Distance Learning Powerpoint


The following material comes from a Powerpoint that was given in the course.
The focus of the presentation is to get the audience (students of distance learning) to re-evaluate what we think of as "teaching"... 


What is the role of the instructor?
presenting information   >>>>>>>>>>   organizing student interaction
(In a traditional classroom, the lecture is the principal method of presenting information and the instructor is expected to do the presenting.  There is a current trend in education that asks teachers to shift the responsibility of student learning gradually from teacher to students.)
Three key questions
1.  is facilitation teaching?
2.  are distance educators merely facilitators?
3.  what is the role of direct instruction in distance learning?


The powerpoint asks the viewer to think about "what is special about distance learning?" A key set of slides give a list of duties that god distance learning instructors will focus on....

Elaborating course content

Supervising and moderating discussions

Supervising individual and group projects

Grading assignments and providing feedback on progress

Keeping student records

Helping students manage their study

Motivating students

Answering or referring administrative questions

Answering or referring technical questions

Answering or referring counseling questions

Representing students with the administration

Evaluating course effectiveness



Take away the "distance learning" and it turns out that good instructors will do the same things.

Yes, there are some characteristics of distance learning that are different than the typical classroom.
Distance learning instructors...

may not deal directly with students

may not be able to see or hear students

success may depend on technology skills

    ... for communicating content

    ... for discerning students’ feelings



The typical classroom instructor might focus more on presentation of the information.

The distance learning instructor might appear to be focusing more on organizing student interaction.

distance instruction should:

Facilitate learner autonomy

Foster interdependence of members of learning group



Other key points:
Technology used in the course should be appropriate to the needs of the course and the people.  Sometimes a simple device developed in the 19th Century is adequate and perhaps better:  the telephone. 


In other words,  many of us carry images of "distance learning" that might limit our experience of what distance learning can provide.

Conventional Wisdom: Distance Learning is different.
Response:  Yes, no, sort of.

Conventional Wisdom: Distance teaching means abandoning older approaches
Response:   No, it doesn't 


Conventional Wisdom: Distance Learning requires a constructivist approach
Definition of constructivist:  see below
Response:   No, it doesn't.    (Instructors don't need to be strictly facilitators).

Conventional Wisdom: Distance education is cheaper than traditional education
Response:  No, it isn't.

Conventional Wisdom: Distance Learning is different.
Response: 

Conclusion:  Learning at distance is easy.   Teaching at distance is difficult.


Constructivism is a type of learning theory that explains human learning as an active attempt to construct meaning in the world around us. Constructivists believe that learning is more active and self-directed than either behaviorism or cognitive theory would postulate.

Constructivism divides learning into two types: accommodation and assimilation. The focus is on the individual’s desire and ability to learn, and the teacher or therapist is merely there to help guide self-directed learning.

Source:  http://phobias.about.com/od/glossary/g/constructivdef.htm  Lisa Fritscher

A key slide:   "A Provocative Suggestion"

“…Based on our current knowledge of human cognitive  architecture, minimally guided instruction is likely to be  ineffective. The past half-century of empirical research on  this issue has provided overwhelming and unambiguous  evidence that minimal guidance during instruction is  significantly less effective and efficient than guidance  specifically designed to support the cognitive processing  necessary for learning.”



Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry-based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 75-86.





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