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  • Distance Learning as Learning

    Posted on September 28th, 2010 John No comments

    “All I needed was the Internet, a little bit of time everyday and priorities” – Delta Sky article about Distance Learning

    The act of defining distance learning as separate from learning is exactly the problem. It is this compulsion that will keep the model for distance education subservient to the classroom, or at least dependent on it for its models of operation and evaluation. So the learner quoted above is assumed to be seeking a more convenient virtual classroom that is open whenever the time presents itself.

    Usually, distance learning is defined as a physical separation of teacher and learner(s). Because of this separation there is a general feeling that the virtual classroom is inferior because of some lack; personal contact, individual help, a hallway to chat in, something. But this always leaves me to wonder about where the large lecture hall falls in this continuum. When I taught a class of 320, we were physically together, but were hardly present to each other. Yet somehow this is still a regular college class, while an online version teaching the same subject matter to 20 is virtual.

    Social and economic pressures are forcing the perceived need for education higher and higher. Yet job, family and responsibilities separate a class of adult learners from the regular student body that schools were designed to service. These non-traditional students are accommodated in community colleges and, often, for profit online universities. Here they attempt to duplicate the university credential by looking and actin like real school, even if the experience is vastly different.

    My point is that learning is learning, and where it takes place should not be an issue. But, as Illych pointed out 40 years ago, the institution of school has become synonymous with the act of learning. The real value of what we call distance learning is that it offers the possibility of another model for knowledge creation, education and evaluation. Yet as long as it is beholden to the institutional practices of the University, this potential will not be realized.

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