54.4 22.8 12.7 5.1 More than 10,000 35 2.9 28.6 25.7 28.6 14.3 Noncredit Internet Courses n None 1-25 26-50 51-100 >100 All Institutions 151 58.9 21.9 6.6 5.3 7.3 Region East 62 56.5 21.0 11.3 8.1 3.2 Midwest 47 51.1 31.9 4.3 0 12.8 West 42 71.4 11.9 2.4 7.1 7.1 Institution Locale Urban 61 63.9 18.0 3.3 6.6 8.2 Suburban or Large Town 45 55.6 20.0 11.1 2.2 11.1 Rural 45 55.6 28.9 6.7 6.7 2.2 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 9 44.4 33.3 11.1 11.1 0 1,001-3,000 9 66.7 11.1 0 0 22.2 3,001-10,000 69 56.5 27.5 5.8 7.2 2.9 More than 10,000 30 66.7 10.0 6.7 0 16.7
Strategies for Providing Internet-Based CTE
Community colleges were asked for the number of Internet-based CTE courses they offered through external providers or partnerships with colleges and universities. The term "partnership" connotes a sharing of resources for mutual benefit. Community colleges are uniquely positioned to partner with a wide variety of educational, professional, and commercial entities. The obvious focus of such partnerships is to provide enhanced learning opportunities, maximize use of costly infrastructure, and deliver courses to under-served populations. Partnerships typically include the community college and entities such as other community colleges, businesses, universities, regional organizations, professional organizations, technical suppliers, high schools, and publishers. One example of a community college partnership is the Illinois Virtual Campus ( http://www.ivc.illinois.edu ), which consists of 68 institutions delivering 3,500 courses in 115 programs while providing comprehensive support services at a lower cost. Another partnership example is the "Direct Path" program instituted by Rutgers University and three community colleges in order to improve transfer rates by providing increased access to online courses along with support for students and faculty.
Table 5 shows that the responding community colleges offered 16.2% of their Internet-based courses through external providers and 18.9% through external partnerships with colleges and universities. The external provider percentages were fairly consistent across institution locale, while rural colleges (23.2%) outpaced
Percentage of Internet-Based CTE Courses Provided Through External Providers and Partnerships
Institutional Characteristic College/University External Providers Partnerships n (%) n (%) All Institutions 172 16.2 185 18.9 Region East 71 17.6 77 20.3 Midwest 51 14.6 59 20.0 West 50 16.0 49 15.4 Institution Locale Urban 68 14.9 70 18.6 Suburban or Large Town 56 16.3 60 15.2 Rural 48 17.9 55 23.2 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 9 23.4 12 37.3 1,001-3,000 48 22.0 57 27.4 3,001-10,000 81 14.3 82 11.8 More than 10,000 34 10.8 34 15.2
urban (18.6%) and suburban (15.2%) colleges in college/university partnerships. Both external providers and partnerships were related to institution size. Smaller colleges (3,000 or fewer students) tended to provide a higher percentage of their Internet-based courses through external providers and partnerships than did larger colleges (more than 3,000 students). These data suggest that exciting new connections are being made as these participants in education find new ways of partnering to provide services for niche markets.
Table 6 shows the percentage distribution of community colleges providing Internet-based CTE through external providers and partnerships. Of the responding community colleges that offered CTE distance learning courses, 69.2% offered no Internet-based courses through external partnerships. The distributions were fairly similar across institution locale (urban, 70.6%; suburban, 67.9%; rural, 68.8%) for institutions that offer no Internet-based courses through external providers. Over half of the responding community colleges (53.5%) offered no Internet-based courses through partnerships with colleges and universities. The distributions were fairly similar across institution locale (urban, 60%; suburban, 51.7%; rural, 47.3%), with most institutions using no partnerships for their Internet-based CTE courses.
