Electronic Portfolio: Academic Writings


Future Investment in Technology
December 14, 2000

This proposal to the President of NASFAA was written for OMDE 603, Technology in Distance Education. It was designed to incorporate complete requirements in order for the organization to be able to support a Web-based education system.

To: NASFAA President
Re: Future investment in technology

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is considering strategies for the development of a comprehensive Web-based training program to provide training services to those individuals who cannot benefit from traditional face-to-face workshops. This objective can best be met by developing a partnership with other organizations with similar goals, which provide expertise not currently available from within the NASFAA staff organization.

Current Situation:

NASFAA’s Board of Directors has charged the staff with reconfiguring its comprehensive financial aid training curriculum, which was originally designed for face-to-face workshops, for delivery using distance education methods. NASFAA currently hosts its own Web site, distributes daily e-mail to more than 5,000 members with that day’s Web site postings, and maintains a SQL membership database updateable on the Web site. In 1998, NASFAA conducted a six-month Web-based training experiment to approximately 85 aid administrators. NASFAA’s technology support staff time and expertise is limited.


Most US colleges and universities share information via the Web if they participate in federally funded financial aid programs. The government publishes a comprehensive CD-ROM training program, thus setting the stage for use of personal computers for training. NASFAA’s membership includes several large-scale state agencies and national organizations with considerable expertise and infrastructure to provide the technology services needed to support a Web-based training effort. Many of NASFAA’s more than 3,000 institutional members are deeply involved in distance education and could provide pedagogical and instructional design expertise on a collaborative basis. The collegial nature of the financial aid profession provides fertile ground for developing a professional mentoring program to support distance learners. Extending NASFAA’s training effort to potentially thousands of new learners who cannot currently access face-to-face training workshops can result in increased revenue.

Technology Selection:

Based on the requirements analysis in Appendix A, the technology most appropriate for NASFAA’s distance education initiative is networked learning via the Web (Bates, 1995, 2000). The nature of the content, professional atmosphere, importance of learner interaction, government and institutional participation requirements and traditions, and speed of change all support the use of the Web to distribute training content. However, this choice comes with potentially substantial costs if NASFAA passes on all development and support costs to learners (Morgan, 2000). For this reason, NASFAA should partner with other organizations involved in student aid delivery to provide technology and pedagogical support, thus allowing the NASFAA staff to focus on the development of training materials appropriate for Web delivery.

Key Issues:

Terminology/requirements: NASFAA’s Web-based training program should incorporate the following components:

  • Presentation of content using Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), the protocol used to create documents for publication and distribution on the Web.

  • E-mail communications between learners, instructors, and mentors.

  • Computer conferencing, or discussion forums, allowing messages among a group of learners to be sorted, organized, stored, and retrieved on the Web.

  • Research on the Web.

(Haughey & Anderson, 1998)

The Web campus infrastructure should be constructed to include personal communication tools and applications, a Web campus, dedicated servers and software applications, and software applications and services from external providers (Boettcher, July 2000). Learners, training staff, and the technology provider will need the hardware, software, and technical support outlined in Appendix B.

Team structure

Under a partnership approach to providing Web-based training:

  • The current NASFAA content experts and training providers would handle curriculum development.

  • One or more of NASFAA’s institutional members with expertise in distance education would provide online learning and pedagogical support, peer review of training materials, and evaluation of content quality (Hanley, October 2000).

  • A state or other non-profit agency with experience in student financial aid and the required infrastructure would provide technology services.

Learner support services

Appropriate learner support services for this Web-based training include:

  • Guidance/counseling, including training and logistical support for the technology neophyte, support for collaborative and participatory training, technology support services, and mentoring services provided by experienced financial aid professionals (Haughey & Anderson, 1998; Moore & Kearsley, 1996).

  • Administrative assistance, including a student handbook, training materials, library and resource support, online exams and assessments, and technology to track student progress through the courses (Haughey & Anderson, 1998; Moore & Kearsley, 1996).

