Monthly Archives: October 2013

Final Reflections

Maintaining this blog over the last few weeks has been very helpful in reviewing the material learned in class.  I usually would not spend as much time as I have reviewing the readings and discussion boards.  It was also nice to have a required deadline for entries – I have tried starting blogs before and I can never stick with it.  I also enjoyed reading and commenting on my fellow classmates’ blogs.  The blog format allows the learner to use a more long-form and open ended style as compared to the discussion forums.  Often when reading my classmates’ blogs, I got the opportunity to see a more conversational approach to the learning material.  The blog also helped me to connect what I was learning to my own experience, helping to further solidify what I had learned in class.

I am also maintaining a reflective online journal on my E-Portfolio, located at  Check there to keep up with my progress in UMUC’s MDE program!

Role of the Instructor in Distance Education

In our classroom there was a lively discussion about the role of the instructor in an online classroom.  While I have never pictured myself as an instructor in an online classroom (I don’t think I have enough subject matter knowledge to fill the position), it was interesting to think of the challenges and advantages involved with being an online tutor.  As a distance education student, it also helped me to empathize with my own instructors.

One aspect that seemed to be universally agreed upon was that the role of an online instructor is that of a facilitator.  The instructor is not in the classroom to act as the ‘fountain of knowledge,’ but rather as someone that provides the necessary materials, questions, and projects necessary to engender student participation and learning.  Not only this, but in distance education “participation is not likely to happen unless it is well planned and instructors have training to facilitate it” (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p.114).  Therefore, an instructor must not only facilitate learning by being extremely well prepared, but they must also have the technical know-how to deliver the material in a meaningful way.

Another tricky aspect of being an online instructor is being able to exercise flexibility in lesson execution and trying to establish a ‘human’ tone.  I imagine that teaching via distance education must often feel very rigid; if a discussion topic isn’t leading students to the right ideas, an online teacher may have to create a new discussion board or try to provide timely feedback online (a difficult task). A face-to-face teacher can simply re-frame the conversation with a new question or idea.  This goes along with Moore and Kearsley’s (2012) idea that an instructor must be able to write in a conversational tone in the absence of face-to-face interactions.  Communicating strictly through text is very difficult, especially when trying to convey emotion.  It becomes even more difficult when all interactions are to be considered academic. 

Needless to say, the instructor has a very challenging role in distance education.  I think that the concept that an online education is somehow easier (both from the student and teacher perspective) is false.  If anything, it is more challenging.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning. USA: Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.


“There are also those that argue that as a result of new technologies, the very nature of knowledge is changing.  For instance, Siemens (2004) argues that knowledge is no longer generated and validated solely or even mainly by scholarly study, but by the ebbs and flows of discussion among millions of Internet participants, a theory he calls ‘connectivism’” (Bates & Sangra, 2011, p. 46).

I wanted to take a moment to respond to this quote from Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning. I tend to agree with Siemens’ concept of connectivism as a new form of learning. Because we have so much access to information, the way we learn has changed.  While it used to be necessary to go to an institution or some form of expert to learn something, the same is not true today.  Access to information is no longer limited by the contents of your local library and your knowledge of the Dewey decimal system.  You also don’t have to go to a college or university to access scholarly, academic information.

Online forums, wikis, blogs, scholarly search engines, and open universities are changing the face of modern education.  Not only is access to information very different, but the way we interact with the information and share it with others is changing, as well.  Learning and knowledge seems to be held in a diversity of opinions; an ongoing conversation helps us to facilitate continuous learning.  Also, because of the array of both good and bad information, it makes us, as learners, better critical thinkers.  Being able to gather, synthesize, and compare information from different sources is a crucial skill.

It is exciting to think about the future of learning and education as the currency and breadth of available information continues to grow.  The future also promises that as technology gets better, more and more people will be able to join in on the conversation, expanding the idea of connectivism even further.

Bates, T., & Sangra, A. (2011). Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Modern Strategies

Module 3

In Module 3, we took a look at Web 2.0 technologies for distance education.  During class discussions we focused specifically on different uses of social media in education.  In reviewing the list of ideas on the blog by Online Universities, there were several strategies that seemed valuable to educators.  One of my favorites was the use of Skype for learning foreign languages – students can use the technology to chat live with native speakers.

