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Distance Education: Definition and Glossary of Terms, 2nd Edition 2006 Lee Ayers Schlosser Associate Professor Southern Oregon University and Michael Simonson Program Professor Nova Southeastern University Table of Contents Preface3 Defining Distance Education4 Emerging Definitions12 A Brief History of Distance Education13 Correspondence Study14 Electronic Communications19 Distance Teaching Universities23 Theory and Distance Education25 The Need for Theory26 Theory of Independent Study—Charles Wedemeyer31 Theory of Independent Study—Michael Moore33
Theory of Industrialization of Teaching—Otto Peters35 Theory of Interaction and Communication—Borje Holmberg42 Andragogy—Malcolm Knowles48 A Synthesis of Theories—Hilary Perraton50 Equivalency Theory: An American Theory of Distance Education53 A Theoretical Framework for Distance Education—Desmond Keegan56 Summary60 References65 Additional Readings70 Glossary of Terms74 Preface3 Defining Distance Education4 Emerging Definitions12 A Brief History of Distance Education13 Correspondence Study14 Electronic Communications19 Distance Teaching Universities23
Theory and Distance Education25 The Need for Theory26 Theory of Independent Study—Charles Wedemeyer31 Theory of Independent Study—Michael Moore33 Theory of Industrialization of Teaching—Otto Peters35 Theory of Interaction and Communication—Borje Holmberg42 Andragogy—Malcolm Knowles48 A Synthesis of Theories—Hilary Perraton50 Equivalency Theory: An American Theory of Distance Education53 A Theoretical Framework for Distance Education—Desmond Keegan56 Summary60 References65 Additional Readings70 Glossary of Terms74 Preface
Distance Education has become a major topic of interest in the field of educational communications and technology. In response to this interest, the Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) published the first edition of Distance Education: Definition and Glossary of Terms in 2002. The second edition of this monograph was begun in 2005. While the definition of distance education was changed only slightly, the glossary of terms was updated significantly under the supervision of Joann Flick and members of AECT’s Division of Distance Learning.
The definition offered in this second edition is based on background work published in Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education, 3rd. Edition (2006). Defining Distance Education Distance education is defined as institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors (Simonson, 2006). Four main components comprise this definition (Figure 1). First is the concept that distance education is institutionally-based.
This is what differentiates distance education from self-study. Whereas the institution referred to in this definition could be a traditional educational school or college, increasingly there are emerging nontraditional institutions that offer education to students at a distance. Businesses, companies, and corporations are offering instruction at a distance. Many educators and trainers are advocating the accreditation of institutions that offer distance education to add credibility, improve quality, and eliminate diploma mills.
The second component of the definition of distance education is the concept of separation of the teacher and student. Most often, separation is thought of in geographic terms—teachers are in one location and students in another. Also implied by the definition is the separation of teachers and students in time. Asynchronous distance education means that instruction is offered and students access it at separate times, or anytime it is convenient to them. Finally, intellectual separation of teachers and learners is important. Obviously, teachers have an understanding of the concepts presented in a course that students do not possess.
In this case, the reduction of separation is a goal of the distance education system. Interactive telecommunications is the third component of the definition of distance education. Interaction can be synchronous or asynchronous—at the same time, or at different times. Interaction is critical, but not at the expense of content. In other words, it is important that learners be able to interact with each other, with resources of instruction, and with their teacher. However, interaction should not be the primary characteristic of instruction but should be available, commonplace, and relevant.
The words “ telecommunications systems” implies electronic media, such as television, telephone, and the Internet, but this term need not be limited to only electronic media. Telecommunications is defined as “ communicating at a distance. ” This definition includes communication with the postal system, as in correspondence study, and other nonelectronic methods for communication. Clearly, as electronic telecommunications systems improve and become more pervasive, they likely will be the mainstay of modern distance education systems. However, older, less sophisticated systems of telecommunication will continue to be important.
Finally, we examine the concept of connecting learners, resources, and instructors. This means that there are instructors who interact with learners and that resources are available that permit learning to occur. Resources should be subjected to instructional design procedures that organize them into learning experiences that promote learning, including resources that can be observed, felt, heard, or completed. The definition of distance education includes these four components. If one or more are missing, then the event is something different, if only slightly, than distance education.
This definition is not the only one and certainly is not the first offered for distance education. As a matter of fact, distance education has been defined from a number of perspectives over the years. For example, Rudolf Manfred Delling stated in general that distance education is a planned and systematic activity that comprises the choice, didactic preparation and presentation of teaching materials as well as the supervision and support of student learning and which is achieved by bridging the physical distance between student and teacher by means of at least one appropriate technical medium.
For Hilary Perraton (1988), distance education is an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone removed in space and/or time from the learner. The U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement defines distance education as “ the application of telecommunications and electronic devices which enable students and learners to receive instruction that originates from some distant location. “
Typically, the learner may interact with the instructor or program directly, and may meet with the instructor on a periodic basis. Greville Rumble (1989) offered a definition of distance education. He noted that, in any distance education process, there must be: a teacher; one or more students; a course or curriculum that the teacher is capable of teaching and the student is trying to learn; and a contract, implicit or explicit, between the student and the teacher or the institution employing the teacher, which acknowledges their respective teaching-learning roles. Distance education is a method of education in which the learner is physically separate from the teacher. It may be used on its own, or in conjunction with other forms of education, including face-to-face. In distance education, learners are physically separated from the institution that sponsors the instruction. • The teaching/learning contract requires that the student be taught, assessed, given guidance and, where appropriate, prepared for examinations that may or may not be conducted by the institution. This must be accomplished by two-way communication.
