Distance Learning: The Case of Political Science


  • Steffen Schmidt Iowa State University
  • Mark C. Shelley Iowa State University
  • Monty Van Wart Texas Tech University
  • Jane Clayton Iowa State University
  • Erin Schreck The Eaton Company




Administrator Attitudes, Administrators, Distance Education, Higher Education, Intellectual Disciplines, Models, Political Science, Social Scientists


This article reports the results from a national survey directed to the department chairs of political science to assess the current and future state of distance learning in that discipline. The insights of this research are relevant to all social science fields and offer important insights to other academic disciplines as well. Key findings of the study include the low utilization of distance learning courses, a low degree of importance currently attributed to distance learning and modest expectations of future growth, ambivalent acceptance of a future role for distance learning, the common use of Internet-related technologies, low levels of faculty knowledge and interest about distance learning, limited institutional support, and serious doubts about the appropriateness and quality of instruction at a distance. We propose a model of the size and scope of distance learning as a function of three factors: the capacity of distance learning technologies, market demand, and faculty and university interest in distance learning. The article concludes with suggestions of critical areas for future research in this dynamic, fluid post-secondary environment.


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Author Biographies

Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University

Steffen W. Schmidt is co-author of American Government and Politics Today; 2000-2001 (Wadsworth), Issues in Iowa Politics, (Iowa State University Press) with Lee Ann Osbun, Friends, Followers, and Factions, (University. of California Berkeley Press) and numerous scholarly articles. He has written extensively on information technology (IT) and chaired an ad hoc committee of the APSA Computers and Multimedia Section that recently recommended a policy statement on IT to the APSA. He is the Political Science Editor of StudentAdvantage.com.(http://www.studentadvantage.com)

Mark C. Shelley, Iowa State University

Professor Shelley's publications include American Public Policy: The Contemporary Agenda (Houghton Mifflin) with Steven G. Koven and Bert E. Swanson, and the forthcoming Redefining Family Policy: Implications for the 21st Century (Iowa State University Press) with Joyce M. Mercier and Steven Garasky. He is co-editor of the Policy Studies Journal. He also is a co-author of American Government and Politics Today, 2000-2001 (Wadsworth)

Monty Van Wart, Texas Tech University

Dr. Van Wart's most recent book is Changing Public Sector Values (Garland Press). His research on education includes Training and Development in the Public Sector, (Jossey-Bass). He teaches distance education classes every semester.

Jane Clayton, Iowa State University

Jane Clayton is conducting ground breaking work in the area of assessment of learning in Engineering. She was Project Team Coordinator for Analysis of the survey data for this study. She is the co-editor with Steffen Schmidt and Mack Shelley of the book Readings in American Government, Third Edition, 2000, Wadsworth Publishing.

Erin Schreck, The Eaton Company

Cleveland, Ohio. A graduate in Public Administration from Iowa State University, Erin Schreck conducted the pre-tests of the questionnaire used in this study and was the coordinator of data entry and coding.




How to Cite

Schmidt, S., Shelley, M. C., Van Wart, M., Clayton, J., & Schreck, E. (2000). Distance Learning: The Case of Political Science. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 8, 27. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v8n27.2000