Internet Technologies Used in Postsecondary CTE
Current technologies in use. The community colleges that offered CTE distance learning courses were asked about the technologies they used in their CTE Internet-based courses. As shown in Table 7, the most frequently used technologies were e-mail (94.3%), course management systems such as Blackboard® and WebCT® (84.2%), and asynchronous discussion lists (64.2%). The least frequently used technologies included high-bandwidth technologies such as desktop videoconferencing (16.1%), voice chat (13.7%), streaming video (37.7%), streaming audio (44.5%), and streaming PowerPoint® (47.3%). Accordingly, a high percentage of community colleges reported no use of high-bandwidth technologies such as desktop videoconferencing (83.9%), voice chat (86.3%), streaming video (62.2%), streaming audio (55.6%), and streaming PowerPoint® (52.7%).
Anticipated utilization of technology . The community colleges that offered CTE distance learning courses were also asked about the technologies they planned to use in their distance CTE courses within the next 3 years. Table 8 and Figure 1 show that the responding community colleges anticipate an increased use of both high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth technologies. Increases in the high-bandwidth technologies include streaming audio/video (87%) and streaming media synchronized with PowerPoint® slides (80.8%), while the low-bandwidth technologies include Internet courses with asynchronous interaction (79.3%), CDROM/ DVD (77.2%), and asynchronous discussion lists or bulletin boards (72.5%). Most of the responding institutions (81.5%) reported that the use of course management systems is expected to increase.
Percentage of Internet-Based CTE Courses Provided Through External Providers and Partnerships
Number of Courses External Providers n None 1-25 26-50 51-100 All Institutions 172 69.2 11.0 5.2 14.5 Region East 71 64.8 14.1 4.2 16.9 Midwest 51 76.5 3.9 5.9 13.7 West 50 68.0 14.0 6.0 12.0 Institution Locale Urban 68 70.6 11.8 5.9 11.8 Suburban or Large Town 56 67.9 14.3 1.8 15.5 Rural 48 68.8 6.3 8.3 16.7 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 9 66.7 0 0 33.3 1,001-3000 48 68.8 4.2 6.3 20.8 3,001-10,000 81 66.7 17.3 3.7 12.3 More than 10,000 34 76.5 8.8 8.8 5.9 Partnerships n None 1-25 26-50 51-100 All Institutions 185 53.5 27.0 3.8 15.7 Region East 77 54.5 27.0 3.8 15.7 Midwest 59 45.8 35.6 1.7 16.9 West 49 61.2 20.4 8.2 10.2 Institution Locale Urban 70 60.0 21.4 2.9 15.7 Suburban or Large Town 60 51.7 33.3 3.3 11.7 Rural 55 47.3 27.3 5.5 20.0 Institution Size 1,000 or fewer 12 41.7 8.3 16.7 33.3 1,001-3,000 57 43.9 29.8 1.8 24.6 3,001-10,000 82 59.8 29.3 2.4 8.5 More than 10,000 34 58.8 23.5 5.9 11.8
Percentage of Technology Use in Internet-Based CTE Courses
Note . Table indicates the percentage of responding institutions within ranges of use of a specific technology.
Distance Learning Technology Ranges of Technology Use n 0% 1-25% 26-50% 51-75% 76-100% Low-Bandwidth Technologies 174 2.9 1.7 1.1 0 94.3 Course Management Systems 190 4.2 2.1 4.2 5.3 84.2 Asynchronous Discussion 162 8.0 5.6 6.8 15.4 64.2 Text Chat 136 26.5 38.2 12.5 3.7 19.1 CD-ROM 142 22.5 58.5 8.5 2.8 7.7 High-Bandwidth Technologies Streaming Video 127 62.2 29.9 4.7 0 3.1 Streaming Audio 126 55.6 38.1 2.4 1.6 2.4 Streaming PowerPoint® 131 52.7 35.1 9.9 0 2.3 Voice Chat 117 86.3 7.7 2.6 1.7 1.7 Desktop Videoconferencing 118 83.9 15.3 0 0 .8
Future Use of Technologies by Colleges that Currently Offer Distance CTE Courses
Note . Table indicates the percentage of responding institutions that projected the use of a specific technology will decrease, increase, or remain the same.
