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Dr. James Witte refers to the distance education students in his class (seen top right, on video screen) as the folks in "TV Land.''
Dr. James Witte refers to a portion of his graduate student audience as "the folks out there in TV Land.''
Some of those folks have participated in class discussions despite sitting in hotel rooms in Texas or while sitting in the passenger seat of a car traveling on the interstate. Those faraway faces only need a laptop, webcam and wireless internet to remove the barrier of distance as they pursue a master's degree in adult education with an emphasis on cooperative extension.
While several students attend classes on campus, others stay connected via interactive TV as they balance family and career obligations. They are free to log in from Huntsville, Mobile or points in between.
During class, Witte can carry on discussions with students seated at the conference table or with the distance education students whose faces are displayed on the TV screens at the back of the classroom.
"It's an interesting thing,'' said Witte, associate professor and adult and higher education program coordinator. "They can address me, address the other people in TV Land, whatever they choose to do. We're sitting in a comfortable environment and we can engage here, people out there can cross engage, they can text one another. It's sophisticated enough that when we have the teaching methods class, those TV connected people originate slide supported presentations with the same ease and professionalism as those in the classroom.''
It's a far cry from when Witte taught his first methods class and used chalk to convey notes on a board.
"The students can download notes pages before the beginning of class,'' he said. "I'm not encumbered by classroom management issues, such as passing out or collecting. We do all of that electronically.''
The trend will continue as Auburn and the College of Education look for ways to meet the needs of students globally, nationally and locally. The strategic plans of the university and college call for the expansion of graduate degree programs offered through distance education.
Cooperative extension professionals will soon have another option for professional development via distance education. Auburn's Board of Trustees has approved a certificate for cooperative extension educators to be offered through distance education.
The certificate, earned through a five-course series, will be available to cooperative extension employees nationwide. The program was developed in partnership with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System , which serves as the primary outreach organization for Auburn University's land-grant functions.
"The certification will be offered as a web-based, standalone training,'' Witte said. "The partnership between this college and cooperative extension has surpassed any of my early expectations.''
Last Updated: May 17, 2011