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The Cat and the Bag:
An Alternative Ending
Drs. Donald G. and Elizabeth Perrin
Some time ago, we included a wry comment from Stephen Downes
on the position of distance learning in the traditional academic setting.
It is worth repeating. "Everybody keeps trying to stuff the DE cat back into
the F2F bag. Iím going to do my damndest, in my own small way, to help the cat
stay out. It is well and truly out. But that does not stop some people from
holding and even defending the bag. My own interest, of course, is in the cat."
Our new ending to the 'cat stuffing' is that the bag is no longer being defended.
Indeed, the bag is in process of redesign and the cat is a welcome visitor!
Distance learning teaching/learning design is more and more often made integral
to on-campus classes. Several forces are at work to bring about this change.
Faculty are becoming familiar with new learning technologies, integrating them
with traditional methods of instruction.
- Courseware designed for distance learning is being made
available to on-campus instructors. Many campuses offer computer-enhanced
courses for on-campus students with the option of taking those same courses
online or in hybrid format.
- Interactive multimedia offers flexible learning environments
that accommodate a wide range of subjects and learning modalities.
- Computer management systems track student progress, adapt
to student needs, and signal problems that require instructor intervention.
- Transition to "performance based" learning requires "hands on" tools for
students to demonstrate mastery in higher levels of learning - application,
analysis and syntheses.
While traditional faculty are discovering the advantages
of technology, rethinking design and development of distance learning environments
have been, for a considerable time, a major preoccupation of online distance
educators. Is there any similar research and implementation in restructuring
of the on-campus learning environment? I would venture yes, absolutely.
Not only are thousands of students considering online learning as an alternative
learning path to a degree or certificate, many instructors are considering the
possibilities of online instruction as a supplement, or an alternative, to their
traditional classroom practice. And frequently, as F2F classrooms are redesigned,
the distance learning concepts and environments are incorporated in the on-campus
classes. Cooperative group projects are designed to be accomplished via email
and chat room in addition to or instead of meetings in the library or the student
union. The concept of "interactive" has gone beyond the simple traditional student
project exchanges of content and purpose, or even the delivery of a major project
by an individual student to the on-campus class as a whole - with time for questions
at the end. "Interactive" classroom on campus now may well closely resemble
the exchange and concept sharing as it is commonly practiced in a distance learning
TO OUR READERSHIP
The growth and complexity of distance learning is increasing
exponentially. To provide support in research and praxis to our readership,
we are pleased to announce two blue-ribbon additions to our editorial staff,
Dr. Brent Muirhead as Online Learning Editor, and Stephen Downes as Editor at
Large. Both of these persons bring extraordinary talent, experience and international
recognition in distance learning.
Dr. Brent Muirhead is area chair and professor of
curriculum, technology, and graduate research courses for the University of
Phoenix Online. He is a frequent presenter and contributor to the distance learning
community, both here and abroad. email@example.com.
Stephen Downes, a colleague from Canada, is a world recognized leader
in distance education and author of a next generation website http://www.downes.ca/.
On a daily basis, he delivers OLDaily
with its summaries, comments, links, and threaded discussions to global
audiences, via email. firstname.lastname@example.org.