REDMOND, Wash., June 2, 1999 — Cerro Coso Community College faces a tremendous geographic challenge, serving a sparsely populated 12,000-square-mile area in south central California. Even with four campuses spread across that wide area, some Cerro Coso students still live as far as 150 miles from the college’s nearest classroom. Because Cerro Coso couldn’t shorten the distance for its students physically, leaders there decided to do so electronically, offering online classes and degree programs accessible to all students within those 12,000 square miles. Cerro Coso faculty began using Microsoft Front Page Web site creation and management tools to make their classes available online.
At the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, students and faculty have Web-based access to their campus accounts and public folders that allow communication, research and course work to be done anytime, anywhere. Using Microsoft Exchange Server, the school’s 12,000 students and faculty share e-mail messages, text documents, video clips, spreadsheets, presentations and other materials, whether they are on campus or working from home. Asynchronous online discussions and distribution lists now bring more students and faculty together for learning than ever before.
According to research from International Data Corporation, 60 percent of all two- and four-year colleges already offer distance learning. That number is expected to increase to 85 percent by 2002, as more colleges and universities expand their course-delivery options to include online learning.
But as college and university information technology professionals and faculty are working to make those online learning goals a reality, they are running into important questions:
What does online learning look like?
What capabilities does the Internet open up for our college?
What can be learned from online learning programs already in place?
To help college and university educators find the answers to those questions and many others, Microsoft developed a free solution last fall called the Online Learning Resource Kit. The company collected case studies from colleges and universities that had already created their own online learning solutions, such as Cerro Coso and the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, and put them on a CD-ROM. The company then added overviews of Microsoft products with step-by-step tutorials, links to related Web sites, advice from Microsoft solution providers and how-to guides. Since then, more than 13,000 educators have requested copies.
“I was impressed with the variety of resources and ideas on the Microsoft Online Learning Resource Kit and how they can be immediately implemented in the classroom,” said Mauri Collins, a research associate in educational technology and adjunct professor at Northern Arizona University. “The CD-ROM showed me a whole new set of tools for online learning that will integrate seamlessly with the technology that we are already using.”
In response to feedback from educators like Mauri Collins, Microsoft began offering the Online Learning Resource Kit Volume 2 on June 1, 1999. Packed with all new materials, including tools, applications and the latest information about Microsoft technology as it applies to teaching and learning, Volume 2 complements and expands upon the tools and knowledge found on the first CD-ROM.
“Microsoft is committed to providing educators with the programs and resources they need to make sound technology decisions and to build campuses for the 21st century,” says Ann Marie McLeod, Microsoft Education Group Director of Marketing for Higher Education. “We were overwhelmed with the response for the first Online Learning Resource Kit CD-ROM, and we’re glad we can offer Volume 2 with even more of the resources and tools requested by faculty and information technology professionals.”