Defining Distance Learning
I am posting this blog as part of my EDUC 6135 application requirements. I will give my personal definition and observations of distance learning prior to this class, my revised definition after reading and viewing the resources for this week, and my vision of the future for distance learning. I will also incorporate a mind map for my new definition and my vision for the future.
My definition of distance learning was one of utilizing the internet to connect to the classroom instead of actually being face-to-face in a physical room. The instructor and students would communicate with each other and utilize different forms of class work such as essays, discussions, quizzes, presentations, and team projects. The learning is asynchronous.
Although, I had heard of correspondence courses, my first contact with distance learning was at my local community college in getting my Associate in Applied Science degree in computer programming. I took a course using WebCT. I had to post to the discussion board, answer short answers, write a short paper, and take quizzes. Although I utilized a real book, I also had resources to read online. All of my other courses in the program were in the classroom and were very difficult for me to attend while working full time 12-hour night shifts. My next encounter with distance learning was through Indiana Wesleyan as I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree through their online program. That program was very similar to this degree program. I utilized a book and online readings, discussion boards, quizzes, presentations and essays, and team projects. My BSN degree took a lot more work, but I could do it on my time around my other responsibilities. In the federal health care field, distance learning is not necessarily a separation geographically, but more so in time. We have a lot of our mandatory annual training online through a Talent Management System (TMS). Although many of the modules are very simplistic with text and graphics, a few of them are more interactive or have videos. Many of the modules are converted from PowerPoint at our facility, but some are created at other facilities. We connect to the TMS modules online and most have some sort of quiz at the end. They are viewable asynchronously from any of our computers. They are all self-paced with no instructor. However, with some of the computer training, Camtasia software is utilized to show staff the steps involved and is sometimes interactive.
Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012, p.31) define distance education as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors.” Since I obtained my BSN online, I feel like my definition was very similar to that. I think technology has really changed the way learning occurs and has opened the door for many people to obtain higher education. There are so many different kinds of software that can be utilized in distance learning. Distance learning brings education closer to everyone.
As for the future of distance learning, my vision sees many more opportunities available to more people. Technology will continue to advance to bring the classroom to people in their homes and on the go with iPads. What appears to be missing with the interaction is now being fulfilled with social sites such as wikis, blogs, and facebook, or even webcams and videoconferencing. I do think there will always be a need for a physical classroom as there are always learners who learn better in a more structured, physical environment.
Simonson M Smaldino S Albright M Zvacek S 2012 Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance educationSimonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. 201211041326461152214408