My Post July 3


Discussion point 4:   Simonson notes the "Learning experiences for learners should be equivalent, not necessarily equal."

Let's look at some of the issues raised in the readings.

a.  the interaction of learner-to-content:  sound, text, graphics, video and virtual reality (p. 300 in Moore).

In a typical face-to-face classroom, the five elements might be more heavily weighted on the first three (since some teachers lack the equipment or know-how to include virtual reality and video in the classroom).  Showing a DVD in a face-to-face classroom can't compare to the facility of quickly bouncing through three or four Youtube videos online (especially since many school districts block access to Youtube).  Since all students are assumed to be on a computer in a distance learning environment, often students have a wider field of elements to draw on.   

Equivalent learning will take place:  Even if the student in the in-person class receives more lecturing (which might be what that type of learner wants), the online student often has more access to the non-text elements.  Online students also can be guided by their instructor to the Internet libraries, which might be blocked for students in an in-class environment.  Lectures delivered online through a video or narrated powerpoint can deliver an equivalent learning experience -- while the students can't ask questions at the time of the presentation, they can email their questions and get some responses: an equivalent, though not equal process.

b.  amount of time available for learning

Some school systems measure education by the amount of time spent in class or in school activities.  Equivalent learning time is clearly available, even if the actual number is not equal.  I've spent more hours online as part of a course than I would have if I had attended an in-person class.   totaling the hours spent reading the feedback of other students to the discussions is more than the class time spent in discussions in a typical classroom.

How much of the written statements are remembered compared to the in-class questions and answers?  That should vary according to the learning style of the student.  I know that I enjoy blended courses because I can absorb the tone of voice and other elements of communication that are lost when comments are typed.  Depending on the presentation, some students deliver their questions and make answers that are understood more quickly by reading online than by sitting in class.

Again, the time spent learning might not be equal but equivalent efforts are invested in the overall course.   I appreciate online classes because I don't have to interrupt my work life to attend a course at a specific time.  that flexibility and lack of a need to drive to class makes it worth putting in roughly 50% more total time in an online class.

c. opportunities for communication (teacher with individual students and  between students).

In my own teaching I have often wanted to communicate more deeply with students in my in-person classes and often can't, because the remarks I want to make are not appropriate for a grow situation.  Often the moment passes and I don't make time to follow up with the student outside class, in part because I lack the 

in an in-person class, it is possible to interact with large groups of students more quickly, but it can be argued that an email message from the professor to students is another quick way to deliver information.   The advantage of an online class is that one-on-one interactions can be covered eventually over a week as students respond to an assignment or a request by the professor to interact with the students.

d.  assignments

Project work might be facilitated by in-person classes, but time is generally more limited than with online classes.   Digital projects, such as wikis and powerpoint presentations, can often be more thorough with online classes.  Although in-person classes have an advantage of immediacy ("Let's use that photo in place of this one"), language can often be clarified to deliver equivalent results ("let's use the red photo instead of the green one.")  Again, equivalent results although the process is not equal.   In-person classes can get projects done more quickly, perhaps, but online classes can benefit from more time being available (since partners often have more time to meet outside class)

Essential Skills (the ultimate measure of learning)

One of my mentors is part of the new school Oxbridge that is starting in West Palm Beach.   His focus is developing "essential skills" in high school students.  From that perspective, how do face-to-face learners and online learners get equivalent training in these skills?  Here's the list according to Tony Wagner of Harvard University (Meister 2010):

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence 
3. Agility and Adaptability 
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship 
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication 
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information 
7. Curiosity and Imagination 

For each of these skill areas, it is possible to think of a project ("create a school newspaper") that aims to develop the skill in either an online or a face-to-face situation.  The online experience might need different exercises within the project (such as "work as a team to layout a four-page issue" might need to be done on a website rather than on a pagesetting program or by using Microsoft Word format) to deliver the results of "acquired skill with an demonstration of mastery."   In the case of a newspaper article, the face-to-face students might prefer to use an online application like Google Documents, which would be equal to the online experience.   There are equivalent ways of demonstrating mastery (such as "giving a powerpoint presentation" in front of a class versus giving that powerpoint to a videocamera and then posting the video on Youtube) that might not be precisely the same.  In both cases a presentation is made.  The online variety might be preferred in some situations since the recording can be analyzed by teacher and student to identify areas of improvement -- more easily than using the memories of a presentation.  


Whether the format is face-to-face or online, the measure is clear:  has the course delivered all of these skills in adequate amounts?   In each of these areas, there might be differences between a distance class and an in-person class, but the results can (and Simonson points out, should) be equivalent.

Steve McCrea


Meister, D. (Jan. 4, 2010) PCHS Directors blog   "Seven Essential Skills According to Tony Wagner",

the full blog entry is below, just for your easy reference

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving 
The idea that a company’s senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside…The person who’s close to the work has to have strong analytic skills.  You have to be rigorous: test your assumptions, don’t take things at face value, don’t go in with preconceived ideas that you’re trying to prove.” - Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies 
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence 
“The biggest problem we have in the company as a whole is finding people capable of exerting leadership across the board…Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority.” – Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco 
3. Agility and Adaptability 
“I’ve been here four years, and we’ve done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business…I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.” - Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards 
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship 
“For our production and crafts staff, the hourly workers, we need self-directed people…who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems.”- Mark Maddox, Human Resources Manager at Unilever Foods North America 

5. Effective Oral and Written Communication 
“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations.  It’s a huge problem for us.” - Annmarie Neal, Vice President for Talent Management at Cisco Systems 
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information 
“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively, it almost freezes them in their steps.” - Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell 
7. Curiosity and Imagination 
“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants…but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like-he’s adding something personal-a creative element.” -Michael Jung, Senior Consultant at McKinsey and Company

Return to EDD7007
The assignment

Discussion 6:  Distance Teaching (July 3) 

For this discussion, please read Moore, chapter 24; Simonson, chapter 6; and Ko & Rossen, chapters 10-14.


Then, address ONE of the following:


1. In chapter 24 of Moore’s Handbook, Anderson and Kuskis (2007) discuss the six modes of interactions that occur in distance education. The first interaction is the Learner-Learner interaction. Citing numerous sources, the authors provide a large number of benefits that are gained through learner-learner interactions. Discuss a number of these benefits and how you have (or have not) seen them to be valid in your education. Is the learner-learner interaction different in distance education compared to when students come together in traditional school settings?

2. The Ko & Rossen readings are immensely practical and cover a great deal of territory. Please identify and discuss five items (one from each of the chapters) that you found especially interesting. How you go about this is up to you, but some directions to consider: How could you use this information in your own classroom? How do the suggested practices conform with--or not--your experiences in distance education--as learner or teacher?

3. Drawing from Simonson's chapter 6 (as well as other sources of your choice), identify the differences and commonalities of teaching at a distance versus teaching face-to-face. Approach this critically. What are common assumptions of teachers and teaching in each environment? How do these conform with practice--with "reality"?

4. In his summary of Chapter 7, Simonson notes that "learning experiences for learners should be equivalent, not necessarily equal." What is meant by this statement? Provide an example.

Some of the observations of other students (highlights that I found interesting)