Distance Education

Teaching and Distance Education
Florentia Spires
Texas Tech University

EDIT 5370: Foundations of Distance Education
Dr. Khadija Bakrim
December 3, 2014


Distance Education

Teaching Distance Education
Distance Education teachers are essential in the educational arena of today. In creating a
college’s vision and plan for distance learning, all stakeholders should be considered (Drucker,
1986; Hache, 2000; Morrow, 1999; Ohler & Warlick, 2001). Some of the main reasons for the
need of distance education is: 1) the number of students seeking educational opportunities has
increased 2) the cost of distance education programs often seem more manageable and 3) it is a
convenient medium to keep ones’ job and attend school simultaneously. Teaching Distance
education has become more commonplace as the conveniences of this educational medium
gained momentum. While distance education is not for everyone, it does appeal to the more
versatile learner who is capable of focusing and compartmentalizing their thinking to be
successful as a distance learner student. As a distance learner, one can feel isolated in their
learning due to the nature of working independently much of the time depending on the design
for the course. As a result, a distance learner must be a self-starter and motivated as well as be
willing to be vulnerable and ask for help when they are struggling.
Teachers that lead a distance learning class should have insight on the students to provide
a glimpse of the challenges that they may face with the success of each student. As students get
enrolled in their course, it is a good idea to have a self-starter orientation course that will provide
feedback as to how the student may perform as a distance learner. With this information, it is a
commendable act to give students feedback on their probability of success in such a course based
on the background information has on the course. A distance learning teacher could go one step
further and offer a face to face or technology centered orientation to provide the students with a
actual opportunity to engage with the technology to provide the a hands on opportunity to make
an informed decision about being a distance learning student. This would be a motivational

Distance Education


approach of gaining trust for the university opposed to signing everyone up who will take a
course in order to have many discontinue the course due to unforeseen challenges on their part.
To that end, such a scenario of many unsuccessful students may be viewed as a personal
financial loss thus promote negative propaganda for the institution that could impact enrollment
negatively instead of increasing enrollment.

Instructors should understand their rights regarding coursework used in Online
Copyright issues are important to consider when teaching for distance education courses.
Oftentimes the logistics are not addressed upfront that may cause confusion or a feeling of
infringement due to not ensuring that there is an understanding about the parameters of the
university versus the instructor having rights regarding content material presented online.
Instructors need to be educated about their rights under copyright law (Simpson, 2001; Weigel,
2000). As a good practice, both the university and the teacher should put their agreements into
writing before proceeding with the production and distribution of online courses. This will in
turn avoid the confusion or sense of abuse from either party. No organization should enter into
the distance education marketplace without a clearly thought out plan that has gained the
consensus approval of all key players (Simonson et al, 2012). Often times this is not done thus
causing confusion about the copyright issue. While instructors should be aware of copyright
policy, it is important for the university to be transparent about their policy. If the policy states
that use of an instructors materials is does not protect their rights for free use of their materials,
they should be made aware of this fact so that they have the option to choose a different
approach to presenting materials to use for the distance learning class. On the other hand, some
institutions don’t have rights to the materials used by part time instructors, which means they can


Distance Education
use their work in as many universities as they choose. The issues of transparency are key to
maintaining harmony due to clarity of policy. I think that copyright issues are becoming more
prevalent due to the nature of growth of distance education. Flattened borders and the use of
technology with other universities and students in other global locations can have access to
course materials found online in courses and some individuals may be tempted to use them
without permission. For this reason, it is also important for all parties to be aware of the

copyright laws. I think that copyright laws should be introduced to all students capable of using
the Internet due to the propensity in which materials are replicated. If all students learn about
these laws, they are not likely to knowingly infringe upon the work of others. It is imperative
that all Internet users know the consequences that accompanied with the infringement on using
others materials without permission. Therefore, I think it is the primary responsibility of the
instructors to teach their students the copyright laws and sign a document to agree that they are
aware so that students remain with a subconscious reminder of how serious the infringement can
escalate to and avoid breaking the law unknowingly altogether.

