Distance Learning in 21st Century Education
Caroline Howard (Touro International University, USA), Richard Discenza (University of Colorado, USA) and Murray Turoff (New Jersey Institute of Technology, USA)
Copyright: © 2009
Colleges and universities around the country are scrambling to keep pace with the innovations in technology to engage a generation of students that come to campus with laptops, camera cell phones, and the knowledge and skills on how to use Google. Some professors make available course websites while others use podcast lectures, but these are often considered experimental. Many of these tools and techniques aim to revolutionize the learning process, however, many faculty and students worry that these advances are just distracting from the material and from time tested methods of teaching. Since no one understands the full impacts of these teaching tools or about their long range effectiveness, for now, colleges and universities are engaged in a beta test to determine how technologies will co-exist with or replace the traditional approaches. The challenge of each innovation is that it must be carefully measured against the successes of the traditional approaches.
For many years, technologies have been used to facilitate learning. In the early 1980s a group of researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) realized the enormous potential of technology to enhance learning when they used a computer-mediated system to facilitate a regular face-to-face class. The system was introduced to students in a number of Computer Science and Information Systems courses. Due to the amount of material covered in lectures, there was not much time for dialogue and only a few students participated when there was a class discussion. The instructors introduced asynchronous group communication technologies to communicate discussion questions and assigned grade-point credits for student participation. One-hundred percent of the students participated in these discussions outside of regular classroom hours. The extent and depth of the discussions changed the nature of the classes. Most important, because students had the time to reflect on the ongoing discussion before participating, their contributions were comprehensive, with more well-thought-out comments. Also very significant was the equal participation by students for whom English was a second language. They could reread the online discussion as many times as needed before replying. The computer-based activity monitoring and transcripts, electronic recordings of the discussions, showed that foreign students spent two to three times more in a reading mode and reread many discussions far more often than the American students.
Key Terms in this Chapter
E-Learning Technologies: The technologies used for e-learning.
Pen name signatures: Names participants choose for online participation that may or may not allow other participants to identify them.
E-Learning: The use of technology to assist in the educational process. It is often used to refer to learning situations (both education and training) in which the students and instructor are located in different localities. However, the instructor and teacher can be in close proximity. .
Distributed Learning: Learning situations in which the students and instructor are located in different localities; a bit broader than distance education, as it can be used to refer to both education and training.
Asynchronous Group Communication Technologies: Technology that allows participants to send and respond to messages without being online simultaneously.
Distance Education: Learning situations in which the students and instructor are located in different localities at least for a portion of the class.
Synchronous Group Communication Technologies: Technologies that allow real-time, interactive communications and require participants to be online simultaneously.