William “Bill” G. Anderson has long been committed to ensuring access to education for all learners, a primary characteristic of his distance education practice, his engagement in professional activities, and his involvement in scholarly work. His engagement within the field began in the 1980s when he was teaching university-based correspondence courses in the field of education. With his colleague, Mary Simpson, he led the development of New Zealand’s first fully distance-based teacher education program, an initiative for which he and Simpson jointly gained awards for innovation and excellence from the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (DEANZ) and for teaching excellence from his university. As Director of Distance Learning at the University of Otago and as the President of DEANZ, he provides professional and academic leadership internationally in the distance education field.
Anderson received his DEd in adult education (distance education) from The Pennsylvania State University in 2003 and a certificate in online education and training from the University of London in 1997. While completing his doctorate, he co-edited the first Handbook of Distance Education, which is internationally accepted as a major contributor to distance education scholarship. The volume’s impact was acknowledged with the University Continuing Education Association’s 2003 Charles A. Wedemeyer Award.
Anderson’s early distance education experience as a student and teacher and his ongoing contact with his students convinced him of the value of distance education and alerted him to areas in which distance program development could meet the needs of new groups of students, particularly location-bound adults. He and colleague Mary Simpson saw difficulties with teacher supply, especially in rural areas in New Zealand. They recognized that a nationally available program was necessary for students unable to attend a campus. As a result of this experience, he was active in helping to ensure that DEANZ’s activities center on distance education as a major contributor to social justice—at a time when it was fashionable to consider distance education as simply a means of delivery. Given his extensive knowledge and his strong belief in equal opportunities for access to education, he was asked to serve as the New Zealand representative to the 1998 UNESCO sponsored Asia and the Pacific Seminar/Workshop on Educational Technology tasked with developing curriculum resources for Southeast Asian nations.
As President of DEANZ, Anderson has worked to broaden the range of relationships that engage distance educators at a professional level through helping the organization develop alliances with related organizations and governmental agencies. He was a member of the Government Tertiary eLearning Reference Group that provided advice and comment on government policy and activity in elearning. He has been involved in research and development that has contributed to national policy development and implementation of elearning. He led a research team responsible for reporting on elearning policies and outcomes at national and state/provincial levels around the world. The finished report undertook a critical analysis of elearning actions and the impact of elearning policies particularly on marginalized and rural populations.As a practitioner, Anderson has taught postgraduate courses in the areas of distance and online education and helped develop the first postgraduate distance education program in New Zealand. In his role at the University of Otago, he focuses on developing relationships that demonstrate and build the strength and value of sound distance education practices, which, in turn, contribute to institutional growth and excellence in teaching.
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