Essential Question: What Theories Or Research Can Inform Your Current Practice Of Distance Learning?
Reading theory on distance learning made me think about when I first started taking classes online. I recall being a little hesitant. I did not know what to expect. I was used to taking classes in front of the instructor. I remember thinking, “I hope I can do this and be able to keep up.” Now, a couple of years later, I am still taking distance classes and love it!
Theory is important to the study of distance education because it directly affects the practice of the field (Moore, 1997). What is distance education? Moore and Kearsley (2012) define it as “the family of instructional methods in which the teaching behaviors are executed apart from the learning behaviors, including those that in contiguous teaching would be performed in the learner’s presence, so that communication between the learner and the teacher must be facilitated by print, electronic, mechanical, or other devices.”
The Theory of Transactional Distance was derived from John Dewey. Two teaching behaviors that stood out for me were dialogue and structure. I think without those you will be lost when trying to take a class online. The interaction between the teacher and student takes place through dialog. In my classes we communicate by email and through Twitter, Blackboard, and webmeeting. I think hearing the teacher and being able to talk to the teacher is a valuable thing. As Moore (1997) writes, “highly interactive electronic teleconference media, especially personal computers and audioconference media, permit a more intensive, more personal, more individual, more dynamic dialogue than can be achieved in using a recorded medium.” If you are trying to deliver a course without making sure you’ve set up good means of communication, it will be harder for the student. Structure is also important. If you are not sure what you need to do when planning a semester or a class, then you will feel lost and confused.
I found this fact very interesting: “Over 350 studies done since 1928 (Russell, 1999, 2001) show that when you measure the average differences between students in a face-to-face group and a distance education group, there is usually no significant difference” (see http://www.nosignificantdifference.org/).
Moore (1997) offers six particular approaches that must be carefully structured in distant teaching.
- Presentation: The recorded presentations are usually the most powerful.
- Support the learners’ motivation: This shows the desire to motivate the student to learn.
- Stimulate analysis and criticism: These are higher order cognitive skills that learners are expected to develop.
- Give advice and counsel: This is to provide guidance when learning.
- Arrange practice, application, testing and evaluation: This gives students an opportunity to apply what they have learned.
- Arrange for student creation of knowledge: This is when students are given opportunities to engage in dialog with the teacher to share their knowledge.
I think these are all important points to consider when delivering distance education.
Distance education is great for people who need the flexibility to go to school. Some countries of the world today cannot handle 100,000 students at a time nor do they have the money to build and maintain buildings for this many students (Keegan, 1996). Students, like those in China, wouldn’t be able to expand their education if it wasn’t for distance education. I know I wouldn’t have been able to further my career if it wasn’t for distance education. I am grateful for distance education and look forward to furthering my career through distance courses. I look forward to learning new ideas and concepts that will help me be as good at designing classes for distance delivery as my current teachers are.
Keegan, D. (1996). Foundations of distance education. Psychology Press.
Moore, M. “Theory of transactional distance.” Keegan, D., ed. “Theoretical Principles of Distance Education (1997), Routledge, pp. 22-38.
Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning.