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Simonsons Equivalence of Learning: Theory of Distance Education

Simonsons equivalency theory describes how distance learners should receive an

equivalent, though not necessarily equal, learning experience to ensure the outcomes for both
learners will be the same (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The distance learner
and the traditional classroom learner will have difference learning experiences to learn the same
content, while these learning experiences will not be the same, the outcome or the desired end
result should be identical (Simonson et al., 2012).
Theorists are struggling to develop a unified theory for distance education as well as a
definition that can be agreed upon by most experts in the field (Simonson et al., 2012). In the
meantime, distance education is growing and not all entities who provide an education to the
distance learner are equal in their approach; therefore, a theory to help guide the developers to
producing a quality product in the form of distance education needs to be quickly formulated.
For example, Charles Wedemeyer centers his theory of distance education around a
learner who is using technology as a means to be an independent learner (Simonson et al., 2012).
While in 1981 this may have been a theory that useful for distance education, learning
independently is not necessarily a requirement of distance education. Technology has advanced
so that a distance learner can participate in group activities such as blogs and video conferencing
which make learning a more social experience that it was in the past (Simonson et al., 2012).
Brje Holmberg in 1985 developed a different theory for distance learning which
included a communication aspect (Simonson et al., 2012). This communication component
prevented the distance learner from feeling isolated and alone in their journey to become
educated (Simonson et al., 2012). This theory is quite different in that it puts a lot of focus on
the emotional needs to the student in order to be successful in a distance learning environment
than is seen the other theories (Simonson et al., 2012).
Malcolm Knowles includes the learner outcomes more than the theories previously
addressed (Simonson et al., 2012). If the objectives for the course are not met, then the program
is not meeting the needs of the learner (Simonson et al., 2012).
Hilary Perratons theory, which is actually a combination of multiple theories, is very
extensive, but in my opinion, very accurate. She addresses three key points and then elaborates
on each of them for a total of fourteen statements that make up her entire theory (Simonson et al.,
2012). The three main components include maximizing education through distance education,
need for distance learners to participate with other distance learners, and the methodology of
distance learning (Simonson et al., 2012).
While Simonsons theory is very brief and as a result is open-ended to how a person
would carry out the distance education process, Perratons is very detailed and gives the teacher
specifics as to how to develop a successful distance education course (Simonson et al., 2012).
As a person who is learning the terminology and definition of distance education, Perratons
theory is written in a more comprehensive manner for an inexperienced reader (Simonson et al.,
Simonsons theory is very brief and simple, I feel that he should elaborate and provide
specifics as to how a teacher could implement distance education, the fact that all learning should
be equivalent, provides for a source of confusion and lack of direction for educators who are
unfamiliar with the process of distance education. I also feel that Simonson could be referring to
any learner, not just technical students or non-academic students, whereas other theorists seem to
create a theory based around school age children (Simonson et al., 2012).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a
distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education,