Category Archives: E-Learning

Defining Distance Education

The definition of distance learning has changed over time and varies from one source to the next. Distance education is “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, and Zvacek, 2015, p.33). Simonson et al. site other definitions of distance education like this one from Rudolf Manfred Delling (1985) as “a planned and systematic activity that comprises the choice, didactic preparation, and presentation of teaching materials as well as the supervision and support of student learning, which is achieved by bridging the physical distance between student and teacher by means of at least one appropriate technical medium”. Lastly, distance education is defined as “the application of telecommunications and electronic devices which enable students and learners to receive instruction that originates from some distant location”, by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement (2006, p.1). While all of these definitions are different, there are some commonalities among them. I believe their differences stem from the perspective of education from which they are presented. The underlying concept that all the definitions share is that the learner and instructor are separated by physical distance. Through the centuries of distance learning evolution, this has remained true.

Distance learning has been around for hundreds of years, though most people believe it to be a new teaching methodology. The earliest documentation of distance education dates back to the early 1800’s (Richey and Tracey, 2005). These print-based, mail correspondence courses made it possible for more people to pursue their education. Correspondence courses grow popular in Europe, but it was not until 1890 that the first course of this kind was introduced in the United States (Richey and Tracey, 2005). With advances in technology, the delivery methods of distance education changed. What was once delivered through mail correspondence evolved to radio media, television broadcasting, satellite lessons, and on to computer-based instruction (Simonson et al., 2015). But one thing still holds true; there is a physical separation between the learner and the instructor.

Before starting this course, I would have defined distance learning simply as e-learning or computer-based instruction. Before this week, I never put much thought to define distance learning. In a previous course, the class was tasked with developing an instructional unit using the ADDIE process. I would have said that my lesson was a distance education lesson, but I now know differently. According to Dr. Simonson’s (n.d.) definition of distance education and self-study, I would classify my lesson as the later. My studies this week have caused me to re-evaluate the way I would define distance education.

Distance education is much more than the delivery of information through the use of technology. I would now define distance education as the transfer of knowledge prescribed by an institution using effective telecommunication resources to facilitate the interactions between learners and instructors that are separated by location and time.  I had never considered it before this week, but I feel it is important that any definition of distance education indicate that the curriculum comes from an institution. This, to some degree, will validate the curriculum being presented. It is also necessary to note that there will be some means of interaction between the learner and the instructor. If not, this program becomes a self-study as described by Dr. Simonson (n.d.).

In its early stages, “many saw it [distance education] as simply a business operation, and viewed this alternative as inferior education” (Richey and Tracey, 2005). More than one hundred years later, distance education continues to thrive and evolve as the use of technology “shortens the distance” in distance education. More studies need to be conducted on the use of distance learning in the K-12 arena, but I feel there is huge opportunity to leverage synchronous distance learning with adolescent learners. Adolescent learners are not as self-guided and focused as adult learners, and there are many reasons for this, but that is another topic which we will not discuss at this time. Because of this, I can say that I think there will be an evolutionary change in K-12 education moving to asynchronous distance learning anytime soon. I do feel; however, there could be a shift to asynchronous distance learning. Tools like Nearpod, make it possible for a teacher to share lessons and interact with students over mobile devices. Classroom video conferencing allows classes of students to meet with professionals and field experts all over the world. Higher education and corporate training face stigmas much like the early years of distance learning, but as the demand for cheap, accessible learning increases, as will the demand for distance learning.

As technology changes, we will continue to see changes in distance learning. A definition that will stand the test of time will include four major components that describe the basis of distance education. First, it should acknowledge that there is a separation between the learner and the instructor. Second, it will validate the source of the curriculum being presented. Third, It will establish the expectation of interaction between learner and instructor. And last, it will define the methods used for sharing information.

MindMap_DL

References:

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education

Richey, R ., & Tracey, M. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.

U.S. Department of Education. (2006). Evidence of quality in distance education programs drawn from interviews with the accreditation community. Retrieved from http://www.itcnetwork.org/Accreditation-EvidenceofQualityinDEPrograms.pdf

 

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Hello world!

This is my very first post and for that matter my very first blog! I am currently pursuing a master degree in Instructional Design and Technology. I will be using this blog as my place to research and investigate the field of Instructional Design, E-learning, and practical classroom strategies. My goal is to learn from other bloggers out there who are masters of their craft. So far I have found more than a few blogs and sites that I have found helpful. For now I will focus on three.

Ptotem Talk – I like this blog because it has valuable suggestions for establishing successful E-Learning courses. As a newbie in the field of Instructional Design, I found the posts on this blog very useful and especially like the links to FREE resources. Free is always good!!!

Cathy Moore – This blog focuses more on designing training. There are posts on focusing the of the training, saving time in the designing phase, and how o write challenging scenario questions.

McREL – I love this site!!! It addresses just about every topic a classroom teacher could think of from using technology in the class to should we assign homework. It also includes posts from parent and administrative perspectives.

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Thoughts of a Novice Instructional Designer

A record of my thoughts as I explore the field of instructional design.