Vol. 16 : No. 1< >
Myth and Reality
Donald G. Perrin, Journal Editor
My friend took an assignment to teach on line. He thought it would be less work because the class was small, and he could do the work from home in time segments at his convenience. I wondered how long it would take for his myth to find reality.
A few weeks later I saw him again. He was not having the easy life he'd planned. In the lecture world he told anecdotes from his years of experience. His lectures and his old lecture notes did not translate into effective distance learning. When he tried to write what he was teaching, it was not adequate. He had to re-research his content, and plan a variety of interactive experiences to make learning relevant and interesting.
In online learning, there is no "walk in and talk" option. Everything must be planned. Everything you do is visible, not only to your students, but to administrators and others. There is no closed classroom door to protect you. You create documentation of your failures as well as your successes.
On the positive side, once prepared, lesson materials are easily revised. You can correct problems, incorporate new ideas, and experiment with alternative ways to motivate learners and increase their productivity. After a few years you might even publish a self-contained interactive course as a model for other instructors.
Online teaching is nottraditional teaching. It is a whole new experience, a whole new learning construct. It uses interactive computers and networks, with text, graphics, sound, and video, to enable learning for persons who could not otherwise attend classes. Through distance learning it is possible to take courses at home, or in the workplace, or ,when you are "out of town." You can learn (and teach) asynchronously to fit your schedule, and capitalize on the visual and interactive opportunities of the World Wide Web. Electronic libraries and powerful search engines provide vast information resources. There are many communication options: email, conferences, threaded discussions, collaborative learning, multimedia, games and simulations. The opportunities are limited only by your time and imagination.
The experienced instructor combines the resources of the Internet with the people resources in the class. Many students are professionals with experiences to share. Peer learning becomes peer-tutoring, and the instructor becomes a catalyst, mentor, and resource person - a manager of learning. Good teaching practices can be translated into pedagogy - and androgogy - for asynchronous learning. It's a whole new experience for the learner and the Teacher.
Large service providers for distance learning have excellent training programs for their faculty to ensure a high success rate for both faculty and students. Distance learning offers the flexibility to fit our growing need for education and our complex lifestyles. It also makes lifelong learning a reality without major interruption to our jobs, our families, and our lives.