Sunday, November 18, 2012

Distance Learning Scenario


Distance Learning Technologies

Instructional designers in the K-12 arena must possess the ability to assist teachers in the effective design of instruction in distance learning.  According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Avacek (2012), it is not about what technology is used but how it is used and the content it conveys (p. 115). 

National Portrait Gallery
This post will take into consideration the following factors: 

·      High school history classroom
·      View collections in museums too far away to visit
·      Interact with curators
·      Group critique of student-chosen works

There are multiple means to accomplish this task, however, certain considerations are essential in the K-12 public education sector.  Distance learning technologies such as synchronous audio and video communication can be blocked on district networks, or requires the need to coordinate the lesson with technical support staff. 

Online Tours

A simple way to handle viewing far away collections is to use Google Art Project or to go to the website for the museum.  Take a look for yourself at these specific examples:

·      Online virtual tour of Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
·      Google Art Project:  Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Distance Communication

Once students have time to explore the online collections, several options are possible for students to interact with curators. 
·      Synchronous two-way audio and video could be done via Skype or Apple’s Facetime
·      Synchronous one-way audio and video could be done via Blackboard Collaborate or Oovoo
·      Synchronous two-way chat could be done via Gmail chat, or a simple site such as Today’s Meet (
·      Asynchronous communication could also be done via Google Sites, Edmodo, or even the school CMS. 

Group Critique

After viewing the online virtual tours and communicating with the curators, students will need to choose two works and participate in a group critique.  This requires a place for students to link to the images and to participate in a dialogue critique.  A group critique could happen in the classroom via presentations and face-to-face discussions, however, if the teacher would also like to handle this portion of the lesson with distance learning tools multiple options are again available.  A great wrap-up, asynchronous tool for the group critique would be VoiceThread ( ), which would allow students to upload the two images they selected.  Students could then choose text or voice along with drawing tools to hold a meaningful critique of the artwork.


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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Distance Learning from my perspective

Distance learning continues to adapt to the advances of distance communications (Tracey, & Richey, 2005).  From the early years of correspondence courses, through telegrams, to radio broadcasts, then television courses, and onto VHS video, the time lapse between student and instructor has decreased (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  In the current age of the Internet, distance learning has seen exponential growth due to the rapid rise of global communication and the mobile industry.  As the author of “The World is Flat,” Thomas Friedman dared to open our minds to how the instant information age has created a level playing field upon which anyone with access to information can now be a contender (2007).

This rapid growth in the industry has much to do with telecommunications growth.  However the growth of students taking distance courses has as much to do with the need for a highly skilled, technologically rich workforce as it does with the dynamics of the modern family where parents work to support and improve the status and earnings of the family unit.  A handful of years ago, several of my closest teacher friends embarked on a journey to earn a Master’s degree for art education.  Three of my friends enrolled in the same university, which was just beginning their first online program.  The other teacher-friend began taking courses via correspondence.  The process fascinated me in the aspect of time.  The correspondence course offered little feedback or formative assessment, however the teacher had complete flexibility in how quickly the work was completed and submitted.  At the same time, my three friends taking the new online course encountered bumps along the road as professors learned and adapted to the new style for sharing information.

While distance learning can mean multiple things, to me the definition is simple.  Distance learning is a formalized process that guides the student through the discovery of and synthesizing of new information without the immediate and direct guidance of the instructor (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  While my view of distance education has been shaped by multiple experiences, the idea of synchronous versus asynchronous plays a major role in my view of distance education.  When comparing mail-in correspondence courses to Skyped lessons in real time, the idea of time becomes a greater limiting factor than geographic distance.

Through my work with high school teachers building online courses to supplement their face-to-face classes I have needed to consider time in a completely new manner.  Conversations with students that formerly were constrained to a one-hour class period, can now take place over the course of an entire week.  This flexibility offers students the chance to truly reflect upon their learning and offer richer opinions online than they are able or willing to contribute during the synchronous class-time allotted by the school (Bergmann, & Sams, 2012).  Similarly, students are able to access digital content to supplement or review information supplied in class.

While there is much debate concerning the effectiveness of online courses, their popularity continues to rise.  Fully online programs are currently hampered by a lack of technological skill on the part of the participant.  However, as the technology skills held by the majority population continues to grow, combined with the increasing availability of low-cost Internet and Internet capable devices, distance-learning courses will increase in popularity.  Although, as a teacher, I must state that online courses will never fully replace the need for teachers as mentors, models, and guides for the learning process.

My mindmap for distance learning, pictured above can be found at:


Bergmann, J. & Sams, A. (2012, April).  How the flipped classroom is radically transforming learning.   Learning, Innovation & Tech Bombs & Breakthroughs.  Retrieved from:

Friedman, T. L. (2007).  The world is flat: A brief history of the 21st century.  Picador Publishing, New York, NY.

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

Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.