Distance learning – gathering speed

Instructional Strategies – ADLT 603 – Post 11

My concept of distance learning took a new direction from our class discussion last week. What really struck me was the pressure that appears to be mounting from multiple directions that is leading to an inevitable increase in online learning as significant role in higher ed. I could see that things have been moving in that direction but to hear more vividly of the financial and physical resource limitations of higher ed institutions was a bit of a revelation. A significant part of the reasons for moving towards more online learning are simply economic. There are more people in need, less money, and limited physical classroom space at most institutions.

Online Learning highspeed train [digitally modified], AP Photo/Amtrak

The other key point that came through for me was the question of how reduce the potential isolation that can occur in distance learning. One of the main ways is to create learning communities and, if possible, a learning cohort. I can see this could be very valuable and if the opportunities are provided, technically and in a course design, as well as encouraged by the instructor/teacher, the opportunity to hear different perspectives and dialogue might even be greater than in the classroom. One thing about the classroom, only one voice can realistically be heard at a time. And if someone doesn’t speak up in class, then it’s quite unlikely to ever hear that person’s viewpoint.

Whereas, online, multiple perspectives can be shared through blogs, forums, chats, and probably some other ways that I don’t even know about. I haven’t ever taken a higher ed online course or even a hybrid course. Many of my Adult Learning courses use or encourage the use blogs, wikis for collaborative work and other tools for planning. However, besides commenting on a classmate’s blog, we haven’t used a whole class forum as of yet. That might be too much. We do have the options to read each others’ pages in a wiki or blogs.

Overall, I guess I see the online train coming down the track much clearer now. Before this class, I think I could hear a distant whistle and catch glimpses of it; but this week the train broke through some fog, its rumble and is growing louder, and the sun reflecting from its glittering chassis is shimmering in the narrowing distance…

Am I nimble enough to step aboard and catch this ride? I guess I can learn to ride this train. I suppose it will be different than learning to ride my first bicycle. There will probably be many interactive features to pick up along the way. Perhaps I’ll meet new co-travelers from afar with interesting stories of their journey…

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