Taking part in a fully online course from an accredited educational institution is the first thought that comes to mind when I think of distant learning. Simonson (Laureate Education Inc., 2014) defines distant education (learning) as formal education where the instructor and learners are separated by both geography and time and connected through interactive telecommunications systems. Coldeway (as cited in Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012) states distant education at its purest form occurs in different places at different times.
This week’s topic really took me down memory lane. It was 20 years ago when I took a credit course (a first year sociology class, I believe) that was delivered as “Different-time, same-place education” (Simonson, 2012, p.10), since I remember testing needed to be done through a designated learning center. I can also recall courses being offered over the television, sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s.
The intro of Windows 95 definitely changed how the internet could be used in education and distant learning. Even though content learning systems have evolved (i.e. Blackboard) to where real-time interaction between students or teacher-students could happen, I do not think such tools are being used efficiently. For example, the use of the new version of Blackboard has not added anything new from this learner’s standpoint.
Reading through this week’s resources, I was surprised to learn how long distant education or learning has been in existence. According to Simonson et al. (2012), correspondence study and schools were being used for learning in the late 19th century; today e-learning, virtual learning, and other terms are commonplace in education. In other words, distant learning has been continually used for over 100 years in various forms.
I am comfortable with Keegan’s suggestion that distant education must have these attributes (as cited in Simonson et al., 2012):
- The separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the learning process.
- The influence of an educational organization (i.e. Walden) in the planning and preparation of learning materials and to provide student support services.
- The use of technical media to unite instructor and learner and carry the content of the course.
I have mentioned in earlier posts that I do believe emerging technology will allow distant learning to eventually replace traditional type learning environments. I think this will be part technology and part generational change. Today’s digital generation seem pre-wired to this kind of learning and the next generation? Who knows what technology lies ahead. I do think the next stages of learning will be determined by the learner. I think Simonson (Laureate Education Inc., n. d.) sums it up when he suggests the growth of distant education will not replace traditional schools but rather both will become integrated.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.). Distance Learning Timeline Continuum. [Video webcast]. Dr. Simonson. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_4775279_1%26url%3D
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.