ERIC Number: EJ935363
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jan-17
Reference Count: 0
Distance Learning 2.0: It Will Take a Village
Halfond, Jay A.
New England Journal of Higher Education, Jan 2011
Institutional resistance to online learning has been melting away during these recessionary times, as schools seek ways to address enrollment pressures without increasing faculty or classrooms. But the test for online learning should be based as much on learning efficacy as financial efficiency. Seeking comparability in learning outcomes should be the baseline standard. Even that understates the potential advantages that an online environment might create for faculty and students. Faculty familiarity with technology should not be an advantage for some, but a generic function provided pervasively for the benefit of all. With a collective commitment to distance learning and instructional technology, advances can be shared across an institution. Using "green screens" for faculty lectures, faculty can speak and illustrate at the same time. Well-constructed course materials that faculty devoted dozens of hours to developing can be archived in a media library for others to tap in future courses. Opportunities abound to re-engineer the traditional classroom experience, to use technical tools to take some work out of the class setting, and to better appreciate that learning doesn't best occur through one-way lecturing but through active student involvement--all powerful distance learning lessons that redound to the conventional classroom. Student services can be pooled as well. Serendipitous community-building is perhaps the most exciting byproduct of a robust online environment. Rather than the typical ships passing in the night, part-time students get to know one another as they progress through a common curriculum, regardless of their busy lives and competing demands. And the potential for student diversity is far greater as distance learning expands the school's sphere of influence beyond the limits of local homogeneity. Though concealed within the data, these are truly exciting times for recreating and redefining the learning process--through the roles faculty play, the opportunities to test new tools and techniques, the access and interaction of students across diverse locales and lifestyles, and the reach of institutions beyond their narrow borders. The future of distance learning is more about creating community than exploiting technology, more about enhancing education than enrollments--and even more about academic courage, leadership and innovation. The opportunities are endless, constrained only by one's own imagination.
Descriptors: Electronic Learning, Distance Education, Familiarity, Online Courses, Student Diversity, Educational Technology, Enrollment, Higher Education, Outcomes of Education, Conventional Instruction
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A