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Distance Education: The Title Industry's Future?

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January/February 2001 - Volume 80, Number 2

by Patricia L. Berman and Melissa A. Kleeman

How will the title industry receive education in the future? The answer is distance education— education when you want it.

Job-related and self interest education via telephone, computer, and the Internet are the wave of the future. These newer mediums of "distance education" are moving faster into the main stream of employee education and personal development. According to the U.S. Department of Education, distance education refers to education or training courses delivered to remote locations via audio, video (either live or pre-recorded), or computer technologies (such as CD-ROM and the Internet). The terms distance education and e-learning are becoming synonymous. Due to technological advances, our society has a taste for immediate gratification when completing every day tasks and responsibilities. Convenience and speed are primary focuses. That is why distance learning will become a preferred way to learn.

ALTA® Offers Distance Learning
The current trend in distance education is moving beyond text-based correspondence courses, video and audiotapes. Audio conferences (education over the telephone) have become very popular in the last several years. ALTA® has sponsored more than a half dozen, "well attended" telephone seminars since 1989. (See side bar on the next ALTA® telephone seminar entitled "Privacy Matters.") Training using a CD-ROM and the Internet are becoming more prevalent and are the next wave of education delivery. Courses are delivered "just-in-time" anywhere, anyplace, and at anytime.

Late last year, ALTA®'s educational subsidiary, the Land Title Institute, introduced its newest training product using the CD-ROM format. Entitled "Escrow Accounting Procedures for the Land Title Industry," the CD-ROM kit includes a reference guide in addition to the CD-ROM. This new product allows employees to view the course when they have available time. No travel costs to attend an out-of-office seminar.

Online Courses Popping Up
Web sites dedicated to online education are popping up all over the Internet. These sites include Web universities, where a person may take college-credit courses online to acquire a degree; corporate e-learning programs which offer customized courses to their employees; association- sponsored courses (ALTA® will be looking into this—the Mortgage Bankers Association of American already offers courses online); and knowledge service companies.

E-learning at the college level enables individuals who are not physically located near a particular university to take classes online, usually at a convenient time. Not only are college degrees available online, but Web sites focusing on professional certification or soft skills necessary for workplace training are available. The advantages of Web-based learning are tremendous. Training without travel expenses, without absence from the office, and convenience 24/7 are the primary benefits. Employees can take online courses while at their desks or at a designated location set aside for training purposes. Some people log on at home. Knowledge service companies offer a wide range of generic online courses.

At this time there are some apprehensions regarding online learning. A big concern among students is a loss of the group dynamics. To overcome this concern, many online courses contain threaded discussions and chat rooms for the students enrolled in the course. This permits the group to discuss hot issues or questions regarding the course material. Not all online courses contain this function.

Two Types of Learning
There are two types of e-learning courses: synchronous and asynchronous. The synchronous course is instructor-lead and facilitated. It is conducted in real time and requires students to log onto the Internet to join an online chat or threaded discussion, and in some sophisticated courses, to participate in a video conference or conference call. Instructors may post questions which are answered online. There is real interaction among students and the instructor. The course has beginning and ending dates. There is a time line, and the course may last several weeks or even months. An example of a synchronous course is a college-credit course. In an asynchronous course, the student enrolls and takes the course on their schedule—anytime they want. It is self-directed and self-paced. Usually there is no live interaction with other students or with an instructor. However, there may be some communication via e-mail or discussion board. For the most part, courses which teach soft skills, such as customer service or communication skills and other professional training, are developed for the asynchronous format.

Title Industry e-Learning
The Land Title Institute staff will be looking into forming alliances with online course providers to offer e-learning opportunities to title industry professionals. This is a very exciting time in the education delivery area. New programs and formats will be tried and improved upon in the distance education arena. There will always be some need for face-to-face courses or seminars, but as the Internet develops and the broadband issue (allowing for streaming video) is resolved, more and more unique, educational opportunities will be available. Stay tuned for updates as ALTA® and LTI progress further into the e-learning world.

"Privacy Matters" Telephone Seminar
LTI will offer a two-hour telephone seminar on Wednesday, March 21, from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. EST, focusing on privacy compliance requirements. Review the Federal requirements on title agencies and companies for consumer notification required by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Learn what you need to look for in your company's practices and what you need to tell customers. Look at model legislation to be used by state legislatures this year.

Speakers are W. Riker Purcell, vice president and regulatory counsel for LandAmerica Financial Group, Inc.; Scott Sinder, a member of the law firm of Collier, Shannon, Rill & Scott, PLLC; and Ann vom Eigen, ALTA®'s legislative/regulatory counsel.

You can register for the phone seminar on ALTA®'s Web site at www.alta.org, or call ALTA® at 1-800-787-ALTA® to register by phone. Cost is $200 for ALTA® members, $250 for nonmembers.

Patricia L. Berman is director of education, and Melissa A. Kleeman is education specialist for the Land Title Institute, ALTA®'s educational subsidiary. Pat can be reached at pat_berman@alta.org, and Melissa at melissa_kleeman@alta.org, or at 1-800-787-ALTA®. To find out more about the Land Title Institute, visit the ALTA® Web site at www.alta.org and click on "Education."



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