Learning may be undertaken individually or in groups; in either case, it is accomplished in the physical absence of the teacher. For Desmond Keegan (1986), the following four definitions were central to an attempt to identify the elements of a single, unifying definition of distance education: The French government, as part of a law passed in 1971, defined distance education as education which either does not imply the physical presence of the teacher appointed to dispense it in the place where it is received or in which the teacher is present only on occasion or for selected tasks. According to Borje Holmberg, distance education covers the various forms of study at all levels which are not under the continuous, immediate supervision of tutors present with their students in lecture rooms or on the same premises but which, nevertheless, benefit from the planning, guidance and teaching of a supporting organization. • Otto Peters emphasized the role of technology, saying that distance teaching/education (Fernunterricht) is a method of imparting knowledge, skills and attitudes.
It is rationalized by the application of division of labor and organizational principles as well as by the extensive use of technical media, especially for the purpose of reproducing high quality teaching material which makes it possible to instruct great numbers of students at the same time wherever they live. It is an industrialized form of teaching and learning. For Michael Moore, the related concept of “ distance teaching” was defined as the family of instructional methods in which the teaching behaviors are executed apart from the learning behaviors, including those that in a contiguous situation would be performed in the learner’s presence, so that communication between the teacher and the learner must be facilitated by print, electronic, mechanical or other devices. Keegan identified five main elements of these definitions, using them to compose a comprehensive definition of distance education. . The quasi-permanent separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the learning process (this distinguishes it from conventional face-to-face education). 2. The influence of an educational organization both in the planning and preparation of learning materials and in the provision of student support services (this distinguishes it from private study and teach-yourself programs). 3. The use of technical media—print, audio, video or computer—to unite teacher and learner and carry the content of the course. 4.
The provision of two-way communication so that the student may benefit from or even initiate dialogue (this distinguishes it from other uses of technology in education). 5. The quasi-permanent absence of the learning group throughout the length of the learning process so that people are usually taught as individuals and not in groups, with the possibility of occasional meetings for both didactic and socialization purposes. Garrison and Shale (1987) argued that, in light of advances in distance education delivery technologies, Keegan’s definition was too narrow and did not correspond to the existing reality to future possibilities.
Although declining to offer a definition of distance education, Garrison and Shale offered the following three criteria they regarded as essential for characterizing the distance education process: 1. Distance education implies that the majority of educational communication between (among) teacher and student(s) occurs noncontiguously. 2. Distance education must involve two-way communication between (among) teacher and student(s) for the purpose of facilitating and supporting the educational process. 3. Distance education uses technology to mediate the necessary two-way communication.
Keegan’s definition and the definitions preceding it define the traditional view of distance education. Rapid changes in society and technology are challenging these traditional definitions. Emerging Definitions The contemporary period is often characterized as one of unpredictable change. Globalization, brought on by supersonic air travel, satellite television, computer communications, and societal changes, has inspired new ways of looking at distance education. Edwards (1995) uses the term open learning to describe a new way of looking at education in a quickly changing and diverse world.
He indicates that distance education and open learning are two distinct approaches to education. Although he does not define the two, he states that distance education provides distance learning opportunities using mass-produced courseware to a mass market. In contrast, open learning places greater emphasis on the current specific needs and/or markets available by recognizing local requirements and differences instead of delivering an established curriculum. Open learning shifts from mass production and mass consumption to a focus on local and individual needs and requirements.
Edwards states that this can occur outside of the traditional organization of education. This is a major difference between his description of open learning and the previous definitions of distance education. A Brief History of Distance Education Distance education seems a new idea to most educators of today. However, the concepts that form the basis of distance education are more than a century old. Certainly, distance education has experienced growth and change recently, but the long traditions of the field continue to give it direction for the future.
This section offers a brief history of distance education, from correspondence study, to electronic communications, to distance teaching universities. Correspondence Study The roots of distance education are at least 160 years old. An advertisement in a Swedish newspaper in 1833 touted the opportunity to study “ Composition through the medium of the Post. ” In 1840, England’s newly established penny post allowed Isaac Pitman to offer shorthand instruction via correspondence. Three years later, instruction was formalized with the founding of the Phonographic Correspondence Society, precursor of Sir Isaac Pitman’s Correspondence Colleges.
Distance education, in the form of correspondence study, was established in Germany by Charles Toussaint and Gustav Langenscheidt, who taught language in Berlin. Correspondence study crossed the Atlantic in 1873 when Anna Eliot Ticknor founded a Boston-based society to encourage study at home. The Society to Encourage Studies at Home attracted more than 10, 000 students in 24 years. Students of the classical curriculum (mostly women) corresponded monthly with teachers, who offered guided readings and frequent tests.
From 1883 to 1891, academic degrees were authorized by the state of New York through the Chautauqua College of Liberal Arts to students who completed the required summer institutes and correspondence courses. William Rainey Harper, the Yale professor who headed the program, was effusive in his support of correspondence study, and confident in the future viability of the new educational form: The student who has prepared a certain number of lessons in the correspondence school knows more of the subject treated in those lessons, and knows it better, than the student who has covered the same ground in the classroom.
The day is coming when the work done by correspondence will be greater in amount than that done in the classrooms of our academies and colleges; when the students who shall recite by correspondence will far outnumber those who make oral recitations. In 1891, Thomas J. Foster, editor of the Mining Herald, a daily newspaper in eastern Pennsylvania, began offering a correspondence course in mining and the prevention of mine accidents. His business developed into the International Correspondence Schools, a commercial school whose enrollment exploded in the first two decades of the 20th century, from 225, 000 in 1900 to more than 2 million in 1920.
