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EDIT 5370 Foundations of Distance Education

Jean Pounder

Historical Perspectives and Models of Distance Education

Distance education can be described as having four parts, education is
institutionally based, there is separation of the student and teacher, and the class
is taught through interactive telecommunications, involving a sharing of data,
voice, and video learning experiences (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek,
2012). A school or university must sponsor the educational program to provide a
curriculum that is valid and legitimate. For the classes to be considered distance
education the teacher and students must be in different locations possibly
studying synchronously or asynchronously, where students have the flexibility to
learn in an environment and time of their choosing through a wide variety of
Distance learning began in the mid 1800’s with the establishment of
correspondence programs where students and teachers would communicate
through the written word by mail. With the advance of the phonograph teachers
were able to send recordings of lessons to enhance the written curriculum. Adults
with jobs and families were the original audience for distance learning (Simonson
et al., 2012). By the early 1900’s students in high school began to enter into the
realm of distance education, primarily as enrichment of the existing school
curriculum. With advancement in technology the medium for distance education
began to change, first with the addition of radio, and by the 1950’s television. Use
of television was limited until the technology development progressed and then it
was more widely used. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, as two way
communication became available through the use of the Internet schools began
to embrace the technology to aid in distance learning. As technology continues to
advance new methods of communication continue to become available for use in
education. The audience today ranges from elementary all the way through the
college level and beyond. Students in rural areas who want to take classes that
cannot financially be offered in their own school have the opportunity to take
classes at a distance and still have the options that students in a larger district
have. Adult learners who are currently employed or have families that do not
have the option of going to school and leaving their family and source of income,
still have an option for furthering their education and career.

Theories of Distance Education
According to the theories presented about distance education the learning
experiences in traditional classrooms and in distance education are not the
same, but they should be equivalent. It is impossible to have classes taught at a
distance and asynchronously to have the exact same requirements as a
traditional class. A distance learning class involves more choices in the learning
outcomes and places more responsibility on the student. Students must be highly
motivated. It provides for opportunities for life long learning and is open to many
different learning styles. It strikes me as having an essence of John Dewey’s
ideas on education that the learning is student centered and related to student
interests to develop habits of life long learning (Saltmarsh, 2008).

Research and Learning in Distance Education
As with any method in education research is required to provide evidence
for best practices and effective learning. Because technology and distance
education are expanding so quickly there is not a huge body of research to draw
upon. The following are some of the main topics that warrant more study. As
schools are developing distance or online programs they have to make sure that
the courses are well designed and based on standards they cannot focus on the
technology alone. There needs to be a strong support base in distance
education. Students often loose motivation without the face-to-face interaction
with their classmates and instructors. Collaboration is an important part of any
educational program. Finding ways for students to actively collaborate with each
other and their instructors is important in keeping the human connection which is
essential to education.

Advantages and Limitations on DL
Distance learning can be an awesome resource providing access to an
education any time and anywhere. Classes are often self paced and the
technology is becoming easier to use and access. At the same time it can be
limiting if a student does not have access to the required technology due to low
socioeconomic conditions or living in rural areas where there is limited internet
availability. Another limitation is making sure that the students know how to use
the technology often students are apprehensive about using technology
(Simonson et al., 2012).

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Tools
In order for distance learning to be effective many methods of
communication should be utilized. There are advantages and disadvantages to
both synchronous and asynchronous communication tools. Students and
teachers need to be fluent in both forms for greatest success (Lindsay & Davis,
Synchronous communication takes place when the teacher and student
are in contact with each other and receiving instantaneous feedback from each
other in real time. Lectures, discussions, and presentations can all be presented
live in a face to face format or in the case of distance learning through
teleconferencing and the web via video conferencing tools like Skype, Go
Meeting, Breeze Web Meeting and many others.
Asynchronous communication takes place in different locations at different
times. One benefit of this mode of communication is that both parties do not have
to be available at the same time, possibly on different work schedules or even in
different time zones. Some examples of tools for asynchronous communication
include, blogs, discussion boards, Google Docs and Edmodo.

Distance Learning in the Future
Many classrooms are still taught in a traditional face-to-face format, but
this format is rapidly changing and being replaced by distance learning
opportunities. Everywhere you look there are advertisements for distance
learning programs for all grade levels K-12, college and beyond. If there is
something you want to learn there is a program on the web that will teach you,
from Khan Academy to university classes. As technology continues to grow and
develop at an exponential rate the tools needed to deliver the communication
become faster and easier to use. This will create a more enriched learning
environment for students who cannot meet face-to-face with their instructors.


Lindsay, J., & Davis, V. A. (2013). Flattening Classrooms Engaging Minds. Move
to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time: Pearson.
Saltmarsh, J. (2008). Why Dewey Matters. Good Society Journal, 17(2), 63-68.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and
Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston, MA: