Distance Education

Distance education is rapidly becoming a reality. In the land grant system, A* DEC is a consortium of 46 universities that uses distance education technology to share undergraduate- and graduate-level courses, extension programming, research findings, and international speakers. Current technologies include audio/video via satellite, phone, fax, and computer systems. Programs include for-credit courses, short courses, workshops, certificate programs, and conferences. More than 30 courses were offered in the 1995-1996 academic year, including courses in marketing, meteorology, biochemistry, nutrition, community, statistics, and wildlife conservation.

At lowa State University, the Internet as a course platform has been experimented with by Professors Takle and Taber, who offer a class on the global environment (cross-listed in Meteorology, Agronomy, and Environmental Studies) through the Internet. They say, ''the computer allows development of a more complete information base for the course that may consist of text, colored photographs, animated images, video, and audio, … and the merging of real-time information such as weather forecasts, satellite observations of sea surface temperature, and ozone hole measurements." The computer also enables students to react to information in the data base and to extend course interaction beyond class time. Accessibility is enhanced, the professors argue, because students who have access to work stations can gain access to the homepage and information base 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They also feel that the Internet-based course promotes continuing education because students can continue to participate in the course after it is over and even after they have graduated.

cross state lines, true regionalization of staffing decisions, and philosophical differences regarding the role of the consortium director (R. L. Christenson, University of Massachusetts, personal communication, 1996); nonetheless, the guiding principle for new and existing consortium extension programs is that they capitalize on the breadth and depth of extension's resources in two or more states. To demonstrate that principle, the six New England state extension systems established an agreement for sharing the expertise and resources of poultry specialists. They developed a regional approach to train faculty and staff to carry out extension's Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). The states also combined their resources for training in public policy education (Sanderson, 1992). The work of the consortium has led to increased multistate efforts in youth, family, and water quality programs (R. L. Christenson, University of Massachusetts, personal communication, 1996).

Multifaceted Issues Require New Partnerships

As many colleges have recognized, there are important reasons to build partnerships among departments and among disciplines within the college, and among colleges within the university. Understanding and resolving many food and agricultural system issues requires an approach that accounts for complex interactions among physical, biological, social, and economic processes (Lacy, 1993; Lockeretz and Anderson, 1993; National Research Council, 1993). LGCAs must also build stronger bridges to other university colleges and departments if the best science is to be used to solve agricultural

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