Distance Learning: Is it going the distance?

28 Apr

“Students listened and took notes, and then regurgitated the same information back to the teachers on exams.  This ‘Teacher-Centered’ model continues in many courses delivered to distant learners via today’s synchronous, video based technologies.  With computer based technologies, however, have come exciting new opportunities for providing learning experiences to students.  This philosophy of education has become popularly known as student-centered learning, because it so strongly promotes active learning, collaboration, mastery of course materials and student control over the learning process” was quoted from Barr & Tagg (1995) in our course text.  (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 123.)

How far has distance learning come, in the last eighteen years, at taking the full opportunity to offer truly exciting experiences in distance learning?  It appears, from my best observation and understanding of all content gleaned from this recent course; that there are two divergent factions continuing to form a strong-hold in the distance learning field:  Formal academia transferring content and lessons thoughtfully to online course management systems, vs. Practical application and skills instruction which is pushing the boundaries of the latest web 2.0 technologies using just-in-time and student-centered learning philosophies (Leadbeater, 2010).

Charles Leadbeater: Education Innovation in the slums (20 Minutes) (Fast-forward to Minute Marker 1:25)

Formal vs. Informal Online & Distance Learning


Online Academia / Degree Courses Online Instruction / Industry Tutorials
Focus Quality Standards / Scholarly Content Skills Mastery / Brief Learning Curve
Outcome Assimilation into Academic Rigor Assimilation into Applied-Skills Culture
Structure Curriculum “Pushed” to Student Resources “Pulled” by Discover-Learner
Motivation Extrinsic – After Learning is Gained Intrinsic – Gain Knowledge to Change
Measure Grades / Degree / Certification Completion / Demonstrate Skill / Concept
Credibility Citing Sources / Degreed Faculty Rate of Skill Mastery for New Learners
Value Map / Conduct Further Research Performance / R.O.I. of New Skills
Materials Recorded Video / Written Documents Video / Document / Live Chat / Streaming
Methods Written Essay / Quiz / Project YouTube Demos / Social Media Sharing
CMS Portal Blackboard / Moodle Canvas / Facebook / LiveStream Video

Callejas, E, (2013) Introduction to Distance Learning Blog Post.  Retrieved from

While academia questions the rigor and quality standards of itself, its competitor colleges and universities, and all other informal training programs; Informal training proponents question the value and return-on-investment of degreed online programs, based on their end use and assessment measures.  Either way, whether a proponent or opponent for online learning, one must first recognize and agree on whether the discussion at hand is evaluating one or both of these divergent cultures of distance and online instruction.  While online universities site the use of “primarily text and document based instruction” for the “ease of worldwide student access” and documented cognitive learning theory support, Students in remote areas can now more rapidly access the latest Google and Ted, and YouTube postings from notable centers of research and innovation, on advanced and emerging things like sustainable Hydroponics and Bio-Fuels Resource Construction (Anderson, 2010). Video tutorials on re-manufactured smartphones, can sometimes be easier to access than multi-layer classroom portals students must use to read assignment requirements (posted elsewhere) and upload an average scholarly-source-supported “discussion post” essay assignment.  Both learning models are occurring at a distance from the instructor and the source content author, and both use technology and the internet.  In which situation is learning really occurring?  In which situation is it efficient for greater populations of learners?

Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation  (Fast-forward to Minute Marker 12:12)

As a proponent for distance education, I must both express and justify my experience-based understanding that applied creativity in instructional material design and methodology is important for the field to grow.  Greater advancement and acceptance may come in Distance Leaning as there is a merging of Academia and Informal Methods in the distance learning arena.  Credibility may grow for online Institutions as graduates are able to better apply knowledge to solve real-world problems, and network successfully with colleagues in post-degree collaborations.  Credibility may grow as informal students can more easily and rapidly search for and access video and interactive resources, posted online by recognized scholarly sources, and the materials they share are designed in a way that is both engaging and easy to understand.

Greater advancement will come within my own industry, as creative teachers continue to push the boundaries on radically using the most prolific Web 2.0 and social media tools to teach content, so professionals continue their learning, and apply it to their daily work, but can also recognize that the consultation and coaching they received was both intentional and instructional, and was based on applied theories of learning and researched methodologies of educational practice.  When, rather than being overwhelmed by the formality of a syllabus and cited sources, wary learners are allowed to gain and apply their understanding first, and then investigate the foundation upon which their experience had been skillfully crafted and customized to meet their needs and offer them solutions, it is then that learning and progress can advance hand-in-hand.


Anderson, C. (2010).  Chris Anderson: How web video powers global innovation.  (Beginning at Minute Marker 12:00 and 16:00) Retrieved from

Leadbeater, C.  (2010).  Charles Leadbeater: Education Innovation in the slums.  Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S., (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance. Fifth ed. Boston:  Pearson.

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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Uncategorized


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