Distance Learning From Itinerant Teachers to Cloud-Based Technologies

Distance Learning From Itinerant Teachers to Cloud-Based Technologies

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3476-2.ch053
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The knowledge explosion, the increased complexity of human life, and the ubiquitous, 24/7 nature of technology coupled with the globalization of the marketplace herald the need to embrace the most effective methods and platforms of teaching and learning. Currently providing powerful educational opportunities, the science and technology of distance teaching and learning continues to multiply at unprecedented rates. While historically traveling from village to village verbally disseminating knowledge was the only process of training those at a distance, today's learners eagerly embrace the rapidly expanding cloud-based technologies of the 21st century, offering a plethora of informational and educational opportunities. With this exponentially expanding global educational landscape, one must question what exactly distance teaching and learning is, how it has evolved, what the current state of affairs is, and what we anticipate in the future?
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In very simplistic terms, distance learning is just that--learning that occurs at a distance (Rumble & Keegan, 1982; Shale, 1990; Shale & Garrison, 1990) or that which is characterized by a separation in geographical proximity and/or time (Holmberg, 1974, 1977, 1981; Kaye, 1981, 1982, 1988; Keegan, 1980; McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Moore, 1973, 1980, 1983, 1989a, 1989b, 1990; Ohler, 1991; Sewart, 1981; Wedemeyer, 1971). Over 30 years ago in his 1986 theory of transactional distance, Moore (Moore & Kearsley, 1996) defined distance not only in terms of place and time but also in terms of structure and dialogue between the learner and the instructor. Dramatically changing the concept of distance learning, in this theory distance became more pedagogical than geographical. As structure increased, so did distance. As dialogue increased, distance declined thus establishing the foundational role interaction plays in the distance learning environment. A few years later, Saba (1998) furthered this concept concluding,

the dynamic and systemic study of distance education has made ‘distance’ irrelevant, and has made mediated communication and construction of knowledge the relevant issue …. So the proper question is not whether distance education is comparable to a hypothetical ‘traditional,’ or face-to-face instruction, but if there is enough interaction between the learner and the instructor for the learner to find meaning and develop new knowledge. (p. 5)

To facilitate greater interaction in the geographically and/or organizationally dispersed distance environment, today the convergence or fusion of technologies enables individuals to not only overcome the barrier of separation, affording institutional and learner opportunity to transcend intra- and inter-organizational boundaries, time, and even culture but to virtually erase it. By definition, the paradigm of distance, online, or cloud-based learning revolutionizes the traditional environment; however, even with this change, learning that involves some manner of interaction with content, professor, peers, and even external experts remains at the core of the educational process and also at the hub of the ongoing traditional versus distance argument.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Equivalency: Distance learning that possesses equality with learning experienced in the face-to-face venue.

Cloud Computing: Technologies that facilitate the sharing of digital files over the Internet anywhere, anytime.

eLearning: Learning that occurs electronically.

Augmented Reality (AR): Adds to or projects additional information onto what the user is already seeing.

Traditional Study: Face-to-face learning.

Correspondence Learning: A form of distance learning using dispatched or one-way communication.

Virtual Reality: Completely covers or replaces the user’s vision taking him or her somewhere else.

Time-Place Independent: Learning that does not rely on geographical proximity or time.

Optical Sensory Technology: Technology that provides the ability to track user input within an augmented or a virtual reality.

Time-Place Dependent: Education that transpires in the same location at the same time.

Three-Dimensional Virtual Learning: A computer-based simulated environment.

mLearning: Learning that occurs through the use of mobile technology.

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