Technologies for Distance Learning in CTE n Decreased n Decreased
Low-Bandwidth Technologies Course Management Systems (e.g., WebCT®) 200 2.5 16.0 81.5 Internet Courses with Asynchronous Interaction 198 1.5 19.2 79.3 CD-ROM/DVD 184 2.2 20.7 77.2 Asynchronous Discussion Lists or Bulletin Boards 193 2.6 24.9 72.5 191 1.6 29.3 69.1 Synchronous Text Chat 164 6.7 37.8 55.5 Video/Audio Tapes 169 23.1 47.9 29.0 Fax 160 17.5 61.3 21.3 High-Bandwidth Technologies Streaming Media (Audio and/or Video) 177 1.7 11.3 87.0 Streaming Media Synchronized with PowerPoint® 172 2.3 16.9 80.8 Internet Courses with Synchronous Interaction 185 8.1 30.3 61.6 Desktop Videoconferencing 166 3.6 37.3 59.0 Two-Way Audio/Two-Way Video 168 6.0 41.4 53.0 One-Way Prerecorded Audio 146 15.8 42.5 41.8 One-Way Prerecorded Video 153 15.7 43.8 40.5 One-Way Live Video 140 17.1 50.0 32.9 Instructional Television 162 20.4 48.1 31.5 Two-Way Audio 144 10.4 61.1 28.5 One-Way Live Audio 140 15.0 58.6 26.4
Figure 1 . Anticipated increases/decreases in the use of technologies for CTE courses offered at a distance.
Conclusions and Discussion
Internet-based courses are the most prominent form of distance learning in community college CTE programs, especially in credit courses . It may be useful for benchmarking purposes to know that community colleges teach an average of 36 credit and 67 noncredit CTE courses via the Internet. However, the important finding is the large proportion of the CTE courses taught via distance learning being delivered using the Internet. The Internet courses represent nearly three-fourths of all of their distance credit courses and nearly half of their noncredit courses. Given that the feasibility of using the Internet is a fairly recent phenomenon, these data show that the community colleges have made significant progress in developing Internetbased courses in a short amount of time. These data also imply that other forms of distance learning delivery (e.g., correspondence courses, interactive television) are being replaced by Internet-based courses.
The findings from this study also show that the use of the Internet for course delivery has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly in CTE programs. This study found that 95.1% of community colleges offer CTE credit courses via the Internet and 41.1% offer noncredit CTE courses via the Internet. In contrast, Green (2000) found that 74% of community colleges were using the Internet for course delivery. It is important to note that Green's study focused on community college programs and courses in general, while this study focused solely on CTE courses and programs.
Many colleges that offer CTE courses through distance learning are not using the Internet as a delivery vehicle for non-credit courses . In spite of the fact that the majority of colleges are using the Internet for the delivery of CTE courses, there are still a number of institutions that offer no CTE courses via the Internet, especially in noncredit CTE courses. Over half of the institutions that offer some form of distance CTE had no Internet-based noncredit courses. It is unclear why the community colleges use the Internet for the majority of their credit courses (74.8%) but fewer than half use it for their noncredit courses (46.6%). The data clearly show that the lack of Internet-based noncredit courses is neither a function of institution size or locale. The differentiation between credit and noncredit courses might be the result of having more noncredit courses (67 per institution) than credit courses (36 per institution) already developed for "traditional" distance delivery, and it could be too costly in terms of time and money to redesign courses for the Internet when they are already effective in their current format. It could also be that many of the noncredit courses are standardized for certification purposes (e.g., Microsoft or Cisco training) and modification of the courses is outside the authority of the college faculty. If part-time faculty are the ones most likely to teach the noncredit courses, then it is possible that they have neither the time, the expertise, nor the authority to redesign courses for Internet delivery. It is also possible that the noncredit courses are more skill-based than the credit courses, which may make them less feasible to offer online. More research is needed to determine why the noncredit CTE courses are less prevalent in distance learning.
Community colleges are partnering with external providers (e.g., commercial vendors) and other colleges and universities to make credit and noncredit CTE courses available to students . According to the survey findings, nearly one third of all credit and noncredit courses were made available to students via external providers and more than half of the colleges had established partnerships with other colleges and universities. Smaller community colleges (those with 3,000 or fewer students) used this service more than the larger institutions.
