Distance Education

Posted: January 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

Distance Education-Previous Assumptions

Prior to the start of the Distance Education course and prior to reading the courses week 1 resources, I saw distance education as an online educational option that was generally used for adult learners.  I saw distance education as an opportunity for adults to get degrees, while still meeting work and family obligations.  An alternative option from the traditional classroom setting.  Not only did I feel it needed to be online but I also felt that it was for connecting students and teachers from across the country.  I did not look at distance education as an alternative for students and educators form the same geographical region.  The word “distance” made me feel that the traditional classroom setting was not possible because the location of the students and educators were spread throughout the country.

Distance Education Defined

There are many definitions for distance education, but I feel the definition by Schlosser and Simonson (2009) hits all the major components:

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 et al, 2012, p.7). 

In examining this definition and comparing it to my previous assumptions, there are several components that I did not think about or discuss.  The definition identifies institutional affiliation as the first component.  Not just anybody can start distance education courses.  Institution examples include schools, universities, businesses, and corporations.  I did identify the second component of separation.  The teacher and students are located in different locations, but it does not have to be across the country.  Distance education courses can be offered with a school district.  There can also be asynchronous distance learning courses, which implies learning at different times that are convenient for the teacher and student.

The last two components of the distance education definition are connecting learners, resources, and instructors by using interactive telecommunication systems.  Internet, telephone, and possible television provide current examples of electronic media uses.  These media option can be used to communicate with the teacher and other students.  They well also give the teacher and student the ability to post and view assignments without physically turning any paper work in.  Everything can be viewed electronically.

There are many other definitions of distance education.  Although I agree with this definition, I also believe there are other forms of distance education.  Looking back at the four previously mentioned components to distance education it seems as though the first component is broad, and does not need to be included.  Examples include universities, schools, businesses, and corporations.  Who else is there to use distance education?  That list seems to sum up all the possible uses for distance education.  The only other possibility would be online classes setup by another person who does not belong to any institution.  But why should these class not be included?  My definition would only include the last three components and I would exclude the first one.  Anybody that meets the other three components should be included.  It is up to the learner to decide the appropriate distance education opportunities

Vision of the Future

I see the field of distance education as an important learning opportunity that is still in the infant stages.  Currently distance education is taking tools previously developed and using them to create opportunities for students to learn in places and times that are most convenient.  The future of distance education will be developed using Web 2.0 tools and other technologies that may be created primarily for distance education.    Every generation of students will come into this world with a more developed technology skill set, and they will be demanding to learn by the best and most recent technology tools.  I have already seen this happen with my self and the generations before and after me.  The generation before me did not use computers until they were adults and out of high school, but my generation came through school knowing how to use them.  My generation did not use cell phones until we were in our last years of high school, but the generations after me are coming to school (4th grade or earlier) with their own smartphones.  The future possibilities are endless, and only time will tell how far distance education will advance.

Resource

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

 

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