In 1886, H. S. Hermod, of Sweden, began teaching English by correspondence. In 1898, he founded Hermod’s, which would become one of the world’s largest and most influential distance teaching organizations. Correspondence study continued to develop in Britain with the founding of a number of correspondence institutions, such as Skerry’s College in Edinburgh in 1878 and University Correspondence College in London in 1887. At the same time, the university extension movement in the United States and England promoted the correspondence method.
Among the pioneers in the field were Illinois Wesleyan in 1877 and the University Extension Department of the University of Chicago in 1892. Illinois Wesleyan offered bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees as part of a program modeled on the Oxford, Cambridge, and London model. Between 1881 and 1890, 750 students were enrolled; and in 1900, nearly 500 students were seeking degrees. However, concerns about the quality of the program prompted a recommendation that it be terminated by 1906. Correspondence study was integral to the University of Chicago.
The school, founded in 1890, created a university extension as one of its five divisions, the first such division in an American university. The extension division was divided into five departments: lecture study, class study, correspondence teaching, library, and training. The correspondence study department of the University of Chicago was successful, at least in terms of numbers. Each year, 125 instructors taught 3, 000 students enrolled in 350 courses. Nevertheless, enthusiasm within the university for the program waned, partly for financial reasons.
At the University of Wisconsin, the development of the “ short course” and farmers’ institutes in 1885 formed the foundation for university extension. Six years later, the university announced a program of correspondence study led by the eminent historian, Frederick Jackson Turner. However, as at the University of Chicago, faculty interest waned. Further, public response was minimal, and the correspondence study program was discontinued in 1899. Correspondence study would have to wait another 7 years to be reborn under a new, stronger, correspondence study department within the school’s university extension division.
Moody Bible Institute, founded in 1886, formed a correspondence department in 1901 that continues today with a record of over 1 million enrollments from all over the world. Correspondence study/distance education has had a significant impact on religious education that emphasizes the social context within which a student lives. Distance education began to enrich the secondary school curriculum in the 1920s. Students in Benton Harbor, Michigan, were offered vocational courses in 1923, and 6 years later, the University of Nebraska began experimenting with correspondence courses in high schools.
In France, the Ministry of Education set up a government correspondence college in response to the impending Second World War. Although the Centre National d’Enseignement par Correspondences was established for the education of children, it has since become a huge distance teaching organization for adult education. The original target groups of distance education efforts were adults with occupational, social, and family commitments. This remains the primary target group today. Distance education provided the opportunity to widen intellectual horizons, as well as the chance to improve and update professional knowledge.
Further, it stressed individuality of learning and flexibility in both the time and place of study. Two philosophies of distance education became identifiable. The full liberalism of programs offered by Hermod’s, in Sweden, emphasized the free pacing of progress through the program by the student. Other programs, such as those offered by the University of Chicago, offered a more rigid schedule of weekly lessons. Electronic Communications Europe experienced a steady expansion of distance education, without radical changes in structure, but with gradually more sophisticated methods and media employed.
Audio recordings were used in instruction for the blind and in language teaching for all students. Laboratory kits were used in such subjects as electronics and radio engineering. Virtually all large-scale distance teaching organizations were private correspondence schools. In the United States, advances in electronic communications technology helped determine the dominant medium of distance education. In the 1920s, at least 176 radio stations were constructed at educational institutions, although most were gone by the end of the decade.
The surviving stations were mostly at land grant colleges. In the early 1930s, experimental television teaching programs were produced at the University of Iowa, Purdue University, and Kansas State College. However, it was not until the 1950s that college credit courses were offered via broadcast television: Western Reserve University was the first to offer a continuous series of such courses, beginning in 1951. Sunrise Semester was a well-known televised series of college courses offered by New York University on CBS from 1957 to 1982.
Satellite technology, developed in the 1960s and made cost-effective in the 1980s, enabled the rapid spread of instructional television. Federally funded experiments in the United States and Canada, such as the Appalachian Education Satellite Project (1974–1975), demonstrated the feasibility of satellite-delivered instruction. However, these early experiments were loudly criticized for being poorly planned. More recent attempts at satellite-delivered distance education have been more successful. The first state educational satellite system, Learn/Alaska, was created in 1980.
It offered 6 hours of instructional television daily to 100 villages, some of them accessible only by air. The privately operated TI-IN Network, of San Antonio, Texas, has delivered a wide variety of courses via satellite to high schools across the United States since 1985. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the development of fiber-optic communication systems allowed for the expansion of live, two-way, high-quality audio and video systems in education. Whereas the initial cost of fiber-optic systems may be high, the long-term savings and benefits of the technology outweigh the initial costs.
Many now consider fiber-optic delivery systems as the least expensive option for the high-quality, two-way audio and video required for live two-way interactive distance education. Iowa has the largest statewide fiber-optic system. Currently, the Iowa Communications Network (ICN) provides full-motion, two-way interactive video, data (Internet), and voice services to over 600 Iowa classrooms. In the near future, all school districts, area education agencies, and public libraries in Iowa will have classrooms connected to the fiber-optics of the ICN.
The ICN also serves as the backbone for computer telecommunications, and asynchronous, Internet-based programs are being offered to distant learners. Over 100, 000 hours of formal educational opportunities were offered during the first 18 months of the network’s service. Recently, 100, 000 hours were being offered every month. Distance education opportunities are quickly growing through the use of computer-mediated communications. Tens of thousands of networks are connected to the Internet, with millions of people using the Internet worldwide (Ackermann, 1995).
Both credit and noncredit courses have been offered over computer networks since the mid-1980s. In most cases, a teacher organizes the course materials, readings, and assignments. The students read the material, complete assignments, and participate in online discussions with other classmates. The advent of computer conferencing capabilities has had an impact on the traditional approach to the design of distance education instruction. Computer conferencing increases the potential for interaction and collaborative work among the students. This type of collaboration among students was difficult with previous forms of distance education.
