A few weeks ago, Graduate School of Design Professor Spiro N. Pollalis had a guest lecturer in his class. The professor came all the way from Zurich, Switzerland--but his journey was not as long as one might think. He spoke to the class through a network enabling them to see him and him to see them.
"It was like he was in the classroom," Pollalis says. "The technology was completely transparent."
The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) may be--for the moment--on the sidelines of online education, but several of Harvard's most prominent graduate and professional schools are ardently pursuing the possibilities of distance learning. Under the leadership of Assistant Provost Daniel D. Moriarty, a University-wide collaborative workgroup is discussing the issues that span Harvard.
In addition to the Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Harvard Law School (HLS) are among those faculties trying their respective hands at distance learning. The efforts are largely experimental--and officials are making sure that Harvard hands are in charge of the content.
In the process, the very essence of education--how students learn, how professors teach and the mission of higher education is coming under scrutiny and Harvard officials aren't sure where the questions will take them.
HMS, the largest provider of continuing medical education in the world, is posed to undertake a $15- $20 million distance learning initiative.
According to HMS Dean of Continuing Education Dr. Stephen E. Goldfinger, the HMS council of deans has already put the plans through a first round of reviews. Goldfinger says he hopes to secure final approval for the plans from President Neil L. Rudenstine and Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 within the next two months.