Just like distance learning itself, my understanding of it is evolving. Despite being immersed in type of education for quite some time, I have witnessed distance learning adapt and grow based upon the technology that it uses. It seems to have become less of a fringe style and more of a viable and common option. Through participating in distance learning as both a student and administrator, I have adapted to some of its shortcomings in the real time connection realm, while embraced its overwhelming accessibility and the new opportunities it creates.
I learned a great deal this week about the truly intricate and ever-changing world of distance learning. I enjoyed reading about the theory and historical context regarding this pillar of education. This has significantly informed my understanding of this topic. A few years ago, I remember reading about the logistics of online learning in the advent of internet and being in awe of its functionality, as I had previously considered it to be a recent invention. Even when computers were an extraordinarily distant future invention over a century ago, the ideology of distance learning existed and its roots modestly grew over time to help influence today’s structure (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015).
In addressing Moore’s theory of independent study, Simonson, Smaldino and Zvacek (2015) explain that “in distance education, there is a gap between teacher and student, so the student must accept a high degree of responsibility for the conduct of the learning program” (p. 43). While I had previously considered the high degree of self-discipline that the student must adhere to, I had seldom thought about the facilitator’s role in setting up the student for success in this regard.
I’ve realized this week that my previous definition of distance learning was largely comparing it to physical classroom learning and the components it may lack. However, I’ve learned this week about its unique and separate structure. In an ideal distance learning model, the facilitator should work to overcome inherent restrictions and establish meaningful unity between all involved parties and materials to encourage growth (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015).
My vision of distance learning is that it must diligently stay in tune with the rapidly altering world of technology. As our relationship and reliance on technology continues to increase, the way we interact with each other will also change. By being mindful of this and promoting inclusiveness, distance learning can continue to elevate, while still maintaining its core structure separate from the modern technology that sometimes seems to encompass it.
Simonson, M. R., Smaldino, S. E., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education. Charlotte, NC: IAP, Information Age Publishing, Inc.