Distance Learning: Is it going the distance?

“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


Thy Distance Learning Design Commandments

Thy Distance Learning Design Commandments

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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


Evaluating Open Courseware on Game Design at MIT

Computer Games and Simulations for Investigation and Education:

Course Link:

As I looked through the resources included in this undergraduate course, I noticed first that students have access to all of the readings and elements from a very basic menu, which segments the “Syllabus, Readings, Assignments, projects, Related Resources and Download Course Materials “as separate pages, upon which topics are listed chronologically by week, rather than in the reverse order as we have at Walden (Resources and assignments listed together in a week-by-week chronology ).

This format allows the learner to skip around in the course, and access content or assignments of interest, rather than forcing them to participate along a mandated timeline.

The fact that the courses are creative-commons licensed, means that they can be integrated as links into other lessons and resources provided by educators.  Because there is no enrollment restrictions, students of an age and at any time can utilize the information, without being informed that the course is “full” or that it is not yet “scheduled” to begin or allow access to the content.  The challenge with completing a course like this, even though one has access to all of the content (with the exception of needing to buy one’s own books on, is that an individual student would lack the necessary interaction to play the example games or partake in “group” assignments, and would be forced to find their own volunteer-participants when team-mates or opponents are needed to collaborate or compete as part of the assignments.

As a fan of using informational and educational games, including “board” games which are aided by the graphic design capabilities of a computer, but printed and played “off-line,” this undergraduate class gives a great foundation for understanding the formats and processes involved in interactive play, which may be a necessary foundational lesson for learners who have never had the kinesthetic experience of board-game play.

The fact that the course introduces traditional board games before transitioning into computer-based games gives shows planning and the pedagogical understanding of transfer of knowledge.   The fact that students are able to design their computer game using a platform/software called Scratch™, they are able to see a variety of projects form other learner-designers, and add to their community of scholarly work on the topic.  The course not only introduces the concept of social-constructivist learning theory, but is clearly built upon its tenants of group design and real-life problem solving and community-sharing of the collective current knowledge and resources.

If an individual is considering following through with taking such a course, then it might be beneficial for them to formulate their own cohort group with which to interact and simultaneously follow along with the content, similar to founding a book club, whose members individually read and then share their comments and insights with one another in regular gatherings.  Such a cohort could be designed by another teacher, utilizing the content with a group, or by group members themselves, in either a synchronous or asynchronous format.

I have included a photo of the computer-aided bingo game which I recently created for my Orientation Module.  The bingo game asks the learner to print, cut, shuffle and re-assemble and adhere the photo squares to a blank game board.  The directions then require the learner to follow through with the suggestion I made above, which is to form their own group of volunteers or colleagues to be their cohorts in playing the game.  The game is designed to expose them to the idea of integrating technology into their work-tasks, and serves to reinforce the introduced concepts through auditory, verbal, and visual repetition and interaction through the task of playing the game.  Bingo is classic to the industry in which I used this custom-created game, and by re-designing it, students are further exposed to the concept of customization of materials to meet alternate needs.

Orientation to Tech Resource Bingo Cards            Orientation Tech Resource Bingo Card Blank

Klopfer, Eric. 11.127J Computer Games and Simulations for Investigation and Education,Spring 2009. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 04 Apr, 2013). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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Posted by on April 5, 2013 in Uncategorized


Using Technology to Create Educational and Interactive Art Tours at a Distance

The infamously funny film; “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” gives a comical and dramatic look around New York City, as well as a memorable introduction to the unique spiraling architecture New York’s Famous Guggenheim Museum of Art:

By doing a single Google Search; “art museum visit new york” this edu-blogger was able to find all of the following links in the sample Social-Connectivist Art and History Lesson Idea which we have created below:

The Emotions of Art: in Peace and in Conflict – (By Eileen Callejas, March 21, 2013)

Although playfully surfing down the rotunda hall of the Guggenheim would never be possible without the help of digital animation, one other playful and creative installation which gave the impression of suspending water in mid in the center of that museum was recently on display:

Gutai Exhibit: Splendid Playground:

Take a moment to listen to the Guggenheim Curator for this exhibit about its installation:

One need not go to the Museum itself to see the works of art that the museum owns, and may only see a selection of their total collection at any one time.  Many pieces from the Museum’s collection can also be viewed on their website: or carried in one’s pocket by downloading their art App:

One famous piece from the Guggenheim collection, which is exactly the opposite of the serene Gutai suspended-water installation is a work by the famous Pablo Picasso, depicting the emotion that takes place when another out-of-place water-creature is suddenly encountered on land:


Lobster and Cat by Pablo Picasso

Lobster and Cat (Le homard et le chat), January 11, 1965. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 × 36 1/4 inches (73 × 92 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Thannhauser Collection, Bequest, Hilde Thannhauser, 1991 91.3916. © 2013 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

When you see this work, does it make you laugh?  Does it make you wonder how each of the animals might be feeling?  In this odd encounter, do these animals appear to be in a stance of bullying or defending?  Do you see how well Picasso is able to use simple shapes and brush strokes to depict movement, action, and emotion?  If this were a video clip, what might happen next?  How might this action-scene end?

