Sunday, September 22, 2013

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Scenario 2: Interactive Tours
"A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?" (from Walden University, EDUC 6135)
For this scenario, the two distance learning technologies that will assist the high school history teacher in her endeavor would be media sharing and discussion technologies. To further streamline the technologies, the teacher should use these features within a CMS (course management system) if she can. Nonetheless, I would like to focus upon how she can use media sharing tools and then discussion technologies so that she is able to have her students tour the museum, see various works of art, interact with the curators, and finally critique a work of art as a class.
Social media is one mode of media sharing that is very popular. With the features of smartphones and other mobile devices, sharing media like pictures and videos is possible with a variety of social media sites including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and many others. Weilenmann, Hillman, and Jungselius (2013) confirmed that "mobile technologies such as smartphones are a relatively common sight in modern museums and science centers." Therefore, this history teacher should encourage her students to utilize social media as a means of collaborative learning. Luckily, if she uses a CMS like Canvas (, she will be able to integrate outside social media tools more seamlessly than with other CMSs, but she should be able to integrate social media tools through links with any CMS. This will help the history teacher because "media sharing sites are Web Sites that facilitate the sharing of content and artifacts such as text, pictures, videos, presentations, and audio files" (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), and that is exactly what she wants to do. She wants the students to "tour" the museum so that they can see artwork.
Weilenmann, Hillman, and Jungselius (2013) suggested using Instagram because it "includes dedicated mobile applications that allow users to take and manipulate photographs... and to share them online where other users can react through comments and ‘likes’." The latter could help the students interact with the curators, another goal of the history teacher. Also, Instagram allows users to include tags which "can be seen as a way to direct photos into a certain type of image stream or photo-graphic conversation" (Weilenmann, Hillman, & Jungselius, 2013). With tags, it would be easier to help the students stay on task and to find artworks again with greater ease. As an additional bonus, Instagram can be integrated with Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr, sites that also encourage interactions through commenting, replies, and/or "likes". This is especially important because Weilenmann, Hillman, and Jungselius (2013) reported, "It has become relatively common for museums and science centers to use social networks with the aim of facilitating new types of participation with visitors." So if the museums are already using social media networks, the history teacher should be able to work with the museum to find the right media sharing venue for her class.
Once the class has sufficiently toured the museum and interacted with the curators (and possibly other art aficionados who use social media networks), then the history teacher should gather her class by using a discussion technology. Again, if she has a CMS, it should "integrate discussion technologies such as discussion forums, group collaboration areas, and virtual chat tools into the online learning environment" (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). However, if she does not have a CMS, there are "Web discussion technologies [that] provide yet another method to actively engage students in learning" (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). In fact, the teacher could choose to conduct the discussion on Instagram or whatever social media network was used for the tour. After all, they do allow for commenting; however, if the comments are to be graded, that could become a logistical nightmare and this is why CMSs are so wonderful−they will help you find and grade your students more easily. However, in order to conduct a group critique of an artwork, the history teacher should "spend [her] time preparing materials and the carefully thought out discussion questions and topics that relate to learning objectives" (Andresen, 2009, p. 251). Having guiding questions will help direct the learners and allow her to "intervene, but only in order to keep the discussion on track, or take on a cheerleading role to motivate the discussion" (Andresen, 2009, p. 251) would be the ideal situation. Andresen (2009) found that if the instructor participates in the discussion too much, then the learners "begin to rely on the instructor to answer questions" (p. 251). Therefore, the history teacher should take care to intentionally set up the discussion so that learners can participate and have a lively discussion critiquing the artwork that is steeped in respect, understanding, and constructive learning.
As you can see, using media sharing and discussion technologies will help the history teacher accomplish her learning objectives (and with relative ease if she can use a CMS). These learning tools will help enrich the classroom experience and connect her learners with outside experts, something that may even help them realize the possibilities of social media, helping them become life-long learners.
Andresen, M. A. (2009). Asynchronous discussion forums: success factors, outcomes, assessments, and limitations. Educational Technology & Society, 12 (1), 249–257. Retrieved from
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The technology of distance education. [Multimedia Program]. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
Try Canvas. (n.d.). In Canvas by Instructure . Retrieved from
Weilenmann, A., Hillman, T., & Jungselius, B. (2013). Instagram at the Museum: Communicating the Museum Experience through Social Photo Sharing. In Retrieved September 21, 2013, from

