Book By: Barbara DuCharme-Hansen and Pamela Dupin-Bryant
Review By: Gwenette Gaddis Goshert
Advisor and Coordinator of Undergraduate Programs
Indiana University Bloomington

This “pragmatic resource for instructors” (p. ix) certainly lives up to its claim. Throughout the book the authors effectively compare the development of a distance education course to creating an effective resume, an example familiar to most instructors. The authors set out to “expand this sample distance education plan framework to illustrate possible online activities, methods, and strategies that help create an effective and efficient web-based learning environment” (p. 16), and they accomplish exactly this.

Creating a learning community may be the most important part of building an effective online distance education program. It is certainly the hallmark of a good traditional education system — bringing people together by what they have in common. “Creating a community . . . one event at a time” — the theme used to welcome 35,000 students to Indiana University this fall — is just as applicable for creating an online learning community. Instructors of web-based courses do not create a community with the first message they send to their students. That message simply is the first brick in the foundation. Numerous contacts with students — as a group and individually — begin the building process; every contact among the students adds bricks to the structure.

One section of this book emphasized the importance of needs assessment through the example of an instructor who “developed a simple timeline for conducting a learning styles needs assessment” (p. 25). This instructor captured benchmarks before the semester began, on the first day of class, in the first week of class, and throughout the semester. The reader is admonished to “select appropriate teaching methods to match learner needs as determined by assessment results” (p. 25). In my own teaching experiences, I have failed to do this adequately. I have often used only one method to teach the material, forgetting the differences in learning styles. This book provides examples of multiple teaching methods to address different learning styles so that an instructor can tailor his/her class to students’ needs.

As part of the needs assessment, instructors of web-based classes must know what knowledge students already possess before throwing new information at them. For example, “until the use of technology is innate in listening, reading, and writing, we cannot assume students are ‘tech-ready’” (p. 29). The authors offer five areas in which instructors must assess needs before beginning to teach the course material: computer skills, learning styles, available resources, learner’s desired outcomes, and prior learning experiences.

This book addresses the differences between adult students and younger students, including differences in reading and writing skills and in motivation. The authors note that “adult learners…tend to be older, married, and have an abundance of job, family, and social responsibilities. They enroll in distance education for the flexibility and convenience” (p. 8). In my own experience, both in creating and editing online courses and in “attending” web-based courses, I have found that motivation is key. This book adequately addresses how to maintain the motivation needed to successfully complete web-based courses.

Those responsible for creating or teaching a web-based course will find that this book is a great resource. Likewise, those who advise students interested in taking web-based courses will find this book useful for helping students understand their learning styles and for choosing courses appropriate for their needs.

Web-Based Distance Education for Adults. (2004).Book by Barbara DuCharme-Hansen and Pamela Dupin-Bryant. Review by Gwenette Gaddis Goshert. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company, 145 pp. Price $24.00
 ISBN #1-57524-221-4.

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