Picaso not only has a collection of works at the Guggenheim, but a special exhibit depicting his art across the timeline of his life was displayed at a another prominent New York Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Here is a short 12 minute YouTube video with the MOMA Director and Curator discussing the exhibit:

Another Prominent New York Museum, where similar abstract and geometrically looking artwork can be seen, is the Folk Art Museum, which houses works of other Self-Taught Artists who made statements with their drawings, paintings, sculptures, and installations during their lives:

Folk Art:  Self-Taught Artists

One artist’s work in their collection, by Louis Monza, depicts a detailed image of the Conflicts and Current Events of his day; calling his work “The Comic Tragedy”:


The Comic Tragedy by Louis Monza

Read about his work, and then consider the current events in the news of your time.  Would artworks about these events depict the Comedic Tragedy of conflicts between two persons or different groups? How might you show the action and emotion of the moment, or how the situation affects others in our world.

Whether you are a famous artist, or a Self-Taught artist, you can create your statements alone, and put them on display, or you can get collaborative, like the Gutai, to make and share your art and statements around the world:




Technology Integration Ideas for a unit like this, or other Virtual Tour of an Art Museum or Exhibit Include:

Idea 1:

Notice that the Museum Collections of Picasso’s work are like Photo Links Lists or Pin Boards online:

Picasso’s at the MOMA:

Picasso’s at the Guggenheim:

Download a painting and drawing application to your computer or mobile device,

and then create an abstract depiction of the assigned current events, using your art to make a statement about the present time in history.  The class can collaborate by gathering their digital drawings together to create a class Pinterest Board: to share your “collection” of artworks.

Idea 2:

Remember the works of Picasso, Monza or the Gutai.  Work with your team to create a “Word Cloud” or “Wordle.”  Start by making a list of words that their art pieces make you think of.  Edit or select the specific colors and fonts that coordinate with the art piece you are describing, so that the two would look good hanging on a museum wall side by side.  Once your team “Wordle” is approved by the teacher, share it with the appropriate Museum’s Facebook Page or Interactive Twitter Feed Account, so that it can be viewed by the public.  Remember to list the name of the artwork and artist it is written about, and include the names of each of your team members in the sharing post.

Idea 3:

Create a team WikiSpace: where you house a piece of “progression” artwork similar to Picasso’s Linoleum Block Prints shown in the exhibit tour.  Decide as a group on a story from our current events, which is similar to what we have been learning in history class.  Use the drawing and shape tools in PowerPoint, or another Drawing App, in which each student takes turns building on to the same picture, one at a time.  Decide who gets to go first, and who will add the finishing touches on your collaborative work.  Save the image at each turn/stage as a single slide or individual .jpeg file, and post them to your WikiSpace.  Also, include a collection of notes or journal entries from each team member, explaining what it was like to collaborate on one art project. Explain, also, how your team overcame any conflicts while working together on a changing “progression” project.

Idea 4:

Use the interactive online tools provided by the Guggenheim Museum to experience the Gutai exhibit  Read more about the life and works of the Gutai group, and use the Guggenheim’s “Please Draw Freely” link to “draw” or “add to” another digital artwork inspired by their exhibit.  ( You must provide an e-mail address to interact with this site.  This Idea may only be available for a limited time; in conjunction with the exhibit.)

Idea 5:

Use Skype, Google Hangouts, or the “Conferences” feature in the Instructure: Canvas CMS

to host a live video-chat or screen-sharing session with a Museum Docent or Group Tour Director, University Professor, or Art Student in New York City. Check the museum websites for phone numbers and information about how to schedule a live group tour, and inquire if someone from their staff can assist in a virtual Question and Answer Session with your students.  If docents or tour staff are not available, then inquire for contact information to nearby universities with art or art teaching certification programs, who may have volunteer students willing to chat and share an experience similar to a “Virtual Photo Walk,” of the city and the walk leading up to the Museums, as well as  through the Museum gift shops, if permissible.