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Defining Distance Learning

            Before this course, I thought distance learning was something that was quite new, considering the evolution of the internet and how prominent it has become in our lives. To me, distance learning was something that used the internet and a sort of learning management system (LMS) so that people who were located throughout the world could attend a course from some kind of institution. However, I now know that distance learning is not something that is new, but something that has been evolving through the centuries as new technologies have emerged. For example, correspondence courses were available in 1833 in Europe and later in the United States by 1873 (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.)! It's hard for me to even imagine how long it would have taken for one's work to reach its destination, be graded, and then returned with descriptive feedback, but that was the beginning of distance learning and it has been evolving ever since.
            In fact, I think the reason the definition of distance learning is always changing is because of the different technologies that have helped shape the way distance learning works. We are now far past the days of using "snail mail" since we can use e-mail and LMSs. Nevertheless, those earlier elements of distance learning have helped shaped its future. Even with the earlier correspondence courses, writing was essential and writing is still a staple in all kinds of educational programs. Later, telecommunications and radio became an integral part of the distance learning programs (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.), but one could argue that this has been replaced by more modern technologies like podcasts. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright and Zvacek (2012) found that "experimental television teaching programs" began in the 1930s, something that was replaced by satellite technology and later fiber-optic communication systems (p. 39-40).
            Nevertheless, if one speaks of distance learning now, it's almost synonymous with "computer-mediated communications and the Internet" (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 40). Interaction and collaboration with the instructor and classmates is much easier to accomplish nowadays in an online environment; although, it's not hard to see how the earlier elements of distance learning helped shape what it currently is. Correspondence is now more instantaneous but still very much present in distance learning. Similarly, radio and television have been replaced by their more modern counterparts−podcasts and streamed or downloaded videos stored online. Yet there are still some elements that have remained throughout distance learning's history: it involves an institution and physical separation.
            So now I return to the question, "What is distance learning?" I no longer define it as something the uses only the internet because its history is much more extensive than that. Distance learning is a kind of formal education that is supported by an institution (this can be an educational institution or otherwise) who uses interactive systems to connect a community of learners who are separated by location and/or time. I hope that is a definition that encompasses the history and future of distance education, both of which are important. After all, if we remember from where we've come, it's easier to keep moving forward.
            Furthermore, I think the future of distance learning is very bright. I actually think distance learning will become the norm, especially for higher education. Because distance learning is so cost effective, it makes higher education possible for more people (Moller, Foshay, Huett, 2008, p. 70). No longer will people have to take time away from work unless they want to. People won’t have to move to where the university is either. Similarly, if the best program is not in your state, it won’t matter because (to use a cliché) it would only be a click away. Or if one happens to be in a remote location or in a country that may not have the resources to support an educational program, distance learning may help provide the answer since "once developed, tens of thousands of employees or customers can use [the distance learning program] immediately" (Moller et al., 2008, p. 70).
            However, the quality of distance education will have to improve. As it is now, there are some programs that are quite well-known and respected and there are other programs that too easily accept students and aren’t as highly revered. It’s those programs that bring the reputation of distance learning down, so there will need to be more standardization to ensure high-quality programs. Much like the Common Core has swept most of the K-12 education programs, I think there will be a similar revolution in distance education. Moller et al. (2012) wrote, "There must be a means for both producers and consumers to recognize high quality e-learning" (p. 71). I think some kind of standardization will help with such an issue, so I foresee a higher level of uniformity and control in distance learning's future.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.) Distance learning timeline continuum. [Multimedia Program]. Retrieved from
 Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Distance Education

The focus of my blog is changing yet again. I will be using this blog for my latest Walden course: Distance Education. Check back to see what I'm learning and what I will share with you!