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Journal of College Student Development 44.4 (2003) 571-573

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Promoting Student Learning and Student Development at a Distance: Student Affairs Concepts and Practices for Televised Instruction and Other Forms of Distance Education. Alan M. Schwitzer, Julie R. Ancis, and Nina Brown. Lanham, MD: American College Personnel Association, 2001, 155 pages, $25.50 (soft cover).

During the last decade, higher education has experienced a rapid development of distance learning certificate and degree programs, and volumes have been written about teaching and learning from a distance. Until recently, however, very little was written about the student development needs of distance learners and about the role student affairs professionals should play in addressing those needs. Because of the changes in higher education, the regional accrediting commissions have agreed to work together to establish standards of best practice in addressing distance learners' needs (Statement of Commitment by the Regional Accrediting Commissions for the Evaluation of Electronically Offered Degree and Certificate Programs, 2001). In a similar move, "CAS [End Page 571] Standards for Educational Services for Distance Learners" (The Book of Professional Standards for Higher Education, September 2001) were developed recently to offer distance education guidelines for student affairs professionals. These tools will guide professionals in achieving appropriate outcomes, but they will not offer an historical perspective and a step-by-step approach for building a successful distance program. Promoting Student Learning is the first entire book of its type to be written from the student development perspective, and it does a good job of assisting professionals with those "steps along the way." Several articles and book chapters have been written about student development and distance learning, but Schwitzer, Ancis, and Brown have provided an important resource for professionals who seek to explore ways to meet the special needs of these new learners.

The authors set out to answer four questions about promoting student development and learning at a distance:

What is distance learning as it is defined and practiced in the United States? Who are distance learners and what are their needs? What student learning and student development approaches and practices are necessary for effective distance student services and supportive distance committees? What student learning and student development approaches and practices are necessary for effective electronic classrooms and academic programs?

The book is divided into two parts: "Higher Education and Distance Learning in the United States" and "Student Development at a Distance." In the authors' own words, part 1 focuses on "what college student affairs professionals and teaching faculty need to know about American distance education" (p. 1). Clear definitions of electronic delivery systems are provided, including online teaching, broadcast television and telecourses, and interactive audio-video classrooms. The authors acknowledge that independent study and correspondence programs are considered forms of distance learning in most circles, but they have wisely chosen to place their focus on topics about which little has been written: electronic distance learning. They also provide an overview of current distance learning literature, including studies related to student satisfaction, learning styles and learning outcomes, and the relationship between student success and teacher-to-student and student-to-student interaction. In fact, one of the exceptional features of this book is the way the authors have woven in the relevant literature and research references from beginning to end.

Part 2 builds on the history and literature reviewed in part 1 and explores the practice of developing "distance learning services which promote college adjustment, learning, and student development." The authors describe the characteristics and student development needs of distance learners by using vivid examples from the actual lives of students; for example:

[A]side from occasionally having to leave class to fly F-14s over the Persian Gulf, students in a new graduate accounting course . . . had a pretty normal semester. They met every Sunday for four hours in a classroom beneath the flight deck. A two-way signal allowed . . . their professors to give lectures, use visual aids, and answer questions almost as if they...


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