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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Uncategorized


Defining Distance Learning as it Changes

Easily a quick Google or YouTube search can provide a reader the definition of what Distance Learning has come to mean in our modern technologically linked society, with its formal roots as far back as the postal service, while it’s informal roots may go dating back to when nomads and merchant ships carried artifacts and printed knowledge from one shore to another, leading to the spread and self-study of anything from the Phoenician alphabet, to the art of crochet (EPCOT, 2013 & Maine Maritime Museum, 2013).   The main concept of distance education being, that the teacher and student are at some separation, by time, distance, or understanding, and the knowledge or information is being transported from one to the other in some way (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zavacek, 2012).

wordle distance learning word picture pdf

Whether by sailing ship, horseback courier, or in the mail by rail, those who have desired to teach, and those who have desired to learn have managed to communicate ideas with one another.  As the technology of communication has changed, so has the advancement of distance learning.  Even in the past 5 to 10 years, the increased use of the internet, along with greater access to streaming video such as You Tube, have created international surges in crowd-sourced instruction and study, especially in areas of “making” and “doing” that have been difficult to translate onto paper and publish into books for shipping, as was necessary before for most types of “correspondence” or “self-study” courses in the few hundred years before (Edutopia, 2013).

Surprisingly, as I was doing my own You Tube search on the topic, (having grown to understand that it is now becoming counter-productive for a learner, or an educator, to un-necessarily re-invent the wheel in order provide or produce learning materials to share before first doing a literature and media review…) I came across a video segment, that for the first time, had me considering the challenges of quality and accreditation of my own studies, and the unique field in which I use distance learning; the elder and adult disabled populations; for their crafts and elective interests topics.   As it turns out, there is far more to the history of distance learning’s progress in America, and the separation of its multiple branches (edu-tainment vs. trade skills study vs. scholarly pursuits) that make distance learning so challenging to view as a single subject of study.  This historical inter-weaving, use, and maturing of distance education is eloquently presented in a lengthy but mesmerizing You Tube video by the Distance Education and Training Council, titled, The American Way to Learn:

This program not only reviewed the similar timeline and founding scholars presented in Walden University’s course media and text, reinforcing the concept that today’s definition of formal distance learning is, “institutionally based, sharing of data and multimedia, via interactive telecommunications, between teacher and student at some level of time or distance separation,” it also emphasized the value of self-regulation among the industry and its institutions (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012) & (DETC, 2011).  This is especially poignant when speaking of the value of educating a person, when it is funded by another person, institution, or government.  This led me to investigate the accrediting process that is undergone by my own University in which I am enrolled.  In a detailed video, Walden University outlines the process that it recently underwent to renew its regional accreditation:

(Walden University, 2012).

In the industry in which I work, however, the rise in open-source instructional media, and even crowd-sourced discovery and innovation, has as valuable an impact on humanity as the sense of security gained from institution-based quality of instruction, when considering the other side of the scale.  Rapid progress comes from both a fast-paced sharing of innovation to a focused group of specialists, as well as the slower collection and reflection of scholars and historians to remind society of the similarities in trends to where we have already been as a society (Edutopia, 2013) & (DETC, 2011).  It is this juxtaposition of experimental social-constructivist prototyping, which can now flow around the globe and be re-applied as new learning, worldwide, in as little as 48 hours, set side by side with the skills of cognitive reflection, which move the greater populous forward, with improved ease and a higher likelihood of experiencing success rather than experimental failure.  This was so creatively expressed in the video and related discussion posts that came across my Facebook news-feed earlier this week, from Edutopia:

So, as learners continue to apply these new communication technologies, with or without the support and structure of an institution or accrediting oversight, both the doers and the thinkers are now able to connect and progress at a more rapid pace than before.  Just as the steam-engine sparked the rapid expansion of correspondence-by-mail study, so too may the ever-increasing accessibility to media-based knowledge-sharing be to rapid expansion of open-source study and informal distance learning’s emerging renaissance.  The impact that this will have on the definition of “distance learning” and “distance education” being institution-based, may lead to re-defining either distance education, or the loosening  of the definition of what constitutes the governing “institution” in the future, to include, businesses, associations, organizations, and topic masters; all quite similar to the history that was shared in the DETC documentary.

It seems today I again learned, that history, regardless of the technology being applied, may once again repeat itself – and all of this I was able to learn through Distance Education.

