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.