Foundations and Assessment of Education/Edition 1/Foundations Table of Contents/Chapter 1/1.7.2

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Learning Targets[edit]

The reader will be able to identify the advantages and disadvantages of distance learning.

The reader will be able identify the issues that are considered both advantages and disadvantages by both sides for almost identical reasons.


Distance learning was once considered a nontraditional teaching career, however in the last half decade it is becoming more and more common. Not only colleges , but high schools , and even grade schools are participating in distance learning programs. Distance learning is defined by the NEA as "A courses with more than half of the instructions taking place when students and faculty are in different locations"( Abacus Associates 2000, page 5 ).Distance learning includes online courses as well as televised and hybrid courses that consist of either or both online or televised with classroom participation. It is a relatively recent innovation given impetus by advances in communications and computer technology in the last decade. There is some dispute by educators whether distance learning is a blessing or a curse. I hope to present a brief overview of both sides. You will see as the facts are presented that both sides often see the same category as either a curse or a blessing for almost identical reasons.

The Dissenter's View[edit]

Most faculty who have been involved in distance learning are concerned that they are working longer hours with no added compensation. They are also concerned about the loss of their intellectual property. I spoke to an instructor in a Western Virginia community college who ask not to be named who said that their dean told them after they developed their online class that anyone could take over and teach it. They voiced a fear that once the work was completed the college would get adjunct faculty to take over for much less compensation. This person says they have spent 8 to 12 hours a day one day a week on their day off for months without compensation developing an online class in the hopes that once it is up and running they will see some compensation, both fiscal and emotional when their students excel. ( Anonymous January 2009)

Faculty members also are concerned about the anonymity and impersonality of online classes. Some faculty miss the social structure and the face to face communication. They complain that a discussion that could take place in a class room in a matter of half an hour can take over a week online and by then who can remember what was said?( Susan Sharp April 2005 p. 2 ) Susan Sharp a professor of English at a Northern Virginia community college for over 20 years, complained in her article in the Washington Post " Why online teaching turned me off" that " student discussion and interaction was limited by the very fact that all communication was through emails and discussion boards. Which interrupted the flow of ideas"( Sharp 2005p. 5 ).Some instructors feel that personal feedback is vital in forming an appropriate response to individual student needs. " it is very hard to have the personal touch when you never meet your students and are unable to put a face to a name"( Sharp 2005 p. 3).

"It is so exhausting as well as frustrating, trying to answer 40 to 60 emails a day in addition to all the other duties of an instructor"(Anonymous). In online writing students are protected by anonymity and students who don't ordinarily have much to say often speak up "A computer screen is not as intimidating as a classroom of peers. However, with the disappearance of intimidation the fear of hurting others vanishes as well".( Sharp 2005 p. 3 )The main complaint that almost every teacher voicing disfavor able opinion of distance teaching is they can't look their students in the eye while they teach . And without that kind of feedback they don't feel they can meet a students needs. " How can you tell id they are getting it if you cant see their faces?(Anonymous 2009).


The Advocate's View[edit]

Although most faculty involve in distance learning share the same concern over loss of intellectual property and inadequate compensation for their work they also feel it is more than made up for by having the opportunity to offer high quality education to so many students who would not other wise have the opportunity of attend college(Abacus associates 2000). However, college is not the only venue for distance learning.Schools k-12 across the country are establishing video by satellite and online distance learning courses in everything from kindergarten phonics to complete high school curriculums. See sidebar for links about k-12 online curriculum.( Los Angles center for Distance and online learning, 2009).


The University of Missouri even offers a complete online high school curriculum to students who can't get the courses they want at the traditional schools they attend(University of Missouri Online, 2009). The majority advocated appear to believe what educator and author,Professor Mark Kassop wrote in his article for the Technology Source Archives at the university of North Carolina: that there are "Ten Ways Online Education Matches , or Surpasses Face to Face Education" . Briefly they are ""1. Student centered learning:Students are empowered to learn on their own and even to teach one another.2.Writing intensity: Due to the writing intensity often required by many online courses the quality of many students writing improves over the duration of the course. 3.Highly interactive discussions:Class room discussions are often limited to the same extroverted students offering spontaneous and often un-researched responses. In online classes students who have never spoken up offer their ideas and responses, because of the anonymity of the forum. Students also have the opportunity to research and contemplate the questions and compose appropriate answers.4. Geared to life long learning: Distance learning teaches students to find and learn information on their own. The on line environment fosters self-motivated education. Online resources establish a framework that gives precedence to the autonomy of the learner. 5.Enriched course material: Well constructed online distance learning courses can offer students in all curriculums access to world class resources 24 hours a day 7 days a week. 6.On-demand interaction and support services: Help is only a click away in an online course. Instructors can offer many types of interactive learning aids on their course sites as well as immediate feedback on tests etc. Also contact with the instructor and classmates through e-mail can occur any time. 7. Immediate feedback:Online students generally have greater access to instructors. And can and do email countless questions to their professors and frequently engage in dialogue that would be hard to duplicate in a face to face world. Assignments can be returned to students more promptly and usually with more grading feedback than in a traditional setting.8.Flexibility: Students with adult responsibilities are often unable to commit to traditional courses because of scheduling conflicts. Online learning gives these nontraditional students opportunities to pursue course work at any time that fits into their schedules .9 an intimate community of learners:Many instructors say that they have developed close relationships with their students online. And it is not uncommon for participants in an online course to develop a sense of community. The anonymity of online courses allows students to open up more that in a classroom environment.10.Faculty development and rejuvenation:On line teaching is frequently much more work, however many express how satisfying and energizing the creative processes of achieving the same instructional goals in an entirely new format are"( kassop May/June 2003).