In addition, computer networks are a convenient way to distribute course materials to students around the world. Many faculty members now use the convenient user interface of the World Wide Web to make course materials available to their students. The British Open University, Fern Universitat of Germany, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands are some of the leading providers of online courses in Europe. In the United States, the American Open University, Nova Southeastern University, and the University of Phoenix have been traditional leaders in providing distance education.
They, along with many other universities, now offer hundreds of courses online. Distance Teaching Universities The 1962 decision that the University of South Africa would become a distance teaching university brought about a fundamental change in the way distance education was practiced in much of the world. Another landmark was the founding, in 1971, of the Open University of the United Kingdom, a degree-giving distance teaching university offering full degree programs, sophisticated courses, and the innovative use of media (Holmberg, 1986).
The Open University brought heightened prestige to distance education and spurred the establishment of similar institutions in industrial nations such as West Germany, Japan, and Canada, as well as in such lesser-developed nations as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Although the distance teaching universities shared numerous similarities, they were not identical in their mission or practice. Two of the largest and most influential, the Open University of the United Kingdom and the German Fern Universitat, differ widely.
The British school favors employed, part-time students of above-normal study age, and allows them to enroll without formal entrance qualifications. By 1984, some 69, 000 of its students had completed work for the bachelor of arts degree. The German Fern Universitat, founded in 1975, offers a more rigorous program than its British counterpart. Despite strict, formal entrance requirements, it had 28, 000 students in 1985. However, the dropout rate is very high, and in its first decade, only 500 students completed the full curricula for a university degree.
Holmberg (1986) offers numerous political, economic, and educational reasons for the founding of distance teaching universities, including: • The need felt in many countries to increase the offerings of university education generally • A realization that adults with jobs, family responsibilities, and social commitments form a large group of prospective part-time university students • A wish to serve both individuals and society by offering study opportunities to adults, among them disadvantaged groups • The need found in many professions for further training at an advanced level • A wish to support educational innovation A belief in the feasibility of an economical use of educational resources by mediated teaching Theory and Distance Education Most students, and many teachers, cringe at the thought of a discussion of theory. This need not be the case. This section is designed not to intimidate or to bore, but to inform. Theory is important to the study of distance education because it directly impacts the practice of the field. Traditionally, theories of distance education have come from sources external to America. Recently, the field in the United States has matured to the point where indigenous definitions and theories have begun to emerge.
The Need for Theory Although forms of distance education have existed since the 1840s and attempts at theoretical explanations of distance education had been undertaken by leading scholars in the field, the need for a theory base of distance education was still largely unfulfilled in the 1970s. Holmberg (1985) stated that further theoretical considerations would contribute results that will give distance educators a firmly based theory, a touchstone against which decisions can be made with confidence.
In 1986, Holmberg continued to recognize the need for theoretical considerations. One consequence of such understanding and explanation will be that hypotheses can be developed and submitted to falsification attempts. This will lead to insights telling us what in distance education is to be expected under what conditions and circumstances, thus paving the way for corroborated practical methodological application. (p. 3) Moore (1994) was concerned that the progress of distance education would be hindered by the lack of attention to what he called the “ macro factors. He indicated that in this area of education there was a need to describe and define the field, to discriminate between the various components of the field, and to identify the critical elements of the various forms of learning and teaching. Keegan (1988) implied the continued need for a theory of distance education when he lamented the lack of it. Lack of accepted theory has weakened distance education: there has been a lack of identity, a sense of belonging to the periphery and the lack of a touchstone against which decisions on methods, on media, on financing, on student support, when they have to be made, can be made with confidence (p. 3). More recently, Keegan stated his ideas about what the theory should encompass. According to Keegan, a firmly based theory of distance education will be one which can provide the touchstone against which decisions—political, financial, educational, social—when they have to be made can be made with confidence. This would replace the ad hoc response to a set of conditions that arises in some “ crisis” situation of problem solving, which normally characterizes this field of education.
In a general sense, theory is taken to mean a set of hypotheses logically related to one another in explaining and predicting occurrences. Holmberg (1985) stated the following: the aim of the theoretician is to find explanatory theories; that is to say, the theories that describe certain structural properties of the world, and which permit us to deduce, with the help of initial conditions, the effects to be explained. . . . Theoretical, to bring explanation, on the other hand practical, to provide for application or technology (p. 5). Keegan added (1995):
A theory is something that eventually can be reduced to a phrase, a sentence or a paragraph and which, while subsuming all the practical research, gives the foundation on which the structures of need, purpose and administration can be erected. (p. 20) In 1995 Holmberg gave a more specific definition of the concept of theory. He stated that a theory means: a systematic ordering of ideas about the phenomenon of our field of inquiry and an overarching logical structure of reasoned suppositions which can generate intersubjectively testable hypotheses (p. ). Holmberg suggested that distance education has been characterized by a trial-and-error approach with little consideration being given to a theoretical basis for decision making. He suggested that the theoretical underpinnings of distance education are fragile. Most efforts in this field have been practical or mechanical and have concentrated on the logistics of the enterprise. To some, distance education represents a deviation from conventional education. Holmberg claimed it was a distinct form of education.
Keegan (1986) concluded that distance education is a distinct field of education, parallel to and a complement of conventional education. Shale (1988) countered that all of what constitutes the process of education when teacher and student are able to meet face-to-face also constitutes the process of education when the teacher and student are physically separated. Cropley and Kahl (1983) compared and contrasted distance education and face-to-face education in terms of psychological dimensions and claimed neither set of principles emerged in a pure form.
