News From AU – In Memoriam – Dan Coldeway

In Memoriam: Gail Crawford from the Centre for Distance Education/Master of Distance Education program shares her memories of long-time colleague Dan Coldeway who died last week.


Dan Coldeway died in Madison, South Dakota on March 26, 2003. He leaves behind many colleagues and friends at Athabasca University and around the world.

We, in the Centre for Distance Education especially, have many memories. Dan came to Athabasca University in 1977 when both he and the University were very young. As the head of Instructional Development, his contributions to the developing University were numerous.

Distance education was a new field. AU was engaged in developing three courses but had little in the way of systematic processes. There was no curriculum development process; there was no course development process. There were no delivery systems. Rather, students enrolled in the courses for an indeterminate time while courses were still in production.

Often, students were ready to proceed to the next unit before it had been written. Telephone tutoring had not yet been implemented. The original thinking included interdisciplinary curricula to be taught using the newspapers. Not surprisingly, distance education and life at AU was exciting, challenging and, at times, overwhelming.

When Dan arrived, he was not much over 30 years of age. He was a big, bright, energetic and enthusiastic man with ideas and vision. He came to AU from a private consulting firm as an expert in Instructional Systems Design (ISD). Almost immediately, Dan embarked on the implementation of a systems model to facilitate the planning, designing, development, implementation and evaluation of AU’s programs and courses. His work remains in the form of the Seven Phase Planning Model still in use.

But Dan did much more, for example, he received significant funding from Alberta Advanced Education – for the REDEAL Project – this project produced a large number of publications – the first major research generated and published at AU. Dan’s contribution here might be argued to have ‘single handedly’ put AU on the map with respect to publications in distance education. The REDEAL Project also funded the initial hiring of several of AU’s key academic faculty, several of whom are still with us today.

Dan continued his contributions to the literature throughout his time at AU and was one of the most cited authors in the field for over a decade. Just after re-location to the town of Athabasca, Dan was instrumental in the creation of the Centre for Distance Education (1986). He was the prime mover in obtaining more than a million dollars of Canadian Federal Government support for the Training for Improved Performance (TIPs) project, which was a major contributor to AU’s development in Athabasca. Indeed, parts of the TIPs materials have continued to be used in the Master of Distance Education program up to the present time.

Of course, Dan was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of the MDE program itself, which opened in 1994. While a professor at AU, Dan also taught through the University of Wisconsin (Madison) summer programs for many years and, as an adjunct professor, he taught and conducted research at the University of Alberta.

Dan was a high profile distance educator. His research and publications are likely to continue to have an impact, to remain an enduring legacy and to reflect well on Athabasca University for years to come. During his 23 years at AU, Dan influenced many students, staff, faculty and administrators both at AU and elsewhere. He’ll be remembered not only for his academic contributions but also for his joie de vivre, wit and humour as well as for his skills as a raconteur, musician and athlete.

We are planning a permanent academic memorial in Dan’s memory and hope to be able to announce this over the next few weeks.

We all wish the best for Dan’s family and assure them that his memory and his laughter will remain with us for a long time to come. We appreciated Dan, in all his variety and complexity and will continue to miss him.