Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'enseignement distance (1994) ISSN: 0830-0445 IN REVIEW/CRITIQUES DE LIVRES: Distance Education Futures *Rory McGreal* Rory McGreal Executive Director TeleEducation NB Box 6000 470 York Street Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5H1 *Selected Papers from the 11th Biennial Forum of the Australian and South Pacific External Studies Association, 21-23 July 1993.* Ted Nunan Adelaide: University of South Australia, 1993. 541 p. No price given. This book is of interest to practitioners and theoreticians in the field of distance education. It is of particular relevance for post-secondary institu-tion administrators and government policy makers. Australia and New Zealand both seem to be a few steps ahead of Canada in addressing dis-tance education issues at the national level. The objective of the book is to provide a selection of the papers delivered at the 11th Biennial Forum of the Australian and South Pacific External Studies Conference in July 1993. The title Distance Education Futures, which was the theme of the conference, might lead one to believe that papers would be in a theoretical futurist vein, when in fact the contents are full of practical present-day observations on the state of distance education in Australia, the South Pacific region, and Canada. Nunan, in his introduction, poses three strategic questions to higher educational institutions: 1. How can professionals in distance education address the growing de-mand for courses? 2. How can industry provide the necessary training and upgrading of employees without full government support and address Australia?s ?clever country? needs? 3. Can a national administrative and technological infrastructure be es-tablished to deal with mass demand that bypasses individual institu-tions and avoids the construction of separate physical infrastructures? It would be too much for us to expect that these questions would be answered for us by the conference participants. Nevertheless, the papers included do touch upon these very points. They cover the employment of new technologies, the use of distance education for mass education and training, and the use of distance education courses as commodities to be sold for export. The book is divided into six sections, all dealing with distance educa-tion: Technology, Developing Nations, Vocational Education and the Workplace, Learning Issues, and Quality. The convergence of different technologies is parallelled in education by the convergence of traditional teaching with distance education and computer-based training. Advances in technology are making distinctions in delivery modes problematic. Evans and Nation suggest that specialized distance teaching institutions should become more flexible and evolve into dual mode institutions. They also see distance education in traditional uni-versities being used as a catalyst for the reform of teaching. The instruc-tional design and organizational skills needed for the delivery of good distance education programs are immediately transferable to the traditional classroom. The distance education technology used, for example, digital images, CBT systems, and motion video, should also be made available for on-site teaching. In addition, the use of interactive telecommunications both on and off campus blurs the distinction between distance education and traditional teaching. If a student can upload assignments on campus, why can she not do this from her home in a remote community? If guest speakers can be brought to the campus electronically, why can they not also be brought simultaneously to remote locations? There are dangers in relying too much on the media and downplaying the necessary human support. Catchpole, in describing the experiences of North Island College, believes that institutions must put more resources into structure and into the support end of open learning. He notes that their scheduled courses have a 75% to 80% completion rate vs a 20% to 50% rate for the open learning courses in which students study at their own pace. There is a strong need to enhance student-to-student and student-to-teacher interactions as the learning is occurring. King warns governments against believing that distance education can assuage the myriad problems of education: overcrowding, the need for new buildings, the shortage of staff, the problems involved in amalgamations, the need for entrepreneurs, the unmet demand, and declining funding. He contends that there is no basis for believing that distance education in Australian universities can be delivered significantly more cheaply than on campus. This paper seems to challenge Kirk and Black et al., who contend later on that distance education can be a lucrative export business. If dis-tance education can be profitably delivered abroad, why can it not be used to reduce costs at home? Australia?s Open Learning Technology Corporation (OLTC), described by Arthur, is being established by the Australian government to foster collaborative development across states and sectors. Canada, which still lacks a national education centre, could learn from this Australian experience. The OLTC will create a national database and clearinghouse on open learn-ing. It will also promote the acceptance of national standards for educa-tional communications equipment. It should also provide national econo-mies of scale in the development of multimedia applications, through the sharing of research and development costs and by opening up the national market for locally produced products. The Corporation will also be able to assist in the marketing of educational products for export. Kirk examines Australia?s potential export market in the South Pacific. He reflects on the impact of Low Earth Orbiting satellites that are expected to cover the globe in the mid-90s. He also notes the expansion of the new technologies in the region. Telephone access is increasing rapidly. PCs are already becoming widely available. Audio cassette players, TVs, and VCRs are everywhere (if not in every home, they are in every community), where study centres could be set up. The developing countries cannot cope alone using traditional methods of education. They are becoming more open to considering alternatives. Kirk points out that to win even a small niche in this market could be a financial bonanza for a university. He specifically names the following large markets: * English Second Language * intensive short courses for professionals * worksite training * teacher training * upgrading of qualifications of academic staff * mining and manufacturing (trades to management skills) However, both Kirk and Roberts note that courses must be adapted to meet the cultural needs, attitudes, and learning styles of the foreign students. An ESL language component must be present in all courses. The cost must be reasonable, the service and student support of high quality, and the perceived status must become equivalent to the same programs taken in Australia. Distance education in the workplace and in academic upgrading is a major issue in Australia and Canada. The need for government to work with the other stakeholders is stressed. Learning support issues are also discussed. It is interesting that Luke et al. oppose the use of Plain English and strenuously resist efforts to purge subject-specific texts of specialized language. They claim that the use of Plain English does not increase read-ability. Rather, they point out that readability is better enhanced by the proper structuring, accessing, layout, and design of documents. Cauchi brings up the problems of accreditation, signalling the need for flexible, portable, and internationally recognized qualifications. In Canada, it seems that we will be recognizing international qualifications before we get around to recognizing interprovincial ones. Some provinces are still having problems making programs portable within their boundaries. Aus-tralia, although respecting academic freedom, is moving towards standard-ized national accreditation. They are trying to do this without reducing the flexibility and accessibility of programs. Accreditation of large groups of programs rather than individual ones has been suggested. New measures and quality testing systems will have to be found. Nunan points out that we cannot judge quality simply on the course content or on how well it is delivered. He brings up the question of worthwhileness and suggests that the institution, the government, the em-ployer, and the students all may have different ideas on quality. This collection gives a broad view of some of the major trends in Australian, New Zealand, and global distance education. The book is clearly printed and well presented; however the binding on my copy did not sur-vive one reading. The section on Open Learning provides useful insights into the development of national government policies on distance education that are remarkably timely. Their general orientation could also be successfully applied in the Canadian context. The sections specifically earmarking distance education in developing countries are also appropriate for Canada at this juncture. Canadian institutions have been sleeping while Australian, British, American, and French universities have been exporting their courses for profit. Canada has considerable experience in distance education. We should be following their example and being more aggressive in exporting our programs internationally. The South Pacific region, in particular, is bilingual (French and English). We are a Pacific nation. The technology is making distance irrelevant. This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in waking up some of our sleeping institutions and providing the country with some directions on national educational policy and the export of distance education. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Journal of Distance Education/Revue de l'enseignement distance CADE prefers APA style guides .