Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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Distance learning: sinners, repent?

Distance learning is a sin.

Flamebait, ahoy! Please discuss.

  • 1. What were your experiences, if any, with distance education?

  • 2. Did you use it as a student, as an instructor, or both?

  • 3. Are you using it now? Voluntarily or involuntarily so?

  • 4. Given the chance, would you use it again? Would you promote, reform, or abolish it as an insructional technology?

  • 5. What do you see as the primary pros and cons of systems such as Tegrity, Wimba, Microsoft LiveMeeting, etc.?

  • 6. Does the licensing mechanism (e.g., MIT OpenCourseWare) matter?

  • 7. What is your opinion of a degree earned by a distance learning student, all other things (GPA, curriculum, etc.) being equal? Can other things be equal?

Here's the context: zengeneral and I have been talking about general experiences with students, past and present, and with classroom technologies. His argument is based on the well-travelled premise that a university campus experience consists of at least four elements:

  • Curriculum: course material, content that is available locally or online

  • Instructors: faculty, staff, teaching assistants, coordinators

  • Peers: classmates, competition, cameraderie, esprit de corps

  • Environment: the resources (especially libraries), the culture, the society

Though we disagree as to the overall conclusion (zengeneral advocates the abolution of distance learning), the above is common ground. There are tradeoffs made with respect to curriculum and instructor communication: fewer available courses for distance learning students of some universities, more flexible hours and more individual attention. Note that "tutorial" attention can be a pro with respect to student satisfaction, but a con with respect to "learned helplessness". I've never been a big fan of spoon-feeding.

zengeneral asserts that it is in the categories of peers and environment where students tend to take a hit. With this I generally concur, though I think that in the ideal case, which we are approaching asymptotically, these limitations can be technologically overcome - more readily so than deficiencies of content (curriculum and instruction).

Your opinions?

Tags: academic culture, courseware, debates, distance learning, educational environment, instructional technology, learned helplessness, tegrity, universities

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