January 14, 1998 Special Presentation
by Dennis Hickethier

Experiences with Distance Learning via the Internet


Transcript (Unedited text file)
Transcript (Microsoft Word File, edited for readability)

Course Background
Course Website

About Dennis Hickethier
About Dr. Susan Mettlen
Distance Learning Design Center - University of Missouri, Columbia
FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (EMI)


EIIP Virtual Library Online Presentation
January 14, 1998 - 12:00 Noon (EST)

Experiences with Distance Learning via the Internet

Dennis Hickethier, Education Specialist
Coordinator of Master Training Program (MTP)
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Emergency Management Institute
Emmitsburg, Maryland

Dr. Sue Mettlen, Mettlen & Associates
Vice Chancellor - Division of Information Infrastructure
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee

Richard Muth
Deputy Administrator of Baltimore County
Baltimore, Maryland

EIIP Virtual Library Moderator - Amy Sebring
EIIP Virtual Forum Gatekeeper - Avagene Moore

The EIIP Virtual Classroom featured a special presentation by Dennis Hickethier, FEMA Emergency Management Institute, to discuss their experience with the first online course in Instructional Design, part of the Master Training Program (MTP). Dennis was accompanied in the Virtual Classroom by course instructor, Dr. Sue Mettlen, and one of the virtual students, Richard Muth, from Baltimore, Maryland. Posted background materials permitted viewing the actual web site, course outline and materials, as well as information about the presenters. The audience was also encouraged to look at the course web site through a link provided during the discussion. Amy Sebring served as Moderator for the Virtual Classroom.

Each presenter discussed the pros and cons of their virtual experience and addressed questions to them in a most professional and expert manner. All agreed the virtual format has great potential although it poses challenges in many areas including a new type of discipline for students. The presenters in this discussion believe strongly that the advantages of distance learning are definitely worth further investigation and pursuit. EMI will conduct another class in the fall and beyond. As more and more emergency management and emergency services personnel come online, improved formats, techniques and incentives will make distance learning an invaluable tool for reaching all communities regardless of time zone and remote location.

An audience of twenty-one participated in this presentation. The perspectives of the three presenters took about thirty-five minutes. Questions and answers made up the rest of the hour. The session was followed by the weekly "Brown Bag" session.

Lessons Learned:
Various perspectives on any topic attract a broader audience and ensure more thorough responses to audience questions. The three perspectives in this discussion were especially beneficial because of the topic under consideration. The pros and cons of each perspective are particularly worthwhile to the EIIP since we are seeking information from others with first-hand knowledge and experience in distance learning to help us determine the future of the Virtual Classroom. Salient points from the transcript of this session and upcoming discussions of this topic will be combined with investigation of other distance learning efforts to guide the EIIP in this area of interest.


FEMA's Emergency Management Institute (which is operated by FEMA's Training Division) offers a course in Instructional Design as part of a Master Trainer Program (MTP). This program was developed to provide opportunities for local and State emergency management professionals to acquire or improve skills in assessing needs for emergency management courses, in designing, developing, instructing and evaluating emergency management training. The program follows the instructional Systems Design (ISD) process with modifications to meet the target audience needs and program requirements.

The goal of the program is to provide the knowledge, skills, and abilities which will prepare instructors to design and deliver courses for adult learners in the emergency management field. Individuals must have received at least an associate degree to be formally accepted into the program although people may apply for individual courses without meeting this requirement.

The following courses are in the MTP and are offered in residence at EMI.

  1. Management and Supervision of Training (prerequisite)
  2. Performance and Needs Assessment
  3. Instructional Design
  4. Course Development
  5. Instructional Delivery
  6. Course Evaluation
  7. Master Trainer Practicum

The audience size for most courses conducted at EMI is 20-25 people. The course participants have various educational and experiential backgrounds in the field of adult education and the ISD process. All of the course participants will be involved in some phase of training.

After offering the Instructional Design course four times at EMI, it was decided to offer the course via the Internet's world wide web for the following reasons:

1. Since course participants come from all over the United States and the U.S. Territories, it is expensive and often inconvenient to bring them to EMI for a week long course. For the same amount of funds, the course can be offered via the web using a lower instructor to student ratio. Since instructor feedback on individual work is a key component of this course, a lower ratio greatly benefits the students.

2. There are a great number of individual work assignments that students must complete and submit for instructor review and comment. During the week they are on campus, students feel rushed to complete the assignments, especially to the standards of quality they desire. If the course were spread over a longer period of time, it would help the students complete the work as desired. It would also give the instructor more time to provide helpful feedback.

3. Although students learn from each other, in this course, students learn most from the instructor feedback they receive. They can get this same feedback using electronic communication nearly as well as when they are in class.

4. A number of people who want to participate in the training, have told us that they cannot leave their jobs for the time needed to attend the course at EMI. At least half of these people have web access.

5. Many of the work assignments are completed using electronic forms. These lend themselves to electronic communication.

EMI decided to conduct the course using the web, limiting the class to 10 participants (only 7 enrolled) and conducting the course over 10 weeks. The course was modeled after many courses conducted by colleges and universities using the web. Each week students were to read material in the Student Manual and course textbook, "Exercises in Instructional Design" by Seels and Glasgow, and then answer the discussion question of the week. Sometimes a follow-on question may generate a threaded discussion, as determined by the instructor. At the end of the week, students were to submit work assignments and take a weekly quiz. Two live chats on topic issues were scheduled during the course. As you will learn, there were some changes as we progressed.

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Education Specialist
Emergency Management Institute
Emmitsburg, Maryland

Mr. Dennis Hickethier has been an Education Specialist in the Office of the Superintendent of the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) since 1992. He is the coordinator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) new Master Trainer Program, and the Project Officer for EMI's efforts to place EMI publications and training material on the Internet World Wide Web. He also develops training courses and serves as the Training Division representative for the Corrective Action Program Support System.

When Mr. Hickethier first joined EMI, his primary responsibilities included coordinating distance education initiatives for EMI course delivery and informing staff of distance education opportunities and methodologies. He was instrumental in the development of EMI's first computer-based multimedia exercise simulation, using video and audio formats. He also worked on special projects in support of training. In August 1994, Mr. Hickethier became a student at the U.S. Army War College as FEMA's representative, graduating in 1995.

Before joining EMI, Mr. Hickethier worked 17 years for the Army Continuing Education System. He served as a Guidance Counselor, Education Services Officer, and Education Specialist. During his career in Army education services, Mr. Hickethier was responsible for providing soldiers with quality education programs using a variety of delivery methods and time schedules. He also worked closely with Army training personnel to design and deliver training related to soldiers' job skills.

Mr. Hickethier earned a bachelor of arts degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin in 1971. He graduated with a master's degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1972.

Dennis Hickethier
(301) 447-1148
[email protected]

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Mettlen & Associates
Knoxville, Tennessee

Dr. Susan Mettlen has 20 years experience in classroom instruction, curriculum development, and instructional media development. Her research and teaching interests include media selection and innovative technologies, including their effect on student learning.

Mettlen earned the doctoral degree in higher and adult education from the University of Missouri, Columbia, the educational specialist degree from Southwest Missouri, the master of education from Drury College, and the bachelor of arts from Vassar College.

Dr. Susan Mettlen
[email protected]

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