Learning Together: Reducing Distance in Distance Education

Learning Together: Reducing Distance in Distance Education

Kathleen M. Kevany (Saint Francis Xavier University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch057
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Abstract

Creatively fostering peer-to-peer (P2P) learning reduces the distance in distance education. E-learners become teachers and learners through animated, adult oriented, self-directed distance education. Ways to mitigate social distance are discussed as are ways to enhance social capital through P2P learning. Factors that increase success in P2P e-learning are unencumbered connectivity, adult oriented facilitation, increased criticality, and learning collaboratively. The dynamic roles of learners, facilitators, and administrators are articulated along with plans for future environments conducive to learning and change. The concept onisagogy, meaning “together learning” is introduced as an approach to accelerate learning, increase satisfaction, and reduce social distance.
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Background

E-learning and distance education have emerged through a respectable pedigree in extension and correspondence education as well as through community learning around kitchen tables and radio broadcasts. Extension education enabled the distribution of content across distances. “Even though distance education is as old as the correspondence course and the pony express, it still poses a problem…the student who was comfortable with self-directed freedom to learn. This constituted about a third of the students” (Batdorf, 1995, pp. 18-19). Early renditions of computer mediated learning meant that students were required to read extensively online yet they were insufficiently engaged with dynamic and satisfying approaches to learning (Hanna, 2003). The standard knowledge transfer approach, known as pedagogy was based on a view that learners were less informed than the facilitator and required an infusion of knowledge. This interpretation has been criticized for its inadequate appreciation of learner capabilities (Knowles, 1990; Burge, 2007a). The European notion of andragogy viewed adults as capable and knowledgeable, teachers and learners. Through devoting himself to expanding the understanding of how adults learn best, Knowles became the champion of andragogy in North America. Andragogy focused on utilizing the inherent capabilities, responsibilities, and independence of learners. E-learning that transferred the same content and approaches taken in the traditional in-person format seemed to contradict the best practices in adult education and undermine learner abilities.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Traditional Learners: Pursue post-secondary studies around 18-24 years old

Distributed Learning: Learning through a variety of networks of people and tools without being instructed

Collaboration: Working with others to achieve individual and shared goals

Distance Education: Education across distances using computers and internet connections

Social Presence: Involves the appropriate sharing of personal and professional qualities to build a strong sense of community

Non-traditional Learners: Participate, often part-time, in post-secondary education at an older age of 24

Social Capital: The collection of qualities and practices among relationships that build trust and foster co-operation and mutual satisfaction

E-Learning: Using various types of digital technology to share knowledge and develop skills with people in disparate locations

Peers: are people who share similar work experience, learning interests, or social or political goals.

Transactional Distance: A theory about the psychological and communicative gaps arising in distance education

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