'Distance Learning' To Be Teaching Norm in Near Future, Symposium Presenter
"Distance learning" ­p; teaching at a site distant
from where your students learn ­p; will be the norm in the near future
rather than the exception it is today.
That's the prediction Thomas E. Cyrs Jr., EdD, made to attendees of the
11th Computers in Healthcare Education Symposium, "The Virtual Medical
School." The annual symposium is sponsored by Thomas Jefferson University,
the Health Sciences Libraries Consortium and Apple Computer, Inc.
In describing the overall success of this year's symposium, Rodney B. Murray,
PhD, director of academic computing and instructional technology, said,
"We are very pleased that over 340 clinicians, teachers and librarians
turned out. They represented 26 states plus Puerto Rico, Canada and Taiwan."
Dr. Cyrs is professor of educational management and development and senior
advisor for teaching at New Mexico State University. His lively presentation
at Solis-Cohen Auditorium capped three days of workshops, presentations
and exhibits held at Jefferson Alumni Hall and Scott Library.
Dr. Cyrs sees the advent of distance learning as a natural part of a tidal
structural shift in society and education as a whole. New technology ­p;
particularly in computers, the Internet, and audio/video communication ­p;
will facilitate new ways to teach. These new ways will dissolve the physical
limits of teaching when universities were defined centuries ago as "campus
cloisters," he believes.
Since the Middle Ages, most teaching and learning occurred "same time,
same place" with students trekking to groups in classrooms, lecture
halls and laboratories, Dr. Cyrs told the symposium audience, nearly half
of whom were teachers, and a third librarians. Now, technology will enable
teaching and learning to occur at a "different time, different place,"
with teacher and student linked from distant sites by computer and video
"Still, no technology will ever, ever replace the teacher," Dr.
Cyrs made clear. "The best technology will always be second best to
What Dr. Cyrs predicts, however, is that technology will dramatically change
the way teachers teach, with distance learning, primarily by video, becoming
the future medium of teaching, including medical education.
He stresses that distance learning will not succeed unless universities
train faculty to teach in the new medium. Such training involves learning
and becoming comfortable with techniques new to many teachers. Dr. Cyrs
illustrated several techniques to an attentive audience after a show of
hands revealed few had experience teaching via television.
Since the core of all teacher training for the new medium is the student,
Dr. Cyrs believes all teachers should ask three questions of what they teach:
A teacher all his professional life, Dr. Cyrs also believes students can
have a powerful reciprocal impact on their teachers.
- Why should students learn this?
- What benefit will it bring them?
- How can they apply it tomorrow?
He closed the participatory session by reciting a poem expressing the infinite
importance and potential a teacher has on a student's life.