Right now I am actively engaged in a Web 2.0 technology used for educational purposes: a blog!  On the blog post by Les Pang (2009), reflective journals like this “encourage students to review and consolidate learning, evaluate performance, and plan future learning based on past learning experience.”  This is my first attempt at composing a learning journal, and so far it has been a good way to review all of the topics we have discussed and read about in class.  I think that the key for me will be keeping up with the blog and making sure that I post my entries in a timely fashion.  Otherwise, the potential benefit offered by a reflective journal will be lost.

Also discussed during Module 3 was the debate over open educational resources (OERs).  There seems to be an ongoing argument over the practical value of OERs.  While some, like Tony Bates (2011), would argue that OERs are little more than a mismanaged online library, others, like Rory McGreal (2011), are adamant that OERs provide vital information to uderserved populations.  My own personal take on OERs is that they are, in essence, a good thing and a big step forward in the leveling of educational playing field.  However, I feel that until accreditation and certifications become an “open resource” as well, there is still a lot of progress to be made.

Bates, T. (2011, February 6) OERs: the good, the bad and the ugly.  Retrieved from

Pang, L. (2009). Application of Blogs to Support Reflective Learning Journals. Retrieved May, 21, 2009, from

Rory McGreal Blog article:

Online Universitities blog:

Comparing Approaches to Distance Education

Module 2

In Module 2, we studied the differences between synchronous and asynchronous technologies used in distance education.  Through our readings and discussions, we weighed the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type of technology.

Asynchronous classrooms include material which is “accessible at any time via webpages and interactive tutorials and quizzes,” (Pullen & Snow, 2007, p.137).  Students and instructors can communicate with each other, but feedback is delayed.  Because of this delay, students can feel disengaged from the learning experience.  During discussions, it was agreed upon that one of the greatest advantages to using asynchronous technology was that it allows the student to access the course and participate according to their own convenience.  Asynchronous technology is also good because there is less confusion or potential for error in terms of technology.  Another advantage to asynchronous technology is that students and instructors have the time to craft well-written contributions and provide meaningful feedback to all participants.

The use of synchronous technology “results in the easiest transition from the traditional classroom,” because interactions take place in real time (Pullen & Snow, 2007, p.138).  Some examples of synchronous technology include streaming lectures on the web, using Skype for group discussions, or participating in online chat rooms.  Synchronous technologies were preferred mostly because of the timeliness of feedback.  Other advantages over traditional education were that it saves time and money by having the option to get things done from home.  Despite these positives, synchronous technology poses difficulties because students need to access the technology at a specific time and don’t have the flexibility associated with asynchronous technology.  Technical issues were another problem many associated with synchronous technology.

Pullen, J., & Snow, C. (2007). Integrating synchronous and asynchronous internet distributed education for maximum effectiveness. Education and Information Technologies, 12(3), 137-148.

Initial Thoughts

Module 1

In Module 1, we studied the history and terminology of technology in distance education.  Like many of my fellow students, I associated the origins of distance education with the Internet.  I completely overlooked the true origins of distance education – correspondence education.  Correspondence education began in the 18th century, with learning materials being sent back and forth via the new technology of the postal service.

Over time there have been five waves of distance education (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p.24), all brought about by new technologies: radio, television, CDs/DVDs, and the Internet.  E-Learning represents the most recent wave of education, and just like all of the previous waves of new technology, there is much debate about the benefits and drawbacks of online education.  Is the ‘digital divide’ brought about by learning via the Internet de-humanizing education?  Is face-to-face education better than distance education?  As the field of e-learning continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these questions are answered.

In the discussion boards for class, there was also much debate over the proper terminology for distance education.  Other terms are used interchangeably by authors (online learning / distance learning / e-learning / distributed learning, etc.).  This can make having a discussion about the topic difficult.  The overwhelming consensus was that “distance education” is the best term to use because it encompasses both the teaching and the learning that is involved.  According to Moore and Kearsley (2012, p. 2), “distance education is teaching and planned learning in which teaching normally occurs in a different place from learning, requiring communication through technologies as well as special institutional organization.” Other terms confused this concept by making the technology used (online or e-learning) a part of the terminology.  As we learned by studying the historical context, distance education can be applied using several different types of technology, so constricting the terminology to just the most recent wave of technology is limiting.

Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning. USA: Wadsworth-Cengage Learning.