Distance learning in the 1800s consisted of letter correspondence that was delivered from an institution to the student through the postal service (Tracey & Richey, 2005). With the advent of online computing, we now have online instructing, which is a form of distance learning. Distance learning can be defined as an “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, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 32). Distance learning has also been defined as, “an instructional delivery system that allows students to participate in an educational opportunity without being physically present in the same location as the instructor” ((Johnson & Aragon, 2003, p. 31). The definitions may change over time, but the key features of distance learning are receiving an education and the physical separation of learner and teacher, either by geographic conditions or time. Prior to this week, my definition of distance learning was taking online courses. I had no idea that distance learning occurred during the 1800s.
Distance learning has tremendously been impacted by the development of the Internet and improvement of technologies that support online environments. As more bandwidth is available, the quality of videos would improve. Likewise, as new technologies are developed, there will be diverse methods of telecommunicating. As more educators are trained in using such technology, the landscape of education will change. I envision instructional designers (ID) making the courses while the instructor provides the pedagogy and content.
Instructional technology is often using the traditional methods of information delivery. While television sets and online videos have the potential to alter the way people receive an education, the technology simply presents a talking head that passes information to the student. Online courses are similarly equivalent to their face-to-face counterparts. The instructor presents information, the students assimilate the information, and the knowledge is tested on an exam.
Halo and the Call of Duty series have tons of players online via PC, Xbox 360, and PS3. All the players have learned what routes to take in the game, what guns to use in their current disposition, the weaknesses of bosses, and what glitches have been found. Gamers are motivated to learn! These gamers so motivated, that they also post their gaming success online on YouTube. Likewise, ID should incorporate game play into the online environment. I am hoping that the definition of distance learning also takes into consideration the motivational needs of the learners.
As an educator teaching chemistry, I perceive the potential benefits of distance learning to be the following: classes are reproducible at a lower expense once the class is formed, classes are scalable, allows for classes to be taught across geological locations, access to the classroom can be done synchronously and asynchronously, pacing can be determined by the student’s level of competence, group interactions can be enhanced, and evaluation tools/modules can be easily implemented (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008;Simonson et al., 2009; Tracey et al., 2005). However, distance learning should not be used in all instances. I cannot imagine how students are to conduct labs without proper lab materials. Asking students to carryout fractional distillation or titrations at home without having chemicals such as KHP (Potassium hydrogen phthalate) would definitely be challenging!
Johnson, S. D., & Aragon, S. R. (2003). An instructional strategy framework for online learning environments. New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, (100), 31-43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.