Popped into my old office at Monash yesterday and there, in brown cardboard wrapper, was a very welcome surprise: my copy of the International Handbook of Distance Education! Over three years in the making, and the product of countless hours by dozens of authors (60, in fact) from twelve countries, it has finally emerged, nicely published in hardback with an attractive cover and good quality paper.
Actually I probably shouldn’t be going on like this, as I’m one of the editors, but I can’t help myself; I’m pretty (nay, VERY) excited:-)
It all started when I was still working at the Open University of Hong Kong. Terry Evans approached Margaret Haughey and myself to see if we’d be interested in editing what we then termed a ‘world handbook’. As you already know, Terry has been a leading researcher and writer in distance education for decades, and was a fearless and relentless senior editor, pushing and prodding us to see it through. And just in case you don’t know what he looks like (or used to look like), …
Our other editor, Margaret Haughey, is a famed Canadian (OK, originally Irish) distance educator who has recently become Vice-President, Academic, at Athabasca University. Margaret writes beautifully – what more need I say?!
When we started, we brainstormed for a few months. We didn’t want the more usual encyclopedic style of handbook, and anyway that ground had already been pretty-well covered by Michael Moore and Bill Anderson’s Handbook of Distance Education. Yes, we wanted to capture the substance of the field, but desired more, and decided to add elements of critique. Thus, when we settled on the long list of possible topic areas and divided it into six sections, we made room for a concluding critical chapter at the end of each section.
Not surprisingly, each of us was responsible for two sections, and I ended up with ‘Leadership in Distance Education’ and ‘Accountability and Evaluation in Distance Education’. At least half of the authors in my sections were already known to me, so it was great fun to work with them in developing the chapters. Now having the complete volume in my hands, I’m eager to read in more detail the chapters overseen by Terry and Margaret – I’ve spied some of my favourite distance education authors among them, as well as new names I’m keen to learn from.
Naturally there was the usual variability with respect to the keeping of deadlines and so on, and I’ll save any embarrassment by not naming the principal offenders! And offer apologies to those who submitted early and have waited a very long time to see their creative work finally appear in print. We also had a change of publisher, having started with Elsevier and ended with Emerald, who have been handed some of the former publisher’s portfolio.
So, am I expecting you to buy it? Probably not; it’s rather voluminous (883 pages), and somewhat pricey at US$150, though calculated as a price per page it’s cheaper than most texts! It’ll most likely, I would guess/hope, find it’s way into the libraries of universities and various distance education institutions. Now I have to wait nervously for the reviews …