Teletraining Institute: Uniquely Serving the Needs of Distance Education

reating and delivering instruction at a distance requires proper planning and program development. The Teletraining Institute, located on the campus of Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater, Okla., is the nation's only formal training source for distance education professionals.

"Distance education has emerged as a viable and accepted means of teaching and learning," says Dr. Lorne Parker, president of the Teletraining Institute. "As this new training avenue continues to expand, there is a growing demand for someone to train the trainers."

Formed in 1993, the Teletraining Institute is a partnership of the Institute for Telecommunications at OSU and Parker Consulting, Inc. of Middleton, Wis. It's a natural pairing. OSU established the first educational "teleport" in America; Parker Consulting and its associates were one of the first organizations nationwide to offer hands-on training in distance learning to educators in the early days of the telecommunications field.

Course Descriptions

The Teletraining Institute provides a practical laboratory where teachers, corporate and government trainers, or anyone who has a vested interest in distance education can learn the skills and methods specific to this growing field.

"Distance learning educators must revise their teaching methods to suit changes in this education field," explains Alice Parker, vice-president and coordinator for the institute's programs. "The Teletraining Institute trains teachers to develop a presentation style for a distance learning situation."

The institute offers a variety of programs. For example, four courses spanning two to three days are offered throughout the year. One of these is Teletechniques, a three-day practical program for instructors and managers who want to learn to design and deliver distance education courses. The program both introduces and models teletraining strategies and techniques.

Teletechniques' topics include techniques for program design, program delivery and managing the learning process in a distance teaching environment. Through hands-on experiences, participants develop the skills necessary to blend established teaching techniques with distance education technology to ensure successful learning.

Another of the four courses, New Horizons in Distance Education, serves as an "executive briefing" for managers and administrators responsible for distance education programs. This two-day informational and motivational seminar defines distance education and explains ways to evaluate its value and benefits.

New Horizons is expressly designed to enable participants to perform a comprehensive study of the scope and diversity of approaches to distance education. Lecture, presentation of actual courseware and case studies, plus guest faculty are featured. In addition, participants get the opportunity to set goals and identify distance education applications within an organization.

A third course, Video Systems in Distance Education, is a practical, hands-on seminar where participants use OSU's world-renown and state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities, including those featuring one-way video with two-way audio interaction, as well as a variety of two-way video systems.

There are two major forms of videoconferencing: one-way (or business television) and two-way, compressed video. So different in their characteristics and applications, each presents a different set of opportunities for the user. Understanding these differences is a major goal in the Video Systems seminar. Participants are also provided the opportunity to explore individual presentation styles to match the various forms of videoconferencing.

Finally, the fourth regularly offered course is The Learning Activity Package -- two intense days of planning, designing and doing. This one is for teachers, trainers and managers who have a distance education course to produce or an idea for one. Participants work out a course plan by integrating previously learned teletechniques and teletraining methods into practice.

By the class' end, learners will have produced an outline for an entire distance education course or program, completed one entire learning module or instructional segment of it, and are able to work independently on the design and development of the remaining modules or segments using the Learning Activity Package model.

Summer School

Additionally, the institute offers an intensive, two-week course to K-12 teachers called the Summer Institute Program. Its purpose is to introduce distance teaching and learning. "This program lays the foundation," Parker says.

It gives participants a complete understanding of distance education and its many applications, plus provides ample hands-on experience and first-hand knowledge on how to select, design, deliver and manage effective distance education courses or programs.

The two weeks consist of a variety of workshops, seminars and laboratories related to skills and methodology. There are lectures, group work sessions and tutorials on learning psychology, distance education technologies and communications; the relationship of these disciplines to distance education is fully examined.

Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. now offers financial assistance, through a fellowship program, to teachers wishing to attend the Summer Institute. The firm's corporate sponsorship is sending ten Oklahoma teachers in 1994. Parker hopes that other firms will follow Southwestern Bell's lead and help send educators for professional training at the institute.

Our Motto

"We have a Chinese proverb that we like to use as a motto," says Parker, "'Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.' We believe this proverb encompasses our goal."

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.