History of Distance Learning at Western Oklahoma State College
Interactive Television (ITV)
Western has a long history of providing distance education courses and programs, beginning in 1976 as one of eleven institutions in the state to provide interactive television instruction (ITV) over the statewide Talkback Television System (TBTV). The primary markets for the TBTV courses were the residents and guards who took general education courses in the correctional system. Western also received from Rose State College the Library Technical Assistant (LTA) program, a program that began in 1978 and which provided educational options for library employees. Western has had several employees participate in the LTA program over the years. The correctional program has continued through the present although it is not as strong as it was in the past because of reduced financial aid in the 1980's. Further recent reductions in funding provided through a Methodist church has continued to reduce the numbers of inmates participating in this program even though the program continues today.
Although disbanded in the early 1990's at most locations the TBTV system delivered via a microwave system survived until the mid 1990's at Western. At this point the system was abandoned in favor of newer digital technology and a comprehensive state-wide telecommunications system, called OneNet, was established for all the colleges in the state. In the early 1990's in addition to the TBTV system a private network was established between Western and Southwestern Oklahoma State University to enable students to earn Masters Degree credits in Educational Administration and Counseling.
Interactive Television began to really change its focus in 1997 when OneNet service in combination with the construction of a new telecommunications and learning resource center was completed. In 1998 the TBTV system was discontinued in favor of these newer digital two-way interactive technologies. Multiple full motion technologies have been deployed since that time to a point that Western on average brings in over 50 sections of upper division bachelors completion programs and Masters level programs via interactive television. The college also broadcasts on average 30 sections of courses per semester to rural K-12 sites primarily in Southwestern Oklahoma. Between Fall Semester 1997 Western has brought in from other institutions 790 courses and serviced 1821 students. During that same time Western has broadcast 465 courses and serviced 1789 students.
In 2004 Western began a partnership with hospitals in the Lawton and Cameron University to extend our nursing program via ITV in an effort to offset the acute heath care provider shortage. The program has more than tripled our nursing graduates in a 2 year time span. We expect this to increase again with an expansion to an Elk City Oklahoma Site which began Fall 2006.
In the early 1980's, the College joined with eight other state higher education institutions to promote the broadcast of telecourses throughout the state using the Oklahoma Education Television Authority (OETA). The effort provided a consistent market for the College for nearly twenty years. Enrollments began to flag after 1999 as area colleges and others began to promote Internet courses in competition with telecourses. The College continues to use ITV and telecourses to reach specific audiences.
Internet instruction has been a natural next step for Western Oklahoma State College.
The rapid growth of enrollment from 23 students in 1 course in fall 1998 to a fall 2006 enrollment of 754 students in 65 course sections in fall 2006 shows a great interest in Internet instruction from the area market. Student surveys from fall 2004 reveal that the courses are fulfilling a real need by allowing greater schedule flexibility, less travel, continued coursework while on military deployment, and independent learning. Utilizing the courses to provide program completion will help the College keeps its market share of students in face of increasing competition from other colleges, both local and national.
The conversion of the Office Systems program began in 2002 with a grant from SBC. Concurrently, we are working with the director of the Nursing Program for development of basic nursing courses that could be used to provide the foundation for nursing instruction in rural Oklahoma. Faculty efforts have produced a wide variety of courses, and the proposed Internet associate degree program will serve multiple locations and audiences.