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Defining Distance Education

Distance Education at a Glance – Because distance education is perceived as an increasingly effective method of instruction, educational researchers have examined the purposes and situations for which distance education is best suited. Frequently asked questions cluster in five areas:

  • Is technology-assisted, distant teaching as effective as traditional face-to-face teaching?
  • What factors determine the most effective mix of technology in a given distant teaching situation?
  • What are the characteristics of effective distant students and teachers?
  • How important is teacher-student and student-student interaction in the distance education process and in what form(s) can this interaction most effectively take place?
  • What cost factors should be considered when planning or implementing distance education programs and how are those costs offset by benefits to the learner?

What is Distance Education and Distance Learning? – If you are new to distance education and distance learning this site can be helpful. Includes links to major USA accrediting agencies.

Defining Distance Learning and Distance Education – This paper hopes to start the movement toward a common vocabulary by offering precise definitions of distance learning and distance education, and their interrelationship. This is accomplished by first proposing a single definition of learning and then breaking down the concept of learning into three subcategories: instruction, exploration and serendipity. Each of these, in turn, is defined and the concepts of distance learning and distance education are derived and categorized.

What is Distance Learning? – This self tutorial provides an overview of distance learning for adult basic educators. It is organized in seven modules. The tutorial draws much of its information from the California adult basic education distance learning experience since 1995. While the statewide experience has its limitations, it is the largest state program by far, serving over 50,000 documented students in 2003 – 2004. California also has access to distance learning learner and provider data from a standardized statewide set of data for English as a second language (ESL), adult basic education, and GED / adult secondary education students. It enables researchers and policy makers to examine the effectiveness and equity of the state supported distance learning intervention.

Introduction to Distance LearningIn August, 2009, SRI International for the Department of Education, a nonprofit research institute, published a 93-page report which examined comparative research on online versus traditional classroom teaching from 1996 to 2008. Some of the research focused on K-12 settings, but the majority of it centered upon colleges and adult-continuing education programs. The report found that on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction. Focusing on similar online and classroom course requirements, the study determined that, on average, students taking the course online would rank in the 59th percentile in tested performance, compared with the average classroom student scoring in the 50th percentile. A slight difference, to be sure, but according to Barbara Means, author and educational psychologist at SRI International, this statistic demonstrates that online learning is not merely” better than nothing,” but in some cases, equivalent to or better than traditional instruction. Indeed, online education has expanded quite rapidly throughout the last decade, and even more so recently, with the arrival of tools such as Web-based video, instant messaging, and free open courses at MIT and Yale. However, though online learning is something relatively new, distance education itself is not.

A Teacher’s Guide to Distance Learning – Teaching and learning are no longer confined to the classroom or the school day. There are many technologies that can offer a great deal of flexibility in when, where, and how education is distributed. The Teacher’s Guide to Distance Learning is intended for K-12 educators (useful for higher education) who are interested in implementing distance learning technologies. It provides an overview of the advantages and characteristics of the various technologies now being used to reach remote learners.

Theory and Practice of Online Learning – Essays by practitioners and scholars active in the complex, diverse, and rapidly evolving field of distance education blend scholarship and research; practical attention to the details of teaching and learning; and mindful attention to the economics of the business of education are collected. The Theory and Practice of Online Learning is the winner of the 2009 Charles A. Wedemeyer Award, provided by the University Professional & Continuing Education Association. Click here for more information on their Community of Practice Awards program. Every chapter in the widely distributed first edition has been updated, and four new chapters on current issues such as connctivism and social software innovations have been added.