Peters (1988) strongly stated that: Anyone professionally involved in education is compelled to presume the existence of two forms of instruction which are strictly separable: traditional face-to-face teaching based on interpersonal communication and industrialized teaching, which is based on objectivized, rationalized technologically-produced interaction (p. 20). In his landmark work, The Foundations of Distance Education, Keegan (1986) classified theories of distance education into three groups: • Theories of independence and autonomy Theories of industrialization of teaching • Theories of interaction and communication A fourth category seeks to explain distance education in a synthesis of existing theories of communication and diffusion, as well as philosophies of education. Theory of Independent Study—Charles Wedemeyer For Wedemeyer (1981), the essence of distance education was the independence of the student. This was reflected in his preference for the term independent study for distance education at the college or university level. Wedemeyer was critical of contemporary patterns of higher education.
He believed that outdated concepts of learning and teaching were being employed, and that they failed to utilize modern technologies in ways that could alter the institution. Wedemeyer set forth a system with 10 characteristics emphasizing learner independence and adoption of technology as a way to implement that independence. According to Wedemeyer, the system should do the following: 1. Be capable of operation anyplace where there are students—or even only one student—whether or not there are teachers at the same place at the same time 2. Place greater responsibility for learning on the student 3.
Free faculty members from custodial-type duties so that more time can be given to truly educational tasks 4. Offer students and adults wider choices (more opportunities) in courses, formats, and methodologies 5. Use, as appropriate, all the teaching media and methods that have been proved effective 6. Mix media and methods so that each subject or unit within a subject is taught in the best way known 7. Cause the redesign and development of courses to fit into an “ articulated media program” 8. Preserve and enhance opportunities for adaptation to individual differences 9.
Evaluate student achievement simply, not by raising barriers concerned with the place, rate, method, or sequence of student study 10. Permit students to start, stop, and learn at their own pace Wedemeyer proposed separating teaching from learning as a way of breaking education’s “ space-time barriers. ” He suggested six characteristics of independent study systems: 1. The student and teacher are separated. 2. The normal processes of teaching and learning are carried out in writing or through some other medium. 3. Teaching is individualized. 4. Learning takes place through the student’s activity. 5.
Learning is made convenient for the student in his or her own environment. 6. The learner takes responsibility for the pace of his or her own progress, with freedom to start and stop at any time. Wedemeyer noted four elements of every teaching-learning situation: a teacher, a learner or learners, a communications system or mode, and something to be taught or learned. He proposed a reorganization of these elements that would accommodate physical space and allow greater learner freedom. Key to the success of distance education, Wedemeyer believed, was the development of the relationship between student and teacher.
Theory of Independent Study—Michael Moore Formulated in the early 1970s, Moore’s theory of distance education, which he calls “ independent study,” is a classification method for distance education programs. Shaped in part by Moore’s adult education and university extension experience, it examines two variables in educational programs: the amount of learner autonomy and the distance between teacher and learner. For Moore, distance is composed of two elements, each of which can be measured. First is the provision for two-way communication (dialog).
Some systems or programs offer greater amounts of two-way communication than others. Second is the extent to which a program is responsive to the needs of the individual learner (structure). Some programs are very structured, while others are very responsive to the needs and goals of the individual student. In the second part of his theory, Moore addresses learner autonomy. He notes that in traditional school settings, learners are very dependent on teachers for guidance, and that in most programs, conventional and distance, the teacher is active, while the student is passive.
In distance education, there is a gap between teacher and student, so the student must accept a high degree of responsibility for the conduct of the learning program. The autonomous learner needs little help from the teacher, who may be more of a respondent than a director. Some adult learners, however, require help formulating their learning objectives, identifying sources of information and measuring objectives. Moore classifies distance education programs as “ autonomous” (learner-determined) or “ nonautonomous” (teacher-determined), and gauges the degree of autonomy accorded the learner by answers to the following three questions: 1.
Is the selection of learning objectives in the program the responsibility of the learner or of the teacher (autonomy in setting of objectives)? 2. Is the selection and use of resource persons, of bodies and other media, the decision of the teacher or the learner (autonomy in methods of study)? 3. Are the decisions about the method of evaluation and criteria to be used made by the learner or the teacher (autonomy in evaluation)? Theory of Industrialization of Teaching—Otto Peters
In a major treatise on education, Otto Peters of Germany developed a view of distance education as an industrialized form of teaching and learning. He examined a research base that included an extensive analysis of the distance teaching organizations of the 1960s. This led him to propose that distance education could be analyzed by comparing it with the industrial production of goods. He stated that from many points of view, conventional, oral, group-based education was a preindustrial form of education. His statement implied that distance teaching could not have existed before the industrial era.
Using economic and industrial theory, Peters proposed the following new categories (terminology) for the analysis of distance education: • Rationalization. The use of methodical measures to reduce the required amount of input of power, time, and money. In distance education, ways of thinking, attitudes, and procedures can be found, which only established themselves in the wake of an increased rationalization in the industrialization of production processes. • Division of labor. The division of a task into simpler components or subtasks.
In distance education, the tasks of conveying information, counseling, assessment, and recording performance are performed by separate individuals. To Peters, the division of labor is the main prerequisite for the advantages of distance education to become effective. • Mechanization. The use of machines in a work process. Distance education, Peters noted, would be impossible without machines. Duplicating machines and transport systems are prerequisites, and later forms of distance teaching have the additional facilities of modern means of communication and electronic data processing installations. Assembly line. Commonly, a method of work in which workers remain stationary, while objects they are working on move past them. In traditional distance education programs, materials for both teacher and student are not the product of an individual. Rather, instructional materials are designed, printed, stored, distributed, and graded by specialists. • Mass production. The production of goods in large quantities. Peters noted that because demand outstrips supply at colleges and universities, there has been a trend toward large-scale operations not entirely consistent with traditional forms of academic teaching.
