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Distant Education

Posted By: Jerry Rice on July 24, 2001
I teach a post graduate course in curriculum supervision via a distance learning milieu. I have 18 students at the local site and 7 or 8 students at the remote site. The connection is a ISPN connection, two-way video,audio with the ability for students to "punch in" and be heard and seen on the monitor. As the professor, I wear a "honing" device that allows the camara to follow me as I move around the room. The situation provides for internet connection, VCR, ELMO, and Presentation software.

While the technology is very appropriate and effective, I find the set up to be archaic. By this I mean that it forces the professor to become the locus of learning and attention, rather than the student and the experiences. It moves the teacher to center stage as Sage on the Stage, and makes it very difficult to have group interaction, cooperative learning modalities, and other constructivist strategies. I try to accommodate for this by requesting the students to "talk" over the wire to one another, but it is artificial and forced.

It is also impossible to use some of my simulation activities that require social interaction and discussion among and between groups and with the professor.

The only advantages I find with the distance learning situation are the ones for travel. Students do not have to travel to campus, saving them time and money, and energy and fuel are conserved for the country.

Learning is a social activity requiring reflection, discussion, metacognitive interaction, and group monitoring. Distance education strategies come between these activities, making the process one-way, linear, and sequential. Effective learning is not accomplished this way.

Thank you for your inquiry. I would be very interested in discussing this further and learning more of your research and study.

Jerry A. Rice, Asst. Professor
SUNY Cortland
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 The professor in a distance ed classroom by wanda hut on July 3, 2001
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