Tuning In To Distance Education

Editorial, by Jon L. Jordan, MD, JD

In pursuit of identifying ways for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of FAA medical programs, the Office of Aviation Medicine is assessing the capabilities of distance education. Distance education uses interactive multimedia delivery to train people at remote sites. It includes video training, computer-based instruction, and print-based training materials. Distance education is an initiative designed to ease travel costs associated with our central training programs and improve participant access to training activities.

The distance education method is receiving considerable attention for the following reasons:

  • It is successfully utilized by leading private-sector companies.
  • It can provide for more cost-effective instruction to fulfill education and training needs of an ever-increasing number of students/customers served by the FAA.
  • New, advanced communications and computer technologies are available and less costly than ever before.
Traditional instructional methods are fairly effective, but have limited didactic flexibility, lack innovation, and are more costly. In this century, distance education methods evolved from the use of correspondence, radio and television for instructional purposes, to the current application of advanced telecommunications and computer technology. Acceptability of distance education is spreading rapidly because a properly designed distance education program can be as effective--or even more effective--than a classroom-oriented education program.

One application of a distance education technique being developed by the Office of Aviation Medicine involves replacing the traditional standards and procedures workshop with a computer-based program, allowing aviation medical examiners and their staff members to learn at their own pace, in their own office, or even at home.

We believe distance education techniques will allow us to provide optimal training with maximum flexibility to the participants at minimal cost.

Stay tuned.