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Learning for the long haul
10-year dean of lifelong learning hopes to cross new boundaries

July 23, 2007
By Mary Reed

Tom Shostak retired as dean of lifelong learning June 30 after leading the department for 10 years. He sat down with Outlook writer Mary Reed to discuss his tenure and the future of lifelong learning. 

Tom Shostak photo by Rick FaticaWhat are Ohio University's standbys in Lifelong Learning?

Correspondence and distance learning are the backbone. The programs in Lifelong Learning literally bring the university to people around the world, whether it's in other countries, in other states or throughout Ohio, it's reaching beyond the campuses of OU. 

Who is making use of our services in this area?

One, working adults who need a graduate degree in a nontraditional format. Two, adult learners who need professional development or certification. Three, people who use conference services and other programs because of interest to them. And four, international students - people literally around the world who find us in one way or another. 

How has continuing and nontraditional higher education changed in the past 10 years?

There's a consciousness that has taken hold that says you have to keep learning. Even people who have a doctoral degree have to continue to learn. It just never ceases. And people have become more and more aware of that. The amount of information is just growing so rapidly that the need for knowledge is expanding and people are almost chasing to stay where they are. Truly it is an age where you have to be a lifelong learner. 

The biggest change has been with the strengthening of the use of technology in learning. That has allowed us to deliver more programs in more creative ways to more students, and it has really helped reach people who really would never have thought of finding us.

How does online learning stack up against classroom learning?

Traditional faculty members often question how valuable (online) learning is. What we are beginning to discover is that if you do a course solely online or if you do a course in a traditional class, it's not the delivery but the commitment of the faculty member to work with the students. People who are wonderful teachers in the classroom are generally wonderful teachers online. 

Looking to the future

Ohio University has named Marsha K. Ham executive director of lifelong and distance learning, effective Sept. 1.

"I look forward to working with the Lifelong Learning team and with campus colleges and departments to build new programs that will take the excellence of the university to the region and the world as we continue to grow and build upon current programs," Ham said.

What is Ohio University Without Boundaries?

OUWB was really the pioneer in the blended learning formats (blending online courses with a traditional classroom component). It pioneered the short-term residencies ? the face to face component of blended learning; for example, getting together for one day or two days and it's intensive. You have to use technology as an enhancement of face-to-face experiences. 

What is OUWB's presence in Second Life, the popular 3-D virtual world?

OUWB built a virtual campus in Second Life with the idea of people visiting (the site) to perhaps do virtual conferences or to perhaps do virtual classes. Where it's a value, let's use it. Technology has been the driving force behind a lot of education, instead of having the educators be the driving force. We should be going to the technology companies and saying, 'This is what we'd like to do.' Too often the technology companies give us a tool and say, 'Here, use this.'

What do you see as the future of distance and continuing education?

We've often said the future of education is really in lifelong learning. The traditional college experience will become more and more a residential experience kind of growing up. The real learning is going to take place for the rest of your life. Traditional college is an introduction in how to learn. 

What's next for Tom Shostak?

I hope to work with universities in other countries building their adult education programs. The adult and continuing education phenomenon is really quite American.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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