What theories or research can inform your current practice of distance learning?

The argument that online courses are not comparable to face to face has had a legitimate position in the past, but is quickly losing ground as a basis in decision making as to whether or not a student should take an online course rather than take it in a traditional classroom format.  At a local level, the ability to construct online courses is becoming a skill that instructors are no longer balking at for lack of technical support as well as an inadequate background in building online courses.  That being said, fifteen years ago, the mode of delivery began to manifest itself as another option, and teaching online moved from the fringes of the educational environment to the forefront, pushing schools and districts to embrace not only the complete package of online delivery, but to create a commonplace environment of blended learning within the structure of the face to face traditional model.

If the student is independent of time and space, than he is no longer learning at the mercy of the only available structure that is in place.  The four walls no longer bind the learner and he is free to move at his pace, at his leisure, following his interest and desire to go in a direction suitable to him.

One of the interesting studies that I found highly interesting is that as the length of modules increased, the depth of engagement decreased to the point where students were not completing the modules.  There is a depth of complexity and length that is just right, and the goal would then be to find the right length of any one lesson or module.  This makes perfect sense, since anyone who has taught in a traditional delivery situation learns over time when too much, is too much.  When Edgar Allen Poe wrote, he said that his stories should be no longer than what can be read in one sitting.  The same could stand true for engaging online lessons.  Depending on the level and subject being taught, the module needs to be built with a single effect in mind.  The builder begins with that goal and works backward form there to the point of introduction.  I can assume that at that point, everything that is seen as valuable  to that particular lesson is included, and then reviewed and pared back.  It is then reviewed and simplified again until the lesson is complete to the satisfaction of the online instructor.

Once complete, the lesson is delivered and the objective evaluation takes place to determine if the amount, the length, and the breadth of the module is sufficient to guide the learner to the goal.  Refinement then becomes the task, improving, implementing new tasks and removing those that detract from that goal.

According to the research, blogging is a highly valuable method of learner-centered instruction that moves the student to explore and articulate his ideas, and at the same time improves his own writing over time.  If blogging is such simple task yielding compound results, than why in the heck haven’t I been using it!

Incorporating various articles and media as assistants to the pursuit of the goal is also recommended, the problem once again being that more is not necessarily better.  The question then is what to include and what to eliminate.  The framework of the course can remain constant with a variety of supportive online materials to draw from depending on the audience and skill level of the student .

Last, simplicity is the key.  The technical aspects of the course and the navigation method used beg the builder to consider the frustration level of the student attempting to navigate the site.  It cannot get in the way and become another obstacle to overcome in order to access the learning material.

Moore, M. G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning, 3rd Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781133715450/

Huang, H. (2002). Toward constructivism for adult learners in online learning environments. Britislh Jourrnal of Educational Teclznology, 33(No. 1). Retrieved from http://umsl.edu/~wilmarthp/modla-links-2011/Toward-a-constructivism-for-adult-learners–in-online-learning-environments.pdf

 

Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies. (2009, July). Hanover Research. Retrieved August 10, 2016, from http://www.uwec.edu/AcadAff/resources/edtech/upload/Best-Practices-in-Online-Teaching-Strategies-Membership.pdf
Advertisements

3 thoughts on “What theories or research can inform your current practice of distance learning?

  1. Dan,
    I like how you state that with technological advances that promote new ways of providing content, distance learning is comparable with face-to-face classes and lets the learner have more autonomy about how to access the information. I agree with your point that there has to be a good balance with the amount, length and the breadth of information presented in distance learning so that the learner isn’t overwhelmed. I’ve had some distance classes that created opportunities to engage in authentic communication and collaborate with others through the use of Twitter, blog responses, and Blackboard, and these courses have had more of a lasting impression on me than ones where I was left to get through modules solely on my own. I share your sentiment about blogging and wonder why I don’t do it when it’s not required for a class! Thanks for your thoughtful post.
    Amy

    Like

  2. Dan,

    You wrote, “If the student is independent of time and space, than he is no longer learning at the mercy of the only available structure that is in place. The four walls no longer bind the learner and he is free to move at his pace, at his leisure, following his interest and desire to go in a direction suitable to him.”

    I really connected to what you wrote because I have come to prefer online courses over in the classroom courses. I enjoy learning at my own pace. I think the most surprises part about online learning is how I have still been able to make connections with my classmates, even though I have not met them in person. I credit that with how my courses have been designed. It adds to my online classroom experience and success.

    Cherie

    Like

  3. Dan,

    I like your point that distance learning allows for the freedom of the only available structure that was in place. A little more than fifteen years ago I was taking online courses from UAS to get my bachelor’s degree with two young children and a part time job. The availability and freedom of these online courses definitely allowed me to work when I was able, at night or on the weekend to complete course work. Of course, then it wasn’t nearly as beneficial as today’s courses are, which offer more dialogue between teacher-student and student-student.

    I like that you pointed out that simplicity is key. I’ve taken classes where it wasn’t easy to get started and familiar with technology at the beginning of the course, which caused a lot of frustration.

    Teresa

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s