  • Interaction between students, instructors and mentors, computer conferencing for discussion, and small-group student collaboration on assignments (Haughey & Anderson, 1998; Moore & Kearsley, 1996).

Future considerations:

By choosing to develop a Web-based training program, NASFAA relies on the established base of Web usage by colleges and universities. Given the strong growth of the Web, continued software development efforts, and the steady reduction in costs for Internet support and access, NASFAA can expect that with experience its costs will not increase substantially. By relying on partners for support that it cannot provide itself, NASFAA leverages its position in the financial aid community and the support it enjoys from organizations with greater expertise in technology and distance education.

Next steps:
  • Determine potential partners to provide technology and pedagogical expertise to NASFAA’s Web-based training project. Develop requirements, roles, and responsibilities to support a collaborative effort (Duin, 2000).

  • Determine the authoring and other software tools required to develop Web-based training materials.

  • Determine staff training requirements in online pedagogy, Web-based training development, and online training evaluation processes.

  • Develop a projected budget based on the partnership agreements, software selections, and training requirements, using Bates (2000) methodology for calculating the costs of teaching with technology.


The key to NASFAA’s success in developing a Web-based training alternative lies in the strength of the partnerships it can forge. As Duin (2000) points out, the “characteristics of surviving and thriving organizations in the next century will, above all, include the capacity to develop, maintain, and profit from working in strategic collaborative relationships” (p. 22). As a membership organization with a history of working relationships within the higher education community, NASFAA is well positioned to develop a successful Web-based training collaboration.


Bates, A.W. (1995). Technology, open learning and distance education. London: Routledge.

Bates, A.W. (2000). Managing technological change: Strategies for college and university leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Berg, G. A. (October-December 2000). Economic models for distance learning. WebNet Journal (2), 4.

Boettcher, J.V., & Vijay Kumar, M.S. (June 2000). The other infrastructure: Distance education’s digital plant. Syllabus Magazine (13), 10. Retrieved December 10, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://www.syllabus.com/syllabusmagazine/June00_fea.html.

Downes, S. (July/August, 2000). Nine rules of good technology. Horizon. Retrieved November 17, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://horizon.unc.edu/TS/commentary/2000-07a.asp.

Duin, A. H., & Baer, L. L. (2000). VirtualU: Creating the Minnesota Virtual University—Assessing results and readiness criteria. EDUCAUSE Quarterly (23), 1. Retrieved December 5, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eq/a001/eqm0012.pdf.

Hanley, G. L. & Thomas, C. (October 2000). MERLOT: Peer review of instructional technology. Syllabus Magazine (14), 3. Retrieved December 10, 2000 on the World Wide Web from http://www.syllabus.com/syllabusmagazine/oct00_fea.html

Haughey, M. & Anderson, T. (1998). Networked learning: The pedagogy of the Internet. Montreal: Cheneliere/McGraw-Hill.

McFadden, A.C., Marsh II, G. E., & Price, B. J. (Winter 1999). Why do educators embrace high-cost technologies? Journal of Distance Learning Administration (II), IIII. Retrieved December 9, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://www.westga.edu/~distance/mcfadden24.html

Moore, M. G. & Kearsley, G. (1996). Distance education: A systems view. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Morgan, B.M. (2000). Distance education at what price? EDUCAUSE Quarterly (23), 3. Retrieved November 18, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eq/a003/eqm003a.pdf. Full report retrieved November 18, 2000 on the World Wide Web at http://www.marshall.edu/distance/.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (April, 2000). Quality on the line: Benchmarks for success in Internet-based distance education. Washington, DC: The Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Internet resources:

Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships: http://www.ed.gov/offices/OPE/FIPSE/LAAP/

Web-Based Education Commission: http://www.hpcnet.org/webcommission

Appendix A: ACTIONS Model

Bates’ ACTIONS model has been used to determine the specific technology approach that will be used to meet respond to the NASFAA Board of Director’s mandate (Bates, 1995, 2000).