Why are some graphic organizers hard to read?
As a student, I have always wondered why I could understand some graphic presentations
so much better than others, which lent itself to me either having a challenging time with learning
or learning with more ease. The presentation is essential and distance education instructors
should realize the impact that their work has on its learners. While there are different types of
learners in every class, there are also some basic design principles that are more accessible for
the average student. I believe that this could be a unit for a course that is presented when
becoming a distance education instructor to ensure that minimal principles are understood and

Distance Education


thus presented when charged to teach distance education students. When considering the size
and font of the text, it can impact the accessibility of the content material for the distance learner.
Having rules such as: lettering not being smaller than 24 point and having not more than five
lines per page are maximum for an ISG display or a or a screen of television information
(Simonson et al, 2012). The worse part about this is that if the instructor is not aware of these
parameters, in good nature they may present this information and learn throughout the
experience that all learners are not minimally being reached equally. The problem with that is
that it now presents a case whereby students will be required to accomplish additional work
outside of class not necessarily accounted for in an effort to receive the minimal of the content
information relayed in a program that is not presented in the most effective way. Other
considerations are the color and contrast of the presentation, spacing of the lettering and the
capitalization of the lettering. All of these factors lend themselves to the accessibility for
learning the material to the student. If an instructor is not aware, they can go on for periods of
time not making the content friendly to access thus inhibit the rapidity and the depth of learning
due to the logistical snafus that can easily be adjusted to meet a “standard” minimally effective
for reaching most students despite not being a professional graphic designer of technological
What is Distance Education Assessment and Interaction really about?
Distance education is charged to incorporate formative and summative assessments into
the coursework that is meaningful and should demonstrate growth for every learner. Assessment
is defined as measuring, documenting and interpreting behaviors that demonstrate learning
(Simonson et al, 2012). However, cognitive scientists are still searching for reliable ways to
evaluate the best measures for behaviors in distance education that demonstrate learning. A key

Distance Education


aspect of distance education is cognitive presence. Cognitive presence is defined as the extent to
which learners are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained reflection and
discourse in a critical community of inquiry (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer 2000). Currently,
without much sound information, Distance Education instructors are charged to develop methods
that engage students effectively to reflect on what they are learning. This learning is complex to
measure particularly if the is predominately remote. There are various assets to take in
consideration for assessment in a distance education course for the teacher. One of the biggest
challenges is measuring whether the work is that of the student. When assessing the
effectiveness of assessments, I think that the asynchronous model is the most challenging to
measure the growth. An honor code is very relevant in this model to ensure that the learner is
who they say they are and the work is in fact their work. As a result, a high level of integrity is
required. I believe a blended model of asynchronous and synchronous meetings could better
take an accurate pulse and measure the depth of learning for the learner that embeds some
interaction that can provide a glimpse of the work being accomplished by students. For example,
in a synchronous meeting online, students could be expected to read a text before hand and then
be expected to participate in the online discussion. This could be accomplished in a revealing
why that the hands are raised by students electronically to answer questions that are asked
remotely and recorded as part of the structure of the course. If this method for a part of
assessment were embedded regularly, it would shine light on measuring the success that students
were developing and demonstrating with the distance education course.
Another aspect of Distance Education Assessment that I grapple with is the quality of
interaction with peers. I believe that this aspect is crucial to the learning for the distance
education teacher to monitor closely in that it is the only interaction that we have to fully


Distance Education
immerse in discourse. As a result, the discourse should be relevant to the topic at hand and
meaningful to glean information from the insight and learning of others. I think the instructors
should create less frequent but meaningful interactions for the students to engage with online. I
have learned that if this does not occur, the exercise loses its’ potency and that may relate to
“busy work” that can be seen in a face to face classroom setting. This should at all cost be

avoided for the sake of maintaining quality of the distance education course and ideology. While
asynchronous distance education courses are more common, I would benefit from being a part of
more distance education courses whereby more blended asynchronous combined with
synchronous interactions to meeting the distance education goals during the coursework that
could both be accomplished online. I think this might heighten the sense of responsibility to
meeting deadlines for more rich engagement with peers as compared to the asynchronous model
of discourse with peers. In the event that synchronous meetings led by the instructor are not
present, alternatively a rubric for leading the written engagement between peers would be an
alternative. If the rubric were clear with key components that must be included, then the process
of engagement would consistently be more compelling for richer outcomes in learning from one
another. Rubrics require students to be intentional about what is included in their work and I
think that it is needed for peer-to-peer discourse in distance education components for learning.

