their computer keyboards.rn* Many businesses are nowrnoffering “distance learning” programsrnto their employees. Onernsuch program provider, NationalrnTechnological University inrnColorado, issues more continuingrneducation and advanced engineeringrndegrees than any otherrnAmerican institution.rn* The need to retrain for newrncareers, or keep current with newrntechnology, is leading increasingrnnumbers of adults to some formrnof distance learning.rn* Online communications arernbecoming easier to master. Yourncan plug in a modem, installrnAmerica Online software, and bernreading e-mail messages, joiningrnonline forums, and downloadingrninformation, all within a few minutes.rnThe graphically oriented interfacernmakes finding your wayrnaround the online service merely arnmatter of double-clicking on thernright labeled pictures.rnWe are poised on the edge of a flood ofrntraining material, much of which will bernsuperior to the typical lecture-to-hundredsrngraded-by-foreign-grad-studentrnfare cranked out by today’s universities.rnWhat homeschooling has done for K-12rnresources, the new technology will dornfor college and post-graduate resources.rnAs the author of a homeschooling resourcernbook, I was able a few years ago tornreview single-handedly virtually everyrnproduct available. Today, as the publisherrnof a homeschooling magazine, Irnhave a dozen reviewers and am still hardpressedrnto keep up with it all. That’srnwhat will happen in higher education.rnMountains of software. Stacks of videorntapes. Thousands of local seminarsrn(traveling professors). Tens of thousandsrnof online courses.rnThink it over—when you can put thernentire contents of hundreds of the greatestrnbooks in the Western world on a singlernCD-ROM, who needs university libraries?rnEspecially when the CD-ROMrncomes with a search engine that allowsrnyou to find everything Aristotle everrnwrote on the subject of liberty, comparernit to everything Tom Paine had to say onrnthe same subject, and dump the quotationsrnyou select straight into your wordrnprocessor. (That product is here, by thernway. It’s called the Library of the Futurernand costs between $49 and $495, dependingrnon the edition.)rnWhen you can turn on your VCR andrnwatch vour pick of the best teachers, whornneeds to settle for Philosophy 101 at therncommunity college? When you can interactrnwith classmates from around thernworld, how much more multiculturalrncan education get?rnThe only thing holding back this floodrnof educational material is a thin piece ofrnparchment. If you could get collegerncredits as easilv for reading your wayrnthrough the Library of the Future as forrntaking “From Hemingway to Mailer; ArnSurvey,” fewer people would be willingrnto pay the exorbitant price, in time andrnmoney, of an on-site degree. Even better,rnif degrees no longer existed, studentsrncould simplv offer employers a transcriptrn(or portfolio) of work completed, fromrnwhatever institution.rnIf the content of high-tech learningrnstinks, who cares if it sings and dances?rnOn the other hand, much of currentrnhigher learning stinks, and it doesn’trneven sing and dance. Plenty of opportunityrnhere for those with something tornteach and a willingness to get a keyboardrnor video-editing console under their fingers.rnAs Dr. Ray Steele, a board memberrnof the U.S. Distance Learning Associationrnand director of Ball State Ihiiversity’srnCenter for Information and CommunicationrnScience, says, “A world ofrnbroadband on demand is just around therncorner,” and it doesn’t require a hugerncampus and multimillion-dollar facultyrnto jump in.rnThe higher education monopoly is onrnits way out, folks. If you are the presidentrnof a college with a nice campus but badrncourses, look out. Cet a clue from Dr.rnMurray Turoff, coauthor of LearningrnNetworks (M.I.T. Press, 1994) and professorrnof computer science at New JerseyrnInstitute of Technology. He points out,rn”What this technology does is breakrndown all the prior geographical monopolies.rnSo the ones who are really going tornbe in trouble are the local colleges thatrnLandingrnby Gloria WhelanrnNo sooner are we wingless earthlings closedrninto the miracle of tool-kit flightrnwhen looking out we see a cross composedrnupon the clouds: the shadow of the planernis waiting just ahead.rnOur life out of our hands and traveling wherernin childhood’s upward faith we housed our Godrnlast things are in our head. Hived off our spherernwe castaways thick packed within our podrnare each a solitaire.rnWe sooth ourselves with thoughts of some far streetrnthat leads to castles rich and lands sublime,rna country rare: a Burn or Tibet.rnYet even as we dream we near the timernwhen plane and shadow meet.rnSEPTEMBER 1994/45rnrnrn