These ten reasons why this particular professor believes distance learning matches or surpasses traditional classroom education encapsulates the majority view of favorable opinions concerning the distance learning mode of teaching.

The Author's View[edit]

Although there was much more material available on the advocates side of the issue I have found that educators who dislike distance leaning return to the traditional classroom rather quickly. And therefore there is less information on their views. And those who do like the medium tend to grow with it. Both sides are concerned with compensation for the extra hours of labor that distance learning requires of instructors, and the compensation for or loss of their laboriously created intellectual property. In my opinion in the future educator's contracts will out of necessity include negotiations for intellectual property and time spent developing distance and online courses. Distance learning clearly is the wave of the future. And while it is still considered a nontraditional teaching method I feel sure it will be considered the norm in the very near future. Teaching has always been what I call an ice burg occupation, 9/10 of the effort is under the surface in preparation for the classroom. Teachers have always worked many more hours than their pay stubs show. And it looks like the trend will continue indefinitely. As an education major and novice distance learning student I share the concerns of both sides of the issues of uncompensated work and loss of intellectual property. However distance learning is the future of education and I think we had all better prepare to join the team



In conclusion distance learning is becoming one of the more important modes of education. It enables students who otherwise would not be able to take courses to continue their educations while meeting career and family obligations. It solves the problem of lack of classroom space. Although some faculty and students find that their teaching and learning styles don't fit the new trend that the majority involved find it exciting and challenging. As technology advances I see a not so distant future where all traditional classes will be distance learning. And nontraditional classes will be held in classrooms of brick and mortar.

Multiple Choice[edit]

1.What state university offers a complete online high school curriculum? A. Alabama B. North Carolina C. Mississippi D. Missouri

2.Choose the issue that is considered an advantage and disadvantage by the opposing views for almost identical reasons.

A.Flexibility of scheduling.

B.Limitations on mutual feedback.

C.Lack of face to face contact with students.

D.The quality of student participation in online discussions and communication.

3. You are a novice online instructor. You have received 67 emails requesting clarification on several sections of the latest assignment. Which is the best choice of response?

A. Both C. and D.

B You answer every email individually.

C.You read all the emails and answer all the questions in a single document on the class web site.

D. you Answer all the questions in a single document and send it to all your students in a mass email.

4. You are a highly effective teacher, teaching a hybrid online/ televised course. Your class meets once a month for a question and answer forum. You have run out of time and several students are protesting that they need more time for their questions. Which is the best choice.

A.Offer additional class meetings to answer their questions for those who's schedules permit.And suggest streaming video archives for those who can't attend.

B Schedule nonmandatory additional class meetings with the streaming video option. And answer both email and live questions.

C. Tell your students to email their questions to you and you will post the answers online.

D. Tell your students their questions can wait until the next scheduled class meeting.

Multiple Choice Answers[edit]

1. D

2. D

3. A

4. B.


Abacus Associates (2000)Survey of Traditional and Distance Learning Higher Education Members: Commissioned by the National Education Association. Retrieved February 6, 2009 from the NEA website

Anonymous interview January 2009

Los Angeles Center for Distance learning (2009) Teams Educational Resources. Retrieved February 5, 2009. The Los Angeles county office of education teems site.

Kassop, Mark (may/June 2003)Ten Ways Online Education Matches, or Surpasses Face to Face Learning. The technology Source Archives at the University of North Carolina website face_learning

Sharp, Susan (April 3, 2005), Why Online Teaching Turned me off: a web enthusiasts journey into skepticism. Retrieved February 1, 2009. www. site