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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Uncategorized


Elaboration – Fitting the Pieces Together on Learning Theories

As I look back on my expanding understanding of Learning Theories and Learning Styles, as well as the integration of Technology into instruction today, I would maintain the assessment that I enjoy learning through visual and kinesthetic means, and am an autonomous learner who also prefers social-collaboration on projects.  What I did not realize the beginning of this course, is how much my own preferences for learning were reflected in the methods I also choose to teach.  I enjoy instructing electives course which support autonomous choice, and often cater to students who have hidden visual and kinesthetic talents which emerge through art, games, and other activity participation.  My currently expanding interest in technology is also permeating my chosen curriculum topics, as I have chosen to make it the focus of my organization’s work for this year, and have been advocating for greater access to technology tools for the special populations of adult learns that I serve, and support of technology training for the specialists I consult who also work with such adult and elderly students.

The concept from this program, that resonated with me the most, was the utilization of the term Elaboration to describe one effective instructional strategy.  The term “Elaboration” was used in the context of asking students to either write or discuss about their understanding of a certain concept – both of which are verbal tasks.  However, Elaboration can take the form of expression beyond verbal methods, as it applies to creating visual works of art, dramatic productions, multi-media, film, dance, design, construction, game development, planning an experience, Imagineering a theme attraction, or a myriad of ways in which one can parlay an idea and the background details about that idea, to another person while also expanding on the concept.

Elaboration is the combination of comprehending, understanding, translating, creating, and progressing on a subject.  It also uniquely encompasses each of the learning Theories in its development.  One must first accept the basic facts of a lesson to be true, accepting the current shared definition, as a Behaviorist would dictate.  One must then ponder and assimilate the information internally as a Cognitivist would require.  In order to elaborate successfully, one must share the information in a way that it is received by others – whether they be readers, observers, players, or critics the learner must apply the elements of Constructivism to build their expressive platform of media and method, and Connectivism to bring together recipients and collaborators who can help expand on the idea being learned, or refute the concepts that the new learner may be trying to attach to their lesson and previous understanding.

It is no wonder that “The History of Communication” taught on Disney’s EPCOT theme ride known as “Spaceship Earth,” is one of my favorite attractions (a.k.a. The Giant Silver Ball).  From the days of the first discovery of fire, around which fellow humans sat sharing the invention of the wheel, we have longed to incorporate tools into our daily experience.  Technology has come a long way since the dawn of communication, and likely has far yet to go.  To incorporate the most modern tools into the teaching and learning process, for students of any age, is part of our human nature, and a valuable demonstration of how far we have come, as well as an elaboration on where we might go next.   As we continue to progress in our collective learning as a species, inhabiting this planet together, elaboration is not merely a strategy; it is the command to both learn and apply one’s learning to something greater, in which we can all share.


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized



Just about every interaction and opportunity can be a learning experience.  Below is a Mind-Map Graphic Organizer depicting my thoughts regarding my own learning network.  As I completed this look into my Connective Learning Network, I determined that on the left side of the diagram, I had listed a variety of resources which I consult, or interact with, in random order.   However, on the right side, I have listed various life learning experiences, from school and career, which occurred in a more sequential order:

Analysis of this Mind-Map:

This diagram reflects the two divergent styles of learning theory: the right side representing learning that is acquired in some “right” way – through direct instruction such as used by the Behaviorists, and through sequential building of understanding onto life experiences and prior knowledge, such as the cognitivists would prescribe.

On the left side of the diagram, however, learning opportunities are not sequential, but rather are a reflection of connections to others and the learning that is gained through random and planned interactions with people and resources, such as prescribed by the Constructivists. The left side of the diagram reflects my own choice in interacting with the outside world, as I am inspired to do so, through media and by building on such human and experiential resources, as the Connectivists would prescribe.

In essence, it is reasonable to summarize all four theories, and the methods that derive from them, can be successfully combined to produce a well-rounded and well balanced learning experience, and should each be considered when planning and designing effective curriculum, especially with regards to curriculum which requires a meaningful and enjoyable experience via a human-computer interface, such as with online-instruction.

Although not intentional, this mind-map may actually be representational of the two-hemispheres of the human brain, considering research which as hinted to the idea that one side is more sequential, and the other side more global in its operation. This also reminds me of the human-computer interaction model of how Facebook/Timeline is beginning to shape it’s functionality: in one part, users are creating and recording a sequence of life events and interactions, which can reflect their learning and gaining of new information.

While on the other hand, the way that Facebook is used is designed to function in a non-sequential network of potential connections to outside resources, such as friends, shared content, access to other’s timelines and albums, and the opportunity to communicate through message and chat. This unique juxtaposition of both a sequential and a non-linear connectedness can likewise lead to invaluable information gained in a non-traditional learning format.

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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized