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Running Head: MIDTERM EXAM

Midterm Exam By Camille T. Stegman Texas Tech University

MIDTERM EXAM Introduction Distance education is not new. Since the late 1800s, universities as renowned as the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Iowa have advocated distance learning. (Simonson, 2012). With the advent of the internet and all its functions, the world of distance learning has grown beyond its infancy and entered adolescence. There are hundreds of virtual learning platforms and educational experiences. However, distance education is far from reaching adult status. There is much growth and research needed in how distance learning can be not only as effective as classroom instruction, but also as enjoyable. There are many theories and definitions for distance education. Before debating whether or not

students construct new knowledge with this style of education, it is best to consider exactly what distance learning is and what it is not. Characteristics of Distance Learning There are several elements that are defined by Keegan as the vanguard when characterizing distance education. The teacher and learn are separated throughout the course and the students are taught as individuals rather than in groups. There is an influence of an overarching institution to plan and provide the course. There is a technical aspect for the content and delivery. A two-way communication system of some sort assists in allowing discourse for the students. (Simonson, 2012) There are other definitions that observe distance education as more expansive than Keegans view. The fast changing environment of technology, society, and media is requiring a newer definition. With the introduction social media, instant communications, cloud environments, and internet access even to the most remote locations, distance education has become the darling of

MIDTERM EXAM educational institutions. It has created a new marketplace for degrees, training, and proficiency based programs. The ability of distance learning to handle large student numbers at a relatively low cost allows institutions to operate at a profit. (Meyer, 2002) Virtual schools have grown to become a commonplace in K-12 educational sectors. (Simonson, 2012) The explosion of distance education and virtual classrooms requires a sound theory to be developed. Historical Background and Theories Theories provide people with a framework for practices. It provides an outlook and the

ability to simplify an idea. (Garrison, 2000) Wedemeyer, Peters, Holmberg, Keegan, and Moore began to consider some theories about distance learning in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. This was cultivated ideas that included independent study, transactional distance, industrialization of teaching, and interaction/communication theory. Good theory will reveal areas of inquiry and suggest potential hypotheses for the continued student and development of a fields theoretical foundation states Garrison (2000). An American theory of distance education came with the influence of new technologies. The idea of equivalent rather than identical surfaced. The opportunities and the outcomes should be similar, but do not need to be the same. (Simonson, 2012) As with all things educational, there are arguments surrounding whether or not new theories are needed for distance education. The Fordist/post-Fordist discussion is simply another form of behaviorists verses constructivists. While the neo-Fordist view tends to believe that teachers should simply deliver curriculum. This, unfortunately, is where many K-12 educators may find themselves, an automaton that monitors student performance on computer delivered software. This philosophy reduces the art of teaching to a diminutive position and is not an acceptable use of technology in the classroom or distance learning education. Students bring different amounts of background information to any given course. Some students will require

MIDTERM EXAM more independence, others will require more communication and as always, it is the instructor/facilitators job to provide what is necessary for learning to occur. This takes artistic flair, insight, and intuition; something only a human can achieve. Research Humans are communal creatures; therefore, any good social constructivist would be skeptical that distance education would be a way to build knowledge. However, with the

introduction of synchronous and asynchronous communications, a new era for distance education may have emerged. Where in the past, correspondence study would have days and weeks of time between communications, todays facilitators are able to communicate with students in mere minutes. This could produce situations where the communal construction of knowledge can be coupled with distance learning. Unfortunately, most research is being done in the area of different types of distance learning available rather than on the student learning or knowledge construction. When research is conducted in regards to student achievement, critiques often sight that it was the type of learner that chose the distance education that caused the success rather than the distance learning course. Students who tend to take distance courses are already self-motivated. Regardless of the debates, there are suggestions that irrespective of a students learning style, there is no significant difference in achievement between distance education and the traditional classroom. (Neuhauser, 2002) Conversely, student perceptions and satisfaction seem to be an area that could be important to the success of online education. The relationship between the online learning and student perceptions of the learning are taking shape. It could be that social interaction is strongly related to online learning enjoyment, effectiveness of learning and online, and the likelihood of taking another online class state

MIDTERM EXAM Muilenburg & Berge (2005). On the other hand, students who take distance education courses may simply need less interaction to find the learning enjoyable. This is an area that requires further study. Simonson believes that there are seven areas that researchers have identified as being required for student fulfillment. These include instruction/instructor, technology, course

management, site personnel, promptness, support, and communication with the instructor. (2012) Situations involving dissatisfaction by students were due to the lack of interaction with the instructor. Richardson and Swan report that the overall perceived social presence of the instructor may have contributed to the perceived learning that occurred during the course. (2003) An instructors understanding of interaction and immediacy dynamics will affect the nature and quality of communication in the online learning environment state Woods and Baker. (2004) Mazzolini and Maddison found that when an instructor posted frequently to discussion forums, the students rated their educational experience higher and felt the instructor was more of an expert. However, they did not find that instructor postings lead to deeper discussions (2003). More research is needed to truly understand the effectiveness of asynchronous communications and their relationship to distance learning. Nevertheless even with communication, it appears that there are those who find it successful and those who do not enjoy distance education. Educators have always known that motivation is important to the success of any class regardless of content, structure, or instruction. The same may be true for completers of online courses. There are specific personality and learning styles that will persist and complete an online class. Thriving learners of distance education tend to be abstract learners with internal motivation and self-control. Since not all students possess these characteristics, research should be conducted into what the average student might require to take and complete an online course; as well as what obstructions exist for institutions.