Mass production of distance education courses, however, can enhance quality. Peters believed that the large number of courses produced forced distance teaching organizations to analyze the requirements of potential distance learners far more carefully than in conventional teaching and to improve the quality of the courses. • Preparatory work. Determining how workers, machines, and materials can usefully relate to each other during each phase of the production process. Peters believed that the success of distance education depended decisively on a preparatory phase.
The preparatory phase concerns the development of the distance study course involving experts in the various specialist fields with qualifications often higher than those of other teachers involved in distance study. • Planning. The system of decisions which determines an operation prior to it being carried out. Peters noted that planning was important in the development phase of distance education, as the contents of correspondence units, from the first to the last, must be determined in detail, adjusted in relation to each other, and represented in a predetermined number of correspondence units.
The importance of planning is even greater when residential study is a component of a distance education program. • Organization. Creating general or permanent arrangements for purpose-oriented activity. Peters noted the relationship between rational organization and effectiveness of the teaching method. Organization makes it possible for students to receive exactly predetermined documents at appointed times, for an appropriate university teacher to be immediately available for each assignment sent in, and for consultations to take place at fixed locations at fixed times.
Organization, Peters pointed out, was optimized in large distance education programs. • Scientific control methods. The methods by which work processes are analyzed systematically, particularly by time studies, and in accordance with the results obtained from measurements and empirical data. The work processes are tested and controlled in their elementary details in a planned way, in order to increase productivity, all the time making the best possible use of working time and the staff available.
In distance education, some institutions hire experts to apply techniques of scientific analysis to the evaluation of courses. • Formalization. The predetermination of the phases of the manufacturing process. In distance education, all the points in the cycle, from student, to distance teaching establishment, to the academics allocated, must be determined exactly. • Standardization. The limitations of manufacture to a restricted number of types of one product, in order to make these more suitable for their purpose, cheaper to produce, and easier to replace.
In distance education, not only is the format of correspondence units standardized, so are the stationery for written communication between student and lecturer, the organizational support, and also the academic content. • Change of function. The change of the role or job of the worker in the production process. In distance education, change of function is evident in the role of the lecturer. The original role of provider of knowledge in the form of the lecturer is split into that of study unit author and that of marker; the role of counselor is allocated to a particular person or position.
Frequently, the original role of lecturer is reduced to that of a consultant whose involvement in distance teaching manifests itself in periodically recurrent contributions. • Objectification. The loss, in the production process, of the subjective element that was used to determine work to a considerable degree. In distance education, most teaching functions are objectified as they are determined by the distance study course as well as technical means.
Only in written communication with the distance learner or possibly in a consultation or the brief additional face-to-face events on campus has the teacher some individual scope left for subjectively determined variants in teaching method. • Concentration and centralization. Because of the large amounts of capital required for mass production and the division of labor, there has been a trend to large industrial concerns with a concentration of capital, a centralized administration, and a market that is monopolized. Peters noted the trend toward distance education institutions serving very large numbers of students.
The Open University of the United Kingdom, for instance, recently had more than 70, 000 students. It is more economical to establish a small number of such institutions serving a national population, rather than a larger number of institutions serving regional populations. Peters concluded that for distance teaching to become effective, the principle of the division of labor is a constituent element of distance teaching. The teaching process in his theory of industrialization is gradually restructured through increasing mechanization and automation.
He noted that: • The development of distance study courses is just as important as the preparatory work—taking place prior to the production process. • The effectiveness of the teaching process particularly depends on planning and organization. • Courses must be formalized and expectations from students standardized. • The teaching process is largely objectified. • The function of academics teaching at a distance has changed considerably vis-a-vis university teachers in conventional teaching. Distance study can only be economical with a concentration of the available resources and a centralized administration. According to Peters, within the complex overall distance teaching activity, one area has been exposed to investigation that had been regularly omitted from traditional analysis. New concepts were used to describe new facts that merit attention. He did not deny a theory of the industrialization of teaching had disadvantages, but in any exploration of teaching, the industrial structures characteristic of distance teaching need to be taken into account in decision making.
Theory of Interaction and Communication—Borje Holmberg Holmberg’s theory of distance education, what he calls guided didactic conversation, falls into the general category of communication theory. Holmberg noted that his theory had explanatory value in relating teaching effectiveness to the impact of feelings of belonging and cooperation as well as to the actual exchange of questions, answers, and arguments in mediated communication. Holmberg offers seven background assumptions for his theory: 1.
The core of teaching is interaction between the teaching and learning parties; it is assumed that simulated interaction through subject matter presentation in preproduced courses can take over part of the interaction by causing students to consider different views, approaches, and solutions and generally interact with a course. 2. Emotional involvement in the study and feelings of personal relation between the teaching and learning parties are likely to contribute to learning pleasure. 3. Learning pleasure supports student motivation. . Participation in decision making concerning the study is favorable to student motivation. 5. Strong student motivation facilitates learning. 6. A friendly, personal tone and easy access to the subject matter contribute to learning pleasure, support student motivation, and thus facilitate learning from the presentations of preproduced courses, i. e. , from teaching in the form of one-way traffic simulating interaction, as well as from didactic communication in the form of two-way traffic between the teaching and learning parties. . The effectiveness of teaching is demonstrated by students’ learning of what has been taught. These assumptions, Holmberg (1986) believes, are the basis of the essential teaching principles of distance education. From these assumptions he formed his theory that distance teaching will support student motivation, promote learning pleasure and make the study relevant to the individual learner and his or her needs, creating feelings of rapport between the learner and the distance-education institution (its tutors, counselors, etc. , facilitating access to course content, engaging the learner in activities, discussions and decisions and generally catering for helpful real and simulated communication to and from the learner. Holmberg himself notes that this is admittedly a leaky theory. However, he adds, it is not devoid of explanatory power: it does, in fact, indicate essential characteristics of effective distance education. In 1995, Holmberg significantly broadened his theory of distance education. His new comprehensive theory of distance education is divided into eight parts.
