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Unit 2-3

Page history last edited by Gary Motteram 9 years, 5 months ago


Unit 2—Section 2: Distance Education developments 


Distance education 


Within this scenario of change, we're going to take a specific look first of all at distance education (DE). In order to be able to have a common frame of reference, we are first going to look briefly at its developments. This section requires largely independent reading.


DE was until relatively recently seen as being part of the non-traditional group of education methods. In fact, it is still often perceived as a lower quality or standard by many employers and governments. A former MA teacher told the story that in his country the idea of DE was used as an insult when a car driver did something wrong on the road: "Did you learn to drive by distance?", is yelled out of the window at the unfortunate transgressor.


We assume that thinking about distance education has changed but perhaps there are local reservations that you may know of. However, it is online distance education that has helped DE become prominent. As indicated in the introductory excursion through the UK picture, most conventional face-to-face HE institutions are either running, or seriously planning distance education in some form or other and some see it as a central plank for their future developments, e.g. Leicester. The University of Manchester is also embarking on a rapid growth of its DL provision modelling itself on the success of a US university like Arizona State, that has moved rapidly into the online world. Manchester also has its own DL network --  MaDLeN -- and runs regular events to present and debate issues in DL.


However, we also need to recognise various other related terms. White (2003) debates these in her chapter 2: Related Concepts.



Unit 2: Task 2


Before proceeding, do a quick search to identify any shades of difference, if there are any, between the following:


  • distance learning
  • distributed learning
  • blended learning
  • virtual learning
  • open learning


The idea of distance or distributed learning being part of a wider picture combining onsite and distance components is an interesting one that has been exploited in various contexts. Distributed learning is a particular term that tended to refer to courses delivered over, for example, a campus without requiring physical presence of the learners ie distributed over a specific space. It seems now to be used much more as an umbrella term which could include distance learning. Muirhead (2005) also refers to various writers in exploring the concept of blended learning:


on and offline learning activities... a continuum from face-to-face courses augmented by learning resources and activities ranging from multimedia to structured instruction with self-study components, to live e-learning sessions, to lab-centered learning opportunities using sophisticated simulations ...reduced face to face time with greater use of distance-like activities.


As suggested earlier the boundaries between what we knew as distance and face-to-face are becoming fuzzier. In terms of combining modes of delivery, some students on this programme have experimented in the last two years with distance components pre or post a face-to-face course or even simultaneous to a face-to-face course. Some have explored the potential for example in providing ongoing opportunities for pre-course work and post course reflection for in-service teacher development; others have looked at supplementing courses which operate on restricted time frames such as in-sessional academic programmes at our university which only give learners two hours a week. Here the essence is the notion of 'extending limited time' and deciding which skills can best be developed through specific technologies. A dissertation student looked at developing communication skills through task based learning using  forum and chat technologies. She reserved presentation and practice of language focus tasks for the face-to-face class. Keep this in mind as we move to consider the technology question - technologies for what purpose?


Before looking at some of the issues that arise out of different interactional relationships between learners, tutors and instructional content, some reading to develop and understanding of conceptual views of distance learning.



Unit 2: Task 3


It has been suggested by a number of writers that there are various generations of distance education. To situate distance education within its wider timescale, and to begin to explore related conceptualisation such as distributed learning, we recommend some general reading:


Firstly, to get a picture of the 'generational' view of distance education we recommend these two papers written in the mid 1990s:


  • Boyle, R. (1995) 'Language teaching at a distance: from the first generation model to the third' System 23(3): 283-294.
  • Taylor, J. C. (1995) Distance Education technologies: the fourth generation. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology [online] http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet11/taylor.html


Note specifically: 


  • the exploration of distance learning and transactional distance.
  • the roles that distance and distributed learning play in relation to conventional delivery


If you want to go further into the ways that this field has developed and where we are now then have a look at: Cleveland-Innes, M. F. and Garrison, D. R. (2010) An Introduction to Distance Education : Understanding Teaching and Learning in a New Era. [online]. Taylor & Francis. Available from:<http://lib.myilibrary.com?ID=257209>. This is available to be read online.


Here is a recent take on developments in attitudes towards distance learning in higher education. George Siemens has a lot to say here about the economics of what is happening, but there is a lot there about other issues, too. One of his interesting arguments is that one of the outcomes of the ongoing creation of MOOCs will be a wider acceptance on online learning in the public perception. He also talks a good deal about the data that online learning systems can provide for materials creators to help provide a more targeted set of materials, some systems now do this automatically.



There are slides are also available on slide share, or you can view it all on George Siemen's website.


This book tracks the development of the Open Educational Resource Movement that has led to MOOCs: Walsh, Taylor. (2010) Unlocking the Gates. Princeton University Press. http://lib.myilibrary.com?ID=297646



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