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Why Online Programs?
Online Programs are certainly one of the most exciting approaches for instruction to emerge within recent years. To realize their impact, consider the following statements:
“Training is the killer app for the web”, reports a March 2, 1998, Barron’s article titled, “For Adults Only”. As the world’s pace accelerates and lifetime learning is expected, one of the major trends is that people are demanding alternatives to classroom training. Technology trends are also accelerating the availability of web-based training as hardware costs go down while capabilities increase. The trend to web-based training is growing as fast as IDC projects that it will be a $6 billion market by 2002, which represents a 95 percent component annual growth.
In corporate training, online courses are reality for busy professionals who need to update their skills, yet do not have the tine to attend traditional classes. According to the Orange County Register, the virtual classroom (is becoming) the anywhere-anytime solution for work force training (Nov 98, “At Work Extra”).
In Higher Education, as for fall 1995, a third of higher education institutions (public and private college and universities) offered distance education courses and another quarter planned to offer such courses in the next three years; for an estimated 25,730 distance education courses (National Center for Education statistics, Statistical Analysis Report, U.S. Department of Education, October 1997). The number of schools and web-based training continues to increase rapidly and currently prestigious schools such as Duke University, UCLA, UC- Berkeley, and Stanford offer courses as well as entire degrees online (i.e. Duke International MBA).
The convergence of social forces, economic challenges, and available technology are driving the online market. Think back to the corporate environment of twenty years ago: a person joined a company, climbed the cooperate ladder, stayed for life, and, at retirement, received a gold watch and pension. One career per lifetime has change to an average of five careers per person, and lifelong training is required just to stay current. To understand how frequently skills updates, look at this example” a programmer/analyst working in the 1970s had skills that remained current for 5-8 years.  Today the average life cycle for technical certification lasts only five months!
This creates the problem facing g corporate America – how to keep employees current certification, capabilities, regulations, and business environment changes. An incredible amount of training time away from the office results in lost opportunity costs. Executives today agree that three is never a good or convenient time to take people away from their jobs for training. It can be costly and slows productivity, yet training is critical in keeping a company’s workforce up-to-speed with the latest information they need to remain competitive.
Educational institution must also look at new models for conducting the business of the system. With financial resources dwindling, the system must be alert to all opportunities for sharing both human and technological  resources.
Just as these social and economic changes have taken place, technology capabilities are increasing while their cost is going down. This has created a perfect environment for organizations seeking alternatives to classroom training.  The “I’ll offer-it-and-they-will-come” attitude has been replaced with a demand for the ability to train anyone, anywhere, anytime, on what they nee, and they need it.
Now that we have looked at some forces driving the move to online training, let’s consider what components are involved in a successful online program.
Let’s keep The Big Picture in Mind…   
Developing Curriculum for Online Program will focus on creating, or adapting, materials for online delivery, and the techniques to ensure a successful delivery.
However, developing curriculum for online program is not a stand-alone activity: it must be viewed with THE BIG PICTURE in mind. And The BIG PICTURE includes the integration of the five elements that make up a successful online program.
Let’s examine the five essential elements uses in successful Online programs: content, media, infrastructures, management, and people.
The first needs to considerate: who are the intended users and what is the content that needs to be presented? The needs of the people being trained, and the training to be delivered, drive the technology, not other way around.
The most successful programs take a look at what has been done, for whom, and then search out the right technology to do it. After the program objectives and content has been defined, they need to be integrated and placed in one, but more likely multiple, media formats for delivery.
The next choice to make is what media – or combination of media- will best support their users and the curriculum.
Does the curriculum require video, for instance, to view a delicate operation?
Is a talking head really necessary t explain a history concept to tenth graders?
Often a hybrid solution is the best. In the corporate environment, perhaps a company announcement of a new technology can be done via satellite or high quality video. The training that accompanies this can be delivered by CBT, shipped by FedEx or across the internet.
An organization must also balance the needs of the users with the technology that is available to them, or allocate the appropriate funding to buy new technology. Discovering at the last minute you can’t afford streaming video after the curriculum is finished from video is not a good experience. Once the curriculum is mapped to the right media elements, it then needs to be distributed.
Infrastructure pertains to how the training will be deployed or delivered to the user. It is important to fir the right distribution vehicle with the right distance learning application.
What is needed to support the media, content, and users?
Some organizations base their decision to deploy purely on the technology that is already available. For instance, if a company or school has a satellite capabilities, this is appropriate for classroom style training. However, if the users need a 7 by 24, on-demand training, an internet/intranet distribution may be a better solution.
Once the infrastructure has been deployed to support the chosen curriculum and media, the resulting program will have to be managed.
The organization needs to consider how the program will be managed. The big payoff of online programs is the ability to reach hundreds- thousands- of people economically.
But without proper management systems, the online manager will be flooded with e-mail and phone message to return.
Registration, evaluation, and tracking systems need to fit the needs of the program. Users needs to be tracked and evaluated; curriculum developers need their courses evaluated; and administrators need students to be tested.
Successful organizations insure that the entire online program runs smoothly by requiring everyone involved with the details of running, participating and maintaining a the program – Instructors, users, I/S personnel- to be trained.
 A final thought:  
It may be human nature, but there always seems to be a strong impulse to “wing it” in building anything. In the most successful online programs, two critical success factors are considered:
First, an online program requires a structured methods to build and maintain; and second, problems and hurdles are a part of building any application.  
Educators and students are beginning to understand both the advantages and the hardships of online education. Online classes have enjoyed tremendous growth in popularity in recent years. For example, the number of online students at the University of Phoenix has grown 60 percent in each of the past three years. Many students in online classes believe they work harder than those in comparable "real-world" classes. Online students often find themselves checking their classes' discussion sites seven days a week in order to keep up with their instructors and
classmates, and some claim instructors are more likely to challenge students whom they cannot see. Teachers also must struggle to keep up with a large number of students, many of whom expect round-the-clock assistance. However, some teachers laud online classes for forcing students to participate in order to
succeed. These teachers also believe online classes stimulate the thinking process in a way traditional classes cannot. Still, many observers believe online classes require some real-world interaction, if only the occasional phone call between professor and student. Furthermore, observers recommend online classes only for graduate or continuing education students.
(Baltimore Sun, 31 July 2000)