This expanded theory encompasses the theory just stated above, plus these additions: • Distance education serves individual learners who cannot or do not want to make use of face-to-face teaching. These learners are very heterogeneous. • Distance education means learners no longer have to be bound by decisions made by others about place of study, division of the year into study terms and vacations, timetables, and entry requirements. Distance education thus promotes students’ freedom of choice and independence. • Society benefits from distance education, on the one and, from the liberal study opportunities it affords individual learners, and, on the other hand, from the professional/occupational training it provides. • Distance education is an instrument for recurrent and lifelong learning and for free access to learning opportunities and equity. • All learning concerned with the acquisition of cognitive knowledge and cognitive skills as well as affective learning and some psychomotor learning are effectively provided for by distance education. Distance education may inspire metacognitive approaches. • Distance education is based on deep learning as an individual activity.
Learning is guided and supported by noncontiguous means. Teaching and learning rely on mediated communication, usually based on preproduced courses. • Distance education is open to behaviorist, cognitive, constructivist, and other modes of learning. It has an element of industrialization with division of labor, use of mechanical devices, electronic data processing, and mass communication, usually based on preproduced courses. • Personal relations, study pleasure, and empathy between students and those supporting them (tutors, counselors, etc. ) are central to learning in distance education.
Feelings of empathy and belonging promote students’ motivation to learn and influence the learning favorably. Such feelings are conveyed by students being engaged in decision making; by lucid, problem-oriented conversation-like presentations of learning matter that may be anchored in existing knowledge; by friendly, noncontiguous interaction between students and tutors, counselors, and others supporting them; and by liberal organizational-administrative structures and processes. • While it is an effective mode of training, distance education runs the risk of leading to mere fact learning and reproduction of accepted “ truths. However, it can be organized and carried out in such a way that students are encouraged to search, criticize, and identify positions of their own. It thus serves conceptual learning, problem learning, and genuinely academic ends. In summary, the above represents, on the one hand, a description of distance education and, on the other hand, a theory from which hypotheses are generated and which has explanatory power in that it identifies a general approach favorable to learning and to the teaching efforts conducive to learning. Andragogy—Malcolm Knowles
Most do now consider Knowles’s work to be a theory of distance education; it is relevant because most often adults are involved in distance education, and andragogy deals with frameworks for programs designed for the adult learner. At its core is the idea that “ the attainment of adulthood is concomitant on adults’ coming to perceive themselves as self-directing individuals” (Brookfield, 1986). Knowles spent a career formulating a theory of adult learning based on research and experience related to the characteristics of the adult learner (Knowles, 1990).
The andragogical process consists of seven elements: 1. The establishment of a climate conducive to adult learning, that includes a physical environment which is conducive to the physical well being of the adult learner, and a psychological environment that provides for a feeling of mutual respect, collaborativeness, trust, openness, and authenticity. 2. The creation of an organizational structure for participatory learning that includes planning groups where learners provide input about what is to be learned, and options regarding learning activities. 3.
The diagnosis of needs for learning that includes differentiating between felt needs and ascribed needs. 4. The formulation of directions for learning that includes objectives with terminal behaviors to be achieved and directions for improvement of abilities. 5. The development of a design for activities that clarifies resources and strategies to accomplish objectives. 6. The development of a plan that provides evidence when objectives are accomplished. 7. The use of quantitative and qualitative evaluation that provides a rediagnosis of needs for learning.
Knowles’s andragogy suggests a number of characteristics needed in distance education systems designed for adults. For example: • The physical environment of a television classroom used by adults should be able to see what is occurring, not just hear it. • The physiological environment should be one that promotes respect and dignity for the adult learner. • Adult learners must feel supported, and when criticism is a part of discussions or presentations made by adults, it is important hat clear ground rules be established so comments are not directed toward a person, but concentrate on content and ideas. • A starting point for a course, or module of a course, should be the needs and interest of the adult learner. • Course plans should include clear course descriptions, learning objectives, resources, and timelines for events. • General to specific patterns of content presentation work best for adult learners. • Active participation should be encouraged, such as by the use of work groups, or study teams. A Synthesis of Theories—Hilary Perraton
Perraton’s theory of distance education is composed of elements from existing theories of communication and diffusion, as well as philosophies of education. It is expressed in the form of 14 statements, or hypotheses. The first 5 of these statements listed below concern the way distance teaching can be used to maximize education: • You can use any medium to teach anything. • Distance teaching can break the integuments of fixed staffing ratios that limited the expansion of education when teacher and student had to be in the same place at the same time. There are circumstances under which distance teaching can be cheaper than orthodox education, whether measured in terms of audience reached or of learning. • The economies achievable by distance education are functions of the level of education, size of audience, choice of media, and sophistication of production. • Distance teaching can reach audiences who would not be reached by ordinary means. The following 4 statements address the need to increase dialog: • It is possible to organize distance teaching in such a way that there is dialog. Where a tutor meets distance students face-to-face, the tutor’s role is changed from that of a communicator of information to that of a facilitator of learning. • Group discussion is an effective method of learning when distance teaching is used to bring relevant information to the group. • In most communities, resources are available that can be used to support distance learning to its educational and economic advantage. The final 5 statements deal with method: • A multimedia program is likely to be more effective than one that relies on a single medium. A systems approach is helpful in planning distance education. • Feedback is a necessary part of a distance learning system. • To be effective, distance teaching materials should ensure that students undertake frequent and regular activities over and above reading, watching, or listening. • In choosing between media, the key decision on which the rest depend concerns the use of face-to-face learning. Equivalency Theory: An American Theory of Distance Education The impact of new technologies on distance education is far-ranging.