Faced with competitive markets, businesses frequently form joint ventures as a way to share strengths and pool resources ( Pocorobba, 1999 ). Community colleges are forming partnerships with external providers and other colleges and universities for similar reasons. They may enter into a simple partnership with a software provider to develop a set of courses ( Rinear, 2002 ) or they may enter into a complex partnership by becoming members of a multi-institution consortium that may be regional, national, or international in scope. According to the NCES (2003) , 60% of 2-year institutions that offered distance learning courses in 2000-2001 participated in some type of distance learning consortium (state, system, regional, national, or international).
Internet-based CTE courses in the community college currently rely on lowbandwidth technologies. Although community colleges are actively involved in the delivery of CTE courses using the Internet, they are using what can be classified as "low-bandwidth" technologies. The most common technologies being used in Internet-based CTE courses are course management systems, e-mail, text chat, and asynchronous discussion. What is lacking in these technologies is the ability to incorporate multimedia and real-time exchange of information among individuals or groups within a course. Very few of the colleges are using the high-bandwidth technologies in their Internet-based CTE courses. These types of technologies include streaming audio and video that may be synchronized with presentations (e.g., PowerPoint®), real-time voice chat, and desktop videoconferencing. By taking advantage of fast connection speeds, these technologies make it possible to include multimedia and real-time exchanges of voice and images.
Why aren't the community colleges taking advantage of the cutting edge technologies in their CTE Internet-based courses? There are likely a variety of reasons for this. First, numerous studies comparing traditional classroom-based instruction with technology-supported instruction have found no significant differences on critical educational variables such as learning outcomes and student satisfaction ( Russell, 1999 ). Those involved in the field of instructional technology now conclude that the technology used in an online program is not as important as other instructional factors, such as pedagogy and course design ( Phipps & Merisotis, 1999 ). Just because a technology is not "cutting-edge" does not mean that it is not an effective tool for education. The colleges may also have purposely selected lowbandwidth technologies with the end user in mind. High-bandwidth technologies demand a fast connection speed for the end user as well as a computer that has a fast processor and lots of memory and file storage space. Incorporating high-bandwidth technologies into CTE courses may prevent students from participating because they do not have access to the computers or Internet connections needed to support these more advanced technologies. Since the colleges are using distance learning to attract nontraditional students, their decision to design their distance learning courses around the lowest common denominator is probably an appropriate choice.
Growth is expected in virtually all forms of Internet-based CTE courses and technologies within the next 3 years. Most community colleges expect to see continued growth in the development and delivery of Internet-based CTE courses. These future courses will see expanded use of course management systems, asynchronous discussion technologies, CD-ROM/DVD for the delivery of course content, and streaming media for delivery of live or recorded audio and video. It can be expected that the CTE courses taught via distance learning in the future will rely less on the exchange of audio and video tapes, fax machines, instructional television, and one-way live audio or video.
A significant portion of community college CTE courses is offered via distance learning. Distance courses, on average, comprised nearly one fifth of the total credit and one fifth of the noncredit CTE courses offered at community colleges. These numbers suggest that both credit and noncredit programs have made inroads in the development of distance CTE courses. Since current and previous NCES distance learning studies focused solely on credit-granting courses, the data from this study become the first to illuminate the extent to which the noncredit offerings on the community college campus are provided through distance learning. More research needs to be directed towards this understudied area.
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The work reported herein was supported under the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education, PR/Award (No. VO51A990006), as administered by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. The contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education or the U. S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Scott D. Johnson is Professor and Head, Department of Human Resource Education, University of Illinois, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Johnson may be reached by phone at (217) 333-0807 or by e-mail at email@example.com .
Angela Benson is Assistant Professor, Department of Human Resource Education University of Illinois, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Benson may be reached by phone at (217) 333-0807 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
John Duncan, Olga N. Shinkareva, Gail Diane Taylor , and Tod Treat are Ph.D. candidates and graduate research assistants in the Department of Human Resource Education, University of Illinois, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. They can be reached by phone at (217) 333-0807.
1 For the sake of brevity, the term "community college" will be used generically to include not only community colleges, but also technical institutes and junior colleges.