The Technology Domain of the Distance Learner

The Technology Domain of the Distance Learner

Lawrence A. Tomei (Robert Morris University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-824-6.ch006
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Distance learning is a relatively recent innovation in education. Without question, it has taken root in higher education and is experiencing rapid growth as a modality for instruction. The potential impact of distance learning on education is only now being realized and includes innovative teaching strategies and learning styles based on several unique features of this media. Many educators accept teaching with technology as perhaps the most important instructional strategy to impact the classroom since the text book. The Taxonomy for the Technology Domain was originally introduced as a paper at the 2001 Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators Conference (PACTE, Oct 2001). It met the scrutiny of the international community during the 2004 IRMA (Information Resource Management Association) Conference. Ultimately, it found its way into publication as a standalone text book from the Idea Group International Publishers in 2005. The Taxonomy for the Technology Domain, like its predecessors in the cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains, continues to develop. This chapter presents the latest in the theoretical underpinnings and investigative research into its practical application as an instructional strategy for distance learning.
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Foundational Skills For Distance Learners

Successful distance learners possess unique qualities. They often represent working students who are trying to better their position and need the flexibility provided by an online environment to satisfy a host of individual commitments from work to home to personal goals. As more and more potential students become aware of the modality for distance learning, the virtual classroom becomes an increasingly significant player in the educational community. In general, the literature has proposed that distance students possess, among others, the following qualities. The successful distance learner can:

Communicate effectively through writing. In the virtual classroom, the majority of communication is written, so it is critical that students feel comfortable in expressing themselves in writing. A stumbling block for many adult learners who have been away from school for a considerable period of time or experienced failure in previous efforts to write effectively, many students have limited writing abilities. Such shortcomings must be addressed before or as part of the distance experience and may require remedial efforts before an online regimen of courses commences.

Demonstrate a significant degree of self-motivation and self-discipline. By now, most distance-based programs have effectively discouraged potential students who view online learning as a quick-fix to a structured, traditional program of study. Responsibility for completing assignments, remaining in contact with instructors as well as peers, and completing assignments without daily admonitions from the teacher are part and parcel of a successful distance learner.

Initiate communication when problems arise. Many of the non-verbal signals (e.g., head nodding, hand raising, classroom responses, etc.) evident in the traditional classroom are simply unavailable to the distance teacher. Learners experiencing difficulty at any level (either with the technology or with course content) must assume the responsibility for communicating their situation immediately otherwise the instructor will never know what is wrong often until it is too late to correct the condition. Those introverted students who put off self-identification when they misunderstand a lecture or encounter personal hardships during the semester expecting the situation to remedy itself are by far the largest category of unsuccessful distance learners.

Meet the minimum requirements for the program. The requirements for distance-based courses are no less than that of any other quality educational program. The successful student views the online environment as a more convenient way to take delivery of their education – not an easier way.

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