MIDTERM EXAM The barriers to the implementation of distance education courses are many. The most

important seem to be time commitment, lack of money, and organizational resistance. The items that did not seem to be a hurdle were competition with traditional courses, technological expertise, union contracts, and parental involvement. Simonson came to some conclusions that seem to be supported in the literature: Distance education is just as effective as traditional when taking into consideration the outcomes, Distance learners have a positive attitude towards online learning and that they learn as well as in a traditional setting, communication between student needs to have a purpose, collaboration seems to be important, and the technology is both a positive and negative. (2012) Communication Tools Communication is important to all learning and especially in the new age of networking and collaboration. There are two basic forms of communication, synchronous and asynchronous. The most appropriate use of a communication tool would be which one assists the student in their learning. Effective communication requires an active audience states Simonson (2012). Anyone who has ever participated in tedious lecture or seminar understands that communication is dynamic. It involves a sender, receiver, and feedback. All education should work towards reducing the noise involved in communication. This distraction can be as simple as static or come from confusing messages. Distance education is especially susceptible to noise, not only from the technological problems involved in long distance communications, but also from unclear or vague instructions by the facilitator. When your instructor is face to face with you in a classroom, a student can immediately have clarification to a question or confusion. This is not so with distance learning. Communication will take time.


While communication in distance learning may not be instantaneous, it is getting close to achieving that mode. There are many ways that distance learning can communicate with its students. For online education there are two groupings. Telecommunications, the technology that connects the instructor and classroom technologies, the technology that presents the information or lessons. While communication comes in differing forms at its basic level it is simply interaction with others in the group. There are several types of interactions that occur in an online learning situation. Interactions can be defined as occurring person to person and person to object, also known as content or information. According to Woods and Baker, Moore suggested in 1989 that they could be classified as learner-content, learner instructor, and learner-learner. However, Anderson and Garrison in 1998 felt that there were three additional forms of interaction within a distance education environment, teacher-teacher, teacher-content, and content-content interaction. (2004) Regardless of whether it is termed interaction or communication there are several ways that distance education can approach the exchange of information. Communication must be suitable for the environment and the type of instruction being given. A good constructivist understands that experiences must occur for knowledge to be built. Unfortunately, if the communication is simply for the sake of communicating, there will be little knowledge acquisition. There must be a purpose to communicating and a purpose to using which ever tool is most applicable. There are several fabulous options and more coming online every day. The opportunities for both synchronous and asynchronous settings have increase rapidly, from the older end of the spectrum there is correspondence study and the latest methods include Google Hangout and Skype. No matter the name of the latest improvements these technologies require a special set of talents and involve a learning curve to

MIDTERM EXAM become proficient. It is this area where many fail at distance education, when the technology becomes more of a deficit than a benefit; people tend to lose interest in online learning. However, when examining how people are willing to learn new social media, blog, and have interactions with strangers. Future Theories and Thoughts Communication and social interaction is the back bone of a theory called social

constructivism. This theory has many followers. An offshoot of this theory, one that may reflect this technological age is communal constructivism. This theory is where learners work together on constructing knowledge for the community; everyone working towards collaboratively accumulated understanding. Problem-based and project-based learning is geared towards communal understanding. Distance education and online learning could require a more updated version of social constructivism. Holmes et al is considering the possibility that new technologies allows for knowledge to be constructed for the good of the entire community rather than just one learner. (2001) Programs such as GLOBE, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, could be considered a communal learning if it allowed for students to communicate with each other over the data collected and uploaded. Communal constructivism is based in the concept that the group can create better knowledge as a networked community rather than a learner simply learning for one. (Holmes et al., 2001) It is in this arena that education is developing rapidly. Unfortunately, many educators, districts, universities, and communities decline to keep up with the changing technological environment. Concerns over safety protocols, expense, and effectiveness turn many away from a dynamic opportunity. (Dutton, Dutton & Perry, 2002) Instructors in higher education specifically seem to feel the need to denounce distance learning as being ineffectual and insignificant to the amazing PhDs they

MIDTERM EXAM achieved. This is shortsighted and self-important. With the dawn of communal learning, the entire world can become a learning platform. Students can individualize the areas where they need assistance on the cone of experience, whether it be doing, observing or symbolizing. (Simonson, 2012) Computer technologies assist in creating many options and opportunities for all learners; ones that cannot even be contemplated in this ever-changing hi-tech landscape.

MIDTERM EXAM References Dutton, J., Dutton, M., & Perry, J. (2002). How do online students differ from lecture students. Journal of asynchronous learning networks, 6(1), 1-20. Garrison, R. Theoretical Challenges for Distance Education in the 21st Century: A Shift from Structural to Transactional Issues. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, jun. 2000. ISSN 1492-3831. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 12 Oct. 2013. Holmes,B. Tangney, B. FitzGibbon, A. Savage,T. and Meehan, S. (2001). Communal Constructivism: Students constructing learning for as well as with others. Proceedings of SITE 2001, Florida. Liu, Y., & Ginther, D. (1999). Cognitive styles and distance education. Online journal of distance learning administration, 2(3). Mazzolini, M., & Maddison, S. (2003). Sage, guide or ghost? The effect of instructor

intervention on student participation in online discussion forums. Computers & Education, 40(3), 237-253. Meyer, K. A. (2002). Quality in distance education: Focus on on-line learning. San Francisco: Wiley Periodicals. Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student barriers to online learning: A factor analytic study. Distance education, 26(1), 29-48. Neuhauser, C. (2002). Learning style and effectiveness of online and face-to-face instruction. American Journal of Distance Education, 16(2).



Richardson, J. C., & Swan, K. (2003). Examining social presence in online courses in relation to students perceived learning and satisfaction. Journal of Asynchronous learning networks, 7(1), 68-88. Simonson, M. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Woods, R. H., & Baker, J. D. (2004). Interaction and immediacy in online learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 5(2).