Distance Education Can we debunk some of the myths? Robert Aucoin, Distance Education Co-ordinator, ATL Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org
What is Distance Education? • Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of facts. • Henry Adams
History • Historically known as correspondence courses • matchbook courses • Rapid Results College
Distance Education Defined • Trying to define distance education is rather like trying to define art or science….we all have a sense of what it is when we see it but we would be hard pressed to accurately define it. • Learners and teachers are separated by geography and/or time.
Distance Education Myths • Distance education is about technology • Distance education is about replacing professors http://e-education.mtt.ca/ • Distance education is about saving/making money http://www.polycom.com/streams/streamstation_overview/index.htm • Distance education is about administration http://188.8.131.52/main/index.jhtml
So what is distance learning about? • Distance learning is more about teaching and learning than about technology • Moore • Distance learning is about access and equality for learners • The first ATM was located inside a bank and was available only during regular banking hours
Benefits of distance education - student • Flexible • Interactive • Responsive • Supportive • Technological
Benefits - Professor • A new way of looking at his/her course material • A chance to work with more mature students • A learning opportunity
Challenges - students • Resistance to change • Technological challenges • Self-discipline • Feelings of remoteness / resentment
Challenges - Professors • All preparation work is “up front” • Flexibility • Organizational problems • Feelings of outside interference • Worries about technology being “rammed down their throats”
What’s happening at U of A? • Athabasca vs U of A. • http://www.atl.ualberta.ca/disted/database/output/search.cfm • http://www.ualberta.ca/WEBCT/courses.html
Current Initiatives • New Media Diploma – Extension • CFD – Business • COHERE • President’s initiative • MACT – Extension • Rehabilitation Medicine
Regular department channels still govern: • Course/programme approval • Tuition fees • Registration • Accreditation
TLC & ATL can help • Course design • Media decisions • Logistics • Faculty/student training • Evaluation • Funding(?) • External contacts
Which technology is Best? • 52 research reports over 80 years say “No significant difference” in learning
Which Technology is Best? • What you may not know: Compare single mode delivery to multiple-mode/hybrid delivery plan across a degree program • 3 year study at the University of Tennessee with statistically significant results • Early Data: Multimode delivery is MORE effective than any single delivery mode • Better retention rates • Better and more consistent grades • Why? Synergy: Multiple mode delivery plan is more likely to address learner’s needs
Sacred cows • We’ve invested $X in this distance education programme and we haven’t made any money yet. What’s wrong? • Distance education is ok for other people, but, it will never work in my faculty/department/subject/class.
More sacred cows • The old technology worked just fine in the past. I don’t see why we should change it. • Make this as easy as possible because I don’t want to learn anything new. • This technology isn’t working. Why bother having it if it never works?
Concluding remarks…. • Distance education is not for everyone, but, it works and it works well • Distance education is not a panacea, but, it does solve problems in education and training • Distance education is not all things to all people, but, it provides access to those who otherwise would be denied
“The biggest obstacle to innovation is thinking it can be done the old way…” Jim Wetherbe “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. Alvin Toffler