Designing a Distributed Learning Experience
Diane Jass Ketelhut (Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA), Pamela Whitehouse (Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA), Chris Dede (Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA) and Tara Brown-L’Bahy (Harvard Graduate School of Education, USA)
Copyright: © 2009
With the availability of Internet and digital technologies, many universities are integrating new interactive media into course curricula, both to enhance conventional classroom-based learning and to enable remote students to overcome barriers of time and distance. Although the focus of computer-mediated communication in teaching and learning has traditionally been on distance education—delivering courses to students in remote locations—colleges are increasingly using interactive media to enhance on-campus courses, with positive outcomes. “Distributed learning” describes educational experiences that combine face-to-face teaching with synchronous and asynchronous mediated interaction (Dede, Brown-L’Bahy, Ketelhut, & Whitehouse, 2004). This instructional strategy distributes learning across a variety of geographic settings, across time, and across various interactive media. This study extends prior research findings on the design and educational outcomes of a Harvard Graduate School of Education course, Learning Media that Bridge Distance and Time, as a prototypical distributed learning experience.
In previous research, we found that a “hybrid” or distributed learning environment that integrates interactive media into the curriculum profoundly shapes students’ learning experiences (Dede, Whitehouse, & Brown-L’Bahy, 2002). Our new findings build on previous scholarship about the use of multimedia in the classroom and challenge three decades of “no significant difference” findings in comparisons between traditional face-to-face instruction and teaching across distance (Twigg, 2001). This study extends our prior research with additional evidence supporting the dual assertion that no single medium (e.g., face-to-face instruction, asynchronous discussion, videoconferencing) can support the full range of student learning styles and that instructional models based on distributed learning using multiple media are superior to typical single-medium instructional approaches.
In the next section, we briefly describe our graduate course from which student participants were chosen, theoretical framework, research methods, and previous findings. We then present new findings from a case study of 20 students enrolled in the course Learning Media That Bridge Distance and Time at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in the fall, 2002 semester and add preliminary findings from the 2003 course.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Learning: Learning that is mediated by electronic media.
Handheld: A computer small and light enough to be held in a user’s hand.
Threaded Discussion: An asynchronous, Web-based discussion that occurs through a series of linked messages.
Hybrid Learning: Learning that involves both computer-mediated and face-to-face communication.
Asynchronous Communication: Computer-based communication tool in which interaction between parties does not take place simultaneously.
Synchronous Communication: Computer-based communication in which interaction between parties takes place simultaneously.
Authoring Shell: Internet-based template that consists of various electronic tools and functions with which a user can create a customized web environment.
Interactive Media: Media that allows for a two-way interaction or exchange of information via interactive tools.
Distributed Learning: Pedagogical strategies that integrate face-to-face with online methodologies.
Multi-User Environment: An Internet-based virtual environment in which multiple users communicate and interact