Open and Distance Education/Classifying Technologies in Open and Distance Education

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The gradual evolution of technology has brought significant changes to the teaching and learning styles in educational environments over the course of the several decades, as mentioned in the previous section of this chapter. Such technological tools (i.e., media, machines, networking hardware) that are used in learning environments are generally referred to as educational technology. Of the numerous methods of classifications that exist for educational technology, some of them are not fully applicable for technologies in open and distance education. In comparison to these educational technologies that are more commonly used in the traditional classroom environment, open and distance education integrate ICT in teaching and learning. In this chapter, we would like to list three examples of classifications that exist for educational technology that are used in open and distance education.

Type of Interaction[edit]

One example of a method of classification is by the interactions learners can have with the content, instructor, and other learners through the use of technology. (Moore, 1989)[1] The first group of technologies are those that incorporate the learner-to-content interaction. These forms of technology are those that make content available for learners. This group can be further categorized into static (e.g., printed materials such as flashcards) or dynamic (e.g., YouTube videos) forms of technology. The second group of technologies are those used to connect the learners to their instructors. This particular group of technologies can include those that are synchronous (e.g., video conferences with the instructor) or asynchronous (e.g., emails with the instructor). The third group of technologies are those used to connect learners with each other. This group of technologies can also be categorized into synchronous (e.g., chats) or asynchronous (e.g., wikis) technologies.

Dimensions of Space, Time, Fidelity, and Humanness[edit]

Another example for classification is based on the four dimensions: space, time, fidelity, and humanness. Graham (2006) created the figure below to visualize the interaction of the four dimensions in a face-to-face and distributed learning environments.[2] Graham explained that newer digital technologies (i.e, ICT) have helped in achieving further possibilities that were once only achievable by traditional face-to-face learning environments. Certain educational technology in open and distance education can be found relevant in any of these four dimensions simultaneously. For example, radios are synchronous, medium in fidelity, and low in humanness, as opposed to YouTube videos with the instructor teaching the course being asynchronous, high in fidelity, and medium to high in humanness. If virtual reality (VR) were to be widely incorporated in education in the future, it may be considered synchronous, high in fidelity and relatively high in humanness.

Asynchronous/Synchronous & Communicative/Broadcast Dimensions[edit]

A similar but different diagram to that of Graham's (2006) figure is Bate's (2011) matrix, showing the characteristics of educational technologies in two dimensions: Communicative/broadcast and synchronous/asynchronous.[3] This matrix allows for a better visual understanding of the categorization of educational technologies based on those two dimensions.

Bates explained that the technologies and forms of communication that are applicable to the matrix can all be encompassed by the technology - that is the internet. He further emphasized the importance of the internet, in that its dynamic can provide immense possibilities for technology and learning.

Educational technology in open and distance education greatly rely on the internet. Without the internet, open and distance education of today would never have existed, and it will never advance to further stages in the future. Thus, it can be said that the matrix is one method of categorization that well reflects the educational technology used in open and distance education.

  1. Moore, M. G. (1989). Editorial: Three types of interaction. The American Journal of Distance Education, 3(2), 1–6.
  2. Graham, C. R. (2006). Blended learning systems: Definitions, current trends, and future directions. In C. J. Bonk & C. R. Graham (Eds.), The handbook of blended learning: Global perspectives, local designs (pp. 3–21). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.
  3. Bates, A.W. (2011) Models for selecting and using technology: 4. Synchronous or asynchronous? e‐learning and  distance education resources, Vancouver: Tony Bates Associates Ltd