Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Do Distance Learning?

In a previous post, I discussed which is better for learning, distance or face to face? The conclusion was that students learn as much in a distance course as they do in a face to face course. So if students learn as much in a face-to-face class as they do in a distance learning class, then what are the reasons for creating and providing distance learning? This post is an excerpt from my book, Educational Technology for Teachers.

Access is one of the main reasons that educational institutions offer distance learning options. Through distance learning, students can take classes that might not otherwise be available to them. An excellent example is the Center for Statewide E-Learning which is located on the campus of Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. In this center, distance teachers provide quality distance instruction to South Dakota high school students. The subjects covered include advanced language arts, math, chemistry, physics, and Spanish — subjects that would otherwise be unavailable to many rural students in South Dakota due to a lack of local qualified teachers in small communities, or the low numbers of students who would take the class (Gosmire & Vondruska, 2001). 

As is the case with the Center for Statewide E-Learning, the desire for increased access to educational opportunities has also led universities around the world to provide more and more online course offerings as they seek more funding from increased enrollment. Some universities offer entire programs completely online, reaching an ever-expanding population of students. The new educational fad of offering Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) was also designed to increase access to more and more students, albeit within courses that are inferior in terms of instructor-to-student interaction and effective instruction (see Gardner & Young, 2013; Kolowich, 2013a, 2013b; Pappano, 2012). Even prestigious universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Yale University offer free and open course materials online so that anyone can access, learn from and use these materials (“MIT open courseware,” 2014, “Open Yale Courses,” 2011). 

Other reasons that students need distance learning opportunities may include illness, medical issues or home schooling. As online learning technologies and options become more common, more and more students are demanding flexible learning options like those that can be supported from a distance (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2011). 

Have you taught from a distance? Why do your students need distance learning?


Gardner, L., & Young, J. R. (2013, March 14). California’s move toward MOOCs sends shock waves, but key questions remain unanswered. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/A-Bold-Move-Toward-MOOCs-Sends/137903/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Gosmire, D., & Vondruska, J. (2001). Distance teaching and learning academy. TechTrends, 45(3), 31–34. doi:10.1007/BF02763554

Kolowich, S. (2013a). The professors behind the MOOC hype. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/The-Professors-Behind-the-MOOC/137905/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en#id=overview

Kolowich, S. (2013b). Why professors at San Jose State won’t use a Harvard professor’s MOOC. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Why-Professors-at-San-Jose/138941/

MIT open courseware. (2014). Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

Open Yale Courses. (2011). Retrieved July 1, 2014, from http://oyc.yale.edu/

Pappano, L. (2012). Massive open online courses are multiplying at a rapid pace. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/04/education/edlife/massive-open-online-courses-are-multiplying-at-a-rapid-pace.html

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S. E., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2011). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5 edition.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

1 comment:

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