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Dallas TeleLearning: new name, enhanced mission.

In 1972, the president of the United States was Richard M. Nixon. Carly Simon, Neil Diamond and a 14-year-old Michael Jackson were topping the music charts. The Bob Newhart Show, Sanford and Son and The Price is Right made their television debut and a gallon of gas would run you somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty-six cents. It was also in 1972 that the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) offered its first telecourse, "American Government," launching what would become Dallas TeleLearning, a nationally- and internationally-recognized producer of video-based, documentary-style telecourses delivered to students via PBS and cable TV channels.

Fast forward to 2013. Instructors at colleges and universities around the globe have been using courseware produced at the DCCCD's R. Jan LeCroy Center to teach students at a distance for more than 40 years. Now almost all distance learning courses are delivered online, and moving at a fast pace to mobile devices. Now Dallas TeleLearning is changing its name to Dallas Learning Solutions (DLS).

"Since Dallas continues to produce high quality courseware that is used by other institutions across the country, we are transitioning from the name Dallas TeleLearning to Dallas Learning Solutions to more adequately describe the products and services that are available to others," said LeCroy Center Provost Pamela K. Quinn. "Dallas Learning Solutions provides high quality, media-rich, interactive online courses as an online solution for colleges and universities who want to scale up and enhance the quality of their own offerings. Various consulting and user services are also available."

DLS continues its leadership role of providing quality courseware to students in formats that enhance their learning experience. Content from five DLS distance learning courses is available through an Open Education Resource (OER) on iTunes U. The current content includes sociology, English composition, business, physical education and American history. Eventually content from each of DLS's fifteen courses will be available through iTunes U. DLS also sells course enhancements IBook available through the iBookstore. These course enhancements allow the student to have access to their content when not connected to the Internet.

One of the most recent advances DLS has incorporated into is courseware production is the use of HTML5, the next wave of technology that enables course content to be published online for access across platforms. In 2011, Adobe officially announced that Flash for mobile devices would no longer be developed after its next release. Adobe would focus their Flash developers on packaging apps using Adobe Air for all major app stores. Since then, users of current technology have reaped the benefits of HTML5's ability to deliver rich, interactive experiences to a myriad of mobile devices.

According to Ed Bowen, director of new product development for DLS, "HTML5 is the universal language that allows students to have access to their course on any device. We're finding that students are using multiple devices and when we create something we want it to be able to be used on all these different types of devices. Now we can create something in HTML5 and it will play on my iPhone, my iPad, my Android device ... because it's a recognized universal language."

Jami Woolley, who provides academic partnership support for DLS, agrees that HTML5 is beneficial for the distance learning community. "Online learning developers discovered new and easier ways to enhance online content, and students enjoyed rich, interactive learning environments, literally at their fingertips," she said. "Publishers began to rethink how course content from traditional textbooks could be accessed by students interactively using HTML5, other than simply copying text or attaching a PDE"

As Quinn mentioned, DLS is expanding its offerings into the area of consulting as well. Ed Bowen, who will play a major role in providing consulting services, describes it as a more hands on approach to courseware. "In the past we produced a product and we took the product to the front door of the customer and said 'Hey, your package has arrived; here you go.' What I think we're doing now is we're going to come into your living room with the package and make sure it works. It's not enough to hand a faculty member a course and expect them to be able to use it effectively because in a lot of cases the faculty member wants to make modifications. Many faculty don't have a lot of training in how to be an effective online teacher, so we can help with that, too."

DLS has recently launched new courseware including government online, biology for non-science majors, and physical geology. Both science courses contain customized hands-on lab kits. All of these courses can be found at dls.dcccd.edu.

Montrose Cunningham is a Dallas-based freelance writer.
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Author:Cunningham, Montrose
Publication:Community College Week
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Mar 4, 2013
Words:779
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