Desmond Keegan (1995) suggests that electronically linking instructor and students at various locations creates a virtual classroom. Keegan goes on to state: The theoretical analyses of virtual education, however, have not yet been addressed by the literature: Is it a subset of distance education or to be regarded as a separate field of educational endeavor? What are its didactic structures? What is the relationship of its cost effectiveness and of its educational effectiveness to distance education and to conventional education? p. 21) It is in this environment of virtual education that the equivalency theory of distance education has emerged. Some advocates of distance education have mistakenly tried to provide identical instructional situations for all students, no matter when or where they learn. Since it is more difficult to control the situations of distant learners, some have decided that all learners should participate as distant learners. This is based on the belief that learners should have identical opportunities to learn.
This is a mistake. Simonson theorizes that for distance education to be successful in the United States its appropriate application should be based on the belief that: the more equivalent the learning experiences of distant students are to that of local students, the more equivalent will be the outcomes of the learning experience. In other words, each learner might use different instructional strategies, varying instructional resources, or individually prescribed activities.
If the distance education course is effectively designed and equivalent experiences are available, then potential learners will reach the course’s instructional objectives (Simonson & Schlosser, 1999). This theory is based on the definition of distance education as formal, institutionally based education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors. Simonson and Schlosser (1995) in elaborating on this theory state: It should not be necessary for any group of learners to compensate for different, possibly lesser, instructional experiences.
Thus, those developing distance educational systems should strive to make equivalent the learning experiences of all students no matter how they are linked to the resources or instruction they require (pp. 71–72). One key to this theoretical approach is the concept of equivalency. Local and distant learners have fundamentally different environments in which they learn. It is the responsibility of the distance educator to design learning events that provide experiences with equal value for learners.
Just as a triangle and a square may have the same area and be considered equivalent even though they are quite different geometrical shapes, the experiences of the local learner and the distant learner should have equivalent value even though these experiences might be quite different. Another key to this approach is the concept of the learning experience. A learning experience is anything that promotes learning, including what is observed, felt, heard, or done. It is likely that different students in various locations, learning at different times, may require a different mix of learning experiences.
Some will need a greater amount of observing, and others a larger dosage of doing. The goal of instructional planning is to make the sum of experiences for each learner equivalent. Instructional design procedures should attempt to anticipate and provide the collection of experiences that will be most suitable for each student or group of students. This approach is supported by Shale (1988), who argued that distance education is not a distinct field of education. He states that the process of education when students and teacher are face-to-face is the same as when students and teachers are at a distance.
A Theoretical Framework for Distance Education—Desmond Keegan Keegan (1986) suggested that the theoretician had to answer three questions before developing a theory of distance education: 1. Is distance education an educational activity? Keegan’s answer was that, although distance education institutions possess some of the characteristics of businesses, rather than of traditional schools, their educational activities are dominant. Distance education is a more industrialized form of education.
The theoretical bases for distance education, Keegan pointed out, were within general education theory. 2. Is distance education a form of conventional education? Keegan believed that, because distance education was not based on interpersonal communication and is characterized by a privatization of institutionalized learning (as is conventional education), it is a distinct form of education. Therefore, while the theoretical basis for distance education could be found within general education theory, it could not be found within the theoretical structures of oral, group-based education.
However, Keegan considered virtual systems based on teaching face-to-face at a distance a new cognate field of study to distance education. He believed that a theoretical analysis of virtual education still needed to be addressed. 3 Is distance education possible, or is it a contradiction in terms? Keegan pointed out that if education requires intersubjectivity—a shared experience in which teacher and learner are united by a common zeal—then distance education is a contradiction in terms. Distance instruction is possible, but distance education is not.
Again, the advent of virtual systems used in distance education challenges the traditional answer to this question. Central to Keegan’s concept of distance education is the separation of the teaching acts in time and place from the learning acts. Successful distance education, he believes, requires the reintegration of the two acts: • The intersubjectivity of teacher and learner, in which learning from teaching occurs, has to be artificially recreated. Over space and time, a distance system seeks to reconstruct the moment in which the teaching-learning interaction occurs.
The linking of learning materials to learning is central to this process (pp. 43–45). • Reintegration of the act of teaching at a distance is attempted in two ways. First, learning materials, both print and nonprint, are designed to achieve as many of the characteristics of interpersonal communication as possible. Second, when courses are presented, reintegration of the teaching act is attempted by a variety of techniques, including communication by correspondence, telephone tutorial, online computer communication, comments on assignments by tutors or computers, and teleconferences.
The process of reintegrating the act of teaching in distance education, Keegan suggests, results in at least five changes to the normal structure of oral, group-based education: 1. The industrialization of teaching 2. The privatization of institutional learning 3. Change of administrative structure 4. Different plant and buildings 5. Change of costing structures Keegan offers three hypotheses drawn from his theoretical framework: 1. Distance students have a tendency to drop out of those institutions in which structures for the reintegration of the teaching acts are not satisfactorily achieved. 2.
Distance students have difficulty achieving quality of learning in those institutions in which structures for the reintegration of the teaching acts are not satisfactorily achieved. 3. The status of learning at
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