Closing the Distance in Distance Learning

Closing the Distance in Distance Learning

Shaunna Waltemeyer (Grand Canyon University, USA) and Jeff Cranmore (Grand Canyon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0115-3.ch002

Abstract

This chapter will outline various best practices to assist instructors in closing the distance for online students. Topics include the theory of transactional distance as well as creating an engaging learning environment and overall student satisfaction. Best practices include live conferencing, instant communication tools, effective feedback, group discussions, announcements and reminders, the ease of using an online learning platform, and establishing personal connections. This chapter also provides examples and practical applications for technology in the online learning environment.
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Introduction: Closing The Distance In Distance Learning

With the increase of online opportunities in higher education, there are more options for access to continuing education than ever before. While on-line course work can remove barriers related to access, time, and finances, many learners find themselves feeling isolated and missing face-to-face contact. Experienced faculty may also find themselves at a loss, when their traditional pedagogical methods do not translate to a digital setting. This chapter will focus on the concept of transactional distance, learner satisfaction, and strategies for online instructors to bring the “human element” into their classroom.

There are many benefits to the online learning modality. At the institutional level, online classes can reduce the cost of instruction through reductions in salaries and building upkeep. For students, online learning provides opportunities for students to take classes at times convenient to them, or even provide access to classes for students that have no other options. As in all courses, whether on campus or online, class instruction must be engaging, offer connections, and provide the best option for meeting all course objectives (Baker & Unni, 2018; Moore, 2016).

Instructors often have to change their behavior and shift their thinking regarding the move to online classes. Online courses cannot simply be the face-to-face version of the class recorded and placed online. Many times, this may make online learning more laborious than traditional face to face classes. Moore (2016) noted that “in the online environment, the instructor may spend additional time observing and commenting on activities in the discussion forum and creating videos or written tutorials and instructions for technological tools being used in the class” (p. 411). As such, online instructors face the ongoing challenges as it relates to their technological proficiencies that is required on top of existing academic responsibilities (Gillett-Swan, 2017). Therefore, the importance of increasing competencies related to technology and learning is essential for both instructors and students.

The increased enrollment numbers in online education over the last several years has greatly outpaced that of traditional onsite learning environments (Hewett & Bourelle, 2017). This increase, in part, is due to the convenience and flexibility of online learning (Hersman, 2014). Such benefits include the ability for students to work on their own time and in an environment conducive to their personal learning styles. Online students the opportunity to attend school during the times that best work with their personal and professional commitments. According to (Goodman, Melkers, and Pallais, 2019), online education offers opportunities for students to attend college who may otherwise not have access to higher education.

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