ACTIONS Model Component


Access for target groups: The target group for distance delivery consists of financial aid administrators at US colleges, universities, and career schools who are unable to participate in face-to-face training workshops because of insufficient travel funds, geographical distance, and scheduling at an inappropriate time of year. All federally funded US institutions must meet minimum software and hardware requirements that enable them to access information via the World Wide Web.

Costs: Institutional costs for participation in NASFAA’s distance training are limited to any charges assessed by NASFAA. NASFAA’s marginal costs of preparing and supporting alternative training materials, additional server capacity, technology staff salaries, staff training in use of the course development tools, support for registration and other administrative tasks, staff time to author the new training modules, and computer conferencing software could be substantial (Morgan, 2000).

Teaching and learning: The content of the 17 modules is a combination of specific skills training, development of the guiding ethical principles that are considered essential to professional financial aid administration and problem-solving to deal with individual student circumstances.

Interaction: A key aspect behind the success of traditional face-to-face workshops for financial aid professionals is the opportunity they provide for interaction and discussion between learners. The financial aid profession is characterized by a healthy camaraderie among working professionals. Individual learners can gain from the support of tutors or mentors who provide one-on-one assistance and facilitate interaction among learners.

Organization issues: US institutions that participate in the federally funded student financial aid programs are required by the US Department of Education to participate via the Web in information sharing about financial aid programs, and therefore already have the basic technology they need (Downes, July/August, 2000). In addition, institutions traditionally rely on the Internet to provide consumer information, database searching, library, and other administrative services. NASFAA’s relies on its Web site as the primary method for disseminating information to its members and other higher education associations.

Novelty: Because of the current interest in distance education via the Web, additional funding is available for Web-based training initiatives (Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships. Web-Based Education Commission). New tools are rapidly being developed to support “e-learning,” Web-based training and education, streaming video and audio, and other uses of technology.

Speed: The training content is subject to regular and substantial change, since financial aid administration relies on rules and regulations promulgated by state, federal, and private agencies. Errors in content and changes in regulatory and policy interpretations must be addressed immediately.

(Bates, 1995)

Appendix B: Software, Hardware, and Support Requirements

Hardware Software Technical Support
Learner/Staff User

Requirements · A personal computer linked to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that provides Internet connections to the end users, an e-mail address, and a set of modems allowing users to gain access (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 151).

· A telephone line and a modem, which converts digital signals internal to a computer into analog signals that can be transported over ordinary telephone lines (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 152).

· Client connectivity software, typically a World Wide Web browser, providing access to Internet resources that use a set of addressing, processing, and transmission protocols (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 150).

· An e-mail program that permits users to send from and receive e-mail at their unique Internet addresses.

· Access to a search engine, which allows the user to link to materials on the Internet via keywords or search phrases (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 152).

· User-specificpersonal computer, ISP, and modem technical and customer support (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 17).

· User-specific browser online technical and customer support.

· Institutional customer support for course delivery, computer conferencing, databases, libraries, archives, and other resources(The Institute for Higher Education Policy, p. 12).

Technology Provider Requirements

· A server computer or servers connected at a unique address to the Internet via an Internet Service Provider (ISP), which support the institution’s Web site, e-mail, database searches, and computer conferencing (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 152).

· A Web server program that performs services in response to requests delivered to the server from client programs operated by remote users (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 152).

· An e-mail server program that permits the institution to communicate with all learners and to provide e-mail-based technical and other learner support.

· A computer conferencing or discussion forum server program that permits topic-based presentation and organization of course modules and conference messages (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, p. 100, p.153).

· Hypertext editor, authoring, or course delivery system, which assists the institution in creating and distributing course materials (Haughey & Anderson, 1998, pp. 96-97).

· Electronic security measures including password, encryption, and backup systems (The Institute for Higher Education Policy, p. 11).

· Hardware support for the Web and other servers.

· User support for the Web server program, e-mail server program, computer conferencing system, and security systems.

· Technical assistance to faculty in course development and the specific course development tools used (The Institute for Higher Education Policy, p. 12).