Distance Learning


Distance Learning

From Snail Mail to Webcast

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St. Paul's Epistles: Early Distance Learning

Ancient precursors of distance learning were those Greek runners who carried scrolls from Rome to Athens. And in the New Testament, Paul's letter to the Corinthians was carried by a runner from Rome to Greece, and represented early distance learning for the Corinthians.

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Distance learning or distance education is a broad term designating, as one might expect, any learning-at-a-distance. As such it encompasses a vast array of transmission devices; e-mail, snail mail, telephone, satellite, radio, mailed videotapes, audio-cassettes, television, video-conferencing, e-learning, and live Webcasts could all be included as "distance learning" modes.

From Correspondence School to E-Learning

The day is coming when the work done by correspondence will be greater than that done in the classroom.

—William Rainey Harper, 1885 (father of the junior college movement)

Distance learning originated in vocational correspondence schools that flourished during the heyday of industrialism in the mid-1800s and served to educate the working classes and women. An enormous range of topics was taught by mail, ranging from shorthand and drafting to home economics. A full century later, in the 1960s, the British "open learning" movement and its "university without walls" were conceived in the same spirit, and by 2000, e-learning or Web-based training continued the tradition.

Fastpaths

1997

Karen Mantyla and J. Gividen: Distance Learning: A Step-by-Step Guide for Trainers.

1998

Alan Chute et al. (eds.): The McGraw-Hill Handbook of Distance Learning.

2000

Nancy Stevenson: Distance Learning for Dummies.

See also Adult Learning



E-Learning

E-learning, or electronic-learning, is training carried over the World Wide Web. It can also mean training carried over an intranet inside a company. Because Web content is digital in nature, a large array of prebuilt training—ranging from Webcasts, CD-ROM, and CBT to streaming media—are all grist for e-learning's mill.

The two great advantages of e-learning are that (1) its content can be centrally updated (on a server), and (2) it can track learners' activities (in a database). In practical terms this means the realization of a host of dreams that have been harbored by trainers for years, but that could never be realized in a pre-Web world. These include: Level 3 evaluation (noting whether training transferred to the job), Level 4 evaluation (did the training carry a financial payback), and tracking student progress through a curriculum (classroom, online, or self-study) by means of a dynamic transcript. Such transcripts can log not only classes attended and self-studies completed, but can also track scores on tests and certifications, and any informal learning, coaching, or mentoring sessions that have been recorded as well. E-learning does not replace classrooms or self-studies, but augments these, "blending" them with what the Web does best: providing online pretests and post-tests, information lookups, post-course refreshers, and collaborative learning communities. However, just as with any delivery medium, e-learning must be constructed around sound instructional design principles, and tied into business objectives.

Prediction: The Medium Will Disappear

"The medium is the message" is the slogan of any new technology on the rise, loudly and boisterously hyping itself. When it has matured, however, the medium disappears into the background, and the message shifts to center stage. We no longer speak of "book" learning, for instance. And thus in the course of time, e-learning will also shed its "e" and become just plain "learning." At that point, we will know that e-learning has grown up.

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Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Courses

Synchronous courses are live Webcasts (Latin and Greek: synchronos: "in simultaneous time").

Asynchronous courses are recorded Web-casts or regular courses (Latin and Greek: asynchronos: "out of time").

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Fastpaths

1997

Brandon Hall: The Web-Based Training Cookbook.

2001

Roger Schank: Designing World-Class E-Learning.

2001

Marc Rosenberg: E-Learning: Strategies for Delivering Knowledge in the Digital Age.

2002

Allison Rossett (ed.): ASTD E-Learning Handbook: Best Practices, Strategies, and Case Studies for an Emerging Field.

2002

Ruth Clark and Richard Mayer: E-Learning and the Science of Instruction.

2003

George Piskurich (ed.): The AMA Handbook of E-Learning.

See also Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS) Extreme Learning Systems The Web Model: Dimension 7