The 'Virtual Faculty' Project
Our intention is to use the possibilities opened up by recent
communications media to re-invent the form of university education.
This particular project is located within the social sciences, but is
transferable to other disciplines. It seeks to supplement rather than
replace current practice through a reversal of the traditional notion
of distance education. That is, rather than the students being
dispersed, in this case it is the faculty members who are dispersed.
This enables recognised world leaders and authorities in a field to
join together as an active, virtual faculty, allowing students access
to an array of talent that no traditional University could assemble.
At this point in time the faculty has established itself and a set of
materials on the web (the url being:
http://www.massey.ac.nz/~ALock/virtual/welcome.htm). The next
goal is to put core courses in place that lead to qualifications in
particular specialisms. Not all of these subsequent developments
can be mounted by this particular initiating group. The timescale
depends on the success of the faculty in obtaining specific financial
support, but regardless of this, the next 18 months will see the
majority of the groundwork completed.
The essential features of the teaching model being proposed are that
The innovative aspect of this proposal is its integrative approach to
the use of computing, telecommunication networks and academic
institutions. Our view is that the successful integration of the 'old'
and the 'new' will define best practice in education for
the foreseeable future. Our problem is that our intentions thus cut
across the traditional interests of any single potential collaborating
partner. Our challenge at this time is to negotiate consortial
agreements between the contributing educational and technological
- Virtual Faculty members will become visiting adjunct members
of existing academic departments participating in the project,
enabling the integration of traditional (ie face-to-face) and new
modes of teaching (eg, e-mail, web-video, chat, and integrated
Web- and CD-based hypertext/media materials).
- The 'pilot sites' will be southern hemisphere based (since a
majority of world-ranking expertise is tied to the northern academic
calendar, thus placing constraints on the calendar possibilities).
- Old and new media will be integrated so as to exploit the
benefits of each to the maximum while minimizing particular
shortcomings. Thus, for example, internet bandwidth argues against
a high reliance on net-based video-conferencing while allowing it for
some purposes; copyright and intellectual property issues, bandwidth
and user behaviour argue against a total reliance on web-based
teaching materials and push the balance in favour of an integration
of CD-rom and Web resources; etc.
For another view of these intentions
Return to Virtual Faculty Homepage