Designing a Distance Education Course
The aspect of this course of learning about distance education that was most intriguing
was thinking about the important aspects of a university and their obligation to developing a
quality Distance Learning course for its’ students. With the advent of online resources, the
student-centered approach to learning fits well into distance education environments (Simonson

Distance Education


et.al, 2012). I was also required to carefully consider the development of the distance education
assets needing to be in place followed by designing of the course. The first component of the
design process was bringing ideas together with the end goal in mind for the course. In the
backward designing of the distance education course, I was required to consider the course
logistics that included identifying myself as well as providing office hours of my availability.
Other logistical components included having policies surrounding attendance, weekly
assignments, participation, plagiarism, and assessments. The course logistics addressed the
meeting dates for the students and whether it was synchronous or asynchronous in the method of
presentation. The teaching resources also played a role in providing direction about the materials
that would be included in the course.
Another significant consideration included the type of instructional model that would
lead to the most efficient acquisition of content being disseminated. The two models of
instruction that resonated with me as the most effective instructional design approach to teaching
and learning were Branched-designed (Bdi) instruction and the Hypercontent-designed (Hdi)
instruction. The technological response is primarily where the differences appear most
prevalent. In the Bdi model, the system provides the learner feedback as they continue to
learning by branching backwards. This system works great for students who tend not to self
regulate as effectively. Assessment results will determine the course content that the learner will
encounter. On the other hand the Hdi model is an instructional method that works best for a
student who is self driven with high standards for themselves. The learner works independent
from the instructor in the course and their direction is based upon their own choice of order. The
culminating result of this format is for the learner to bring all of their learning together to apply
to a project. Of the two and the way that I would teach STEM distance education course, I


Distance Education

would prefer either methods for students to accelerate in the course. Due to the nature of a STEM
course, the Hdi model is the most relevant to the end goal of students having experiences with
project-based learning and their ability to apply their learning standards in a practical way. The
entire course incorporates communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking assets
that are all 21st Century skills that students require today. As a result of the learners for the
course that I would develop, it encompasses all of the assets that provide students to hone these
skills. Additionally, the culminating project component speaks to students gaining a pragmatic
approach to applying 21st Century learning skills that is essential for students to acquire in STEM
courses. The use of technology as a learning tool works in tandem to reinforce 21st Century
skills as well.
Final Thoughts….
Teaching the distance learner correlates with the technological advancements of the
globe. The instructor’s role is an ambiguous one; in some cases an effective role is one in which
the instructor has an almost invisible presence (Palloff & Pratt, 2001; Shotsberger,
1997). According to research on online facilitation (Collison et al., 2000), effective facilitation is
based on establishing and negotiating learner and instructor expectations. The students that
enroll in the course are visionaries and self-motivated individuals who likely multitask regularly
in their lives and gain satisfaction if not pleasure in maximizing their time in an efficient way.
They are able to work while being a student or take an additional class because the online class
provides some flexibility whereby there is no clash in their schedule with other classes. The
distance learner who already posses some technology skills prior to the course is likely to spend
more time on the content and not the logistics of troubleshooting and learning how to use the
hardware or software to meet course expectations. The distance learner with high standards is

Distance Education


likely to be the most effective with gaining the most knowledge from the course due to their
drive to apply themselves and present their best work.
The Distance Learning course instructor that is proactive with their understanding
regarding their responsibilities as distance learning instructor as it relates to the time designated
for the course load and work is better prepared to begin this multifaceted role. It is also essential
that they know the policies surrounding the course organization, technical policies and legal
issues in order to ensure that the agency is a “good fit” based on their philosophical beliefs as a
professional and a Distance Learning instructor. If a Distance Learning instructor fails to do
their homework to learn about the institution, there is likely to be a conflict that makes the
experience less than pleasant. There is a learning curve in the way that an online course is
carried out and the instructor needs to know the differences. From experience, it is nothing
worse than to have a course taught by a professor who did not want to teach the course or does
not know how to drive the course for the success of all learners who apply themselves
accordingly. In the event that a course is not well facilitated, distance learning students can be
discouraged and this is particularly detrimental to the process of seeking to grow this educational
forum if students are less apt to enroll in this type of course due to one less than pleasant
experience or hearing discouraging words from a counterpart.
Finally, the institution that promotes distance learning has a responsibility to maintain a
quality distance education program that students would desire to be a part of promoting. It is a
fact that the students primarily by word of mouth play an essential and key role to provide free
marketing of the Distance Learning program based on their experience in their institution. Nonpunitive and transparent checks and balances should be put in place after the end of each course
to ensure that the learners are meeting their scholarly and professional goals promoted by

Distance Education
institution. By taking a pulse of student feedback, the institution can assess the strengths and
weakness in order to constantly apply improvements until the course is refined to a level of
mastery. This can be done well by simply asking the students about their reflection of the
various components that make for a successful Distance Learning course that promotes the
university in a positive way.



Distance Education

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S.E., Albright. M. J., Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and
Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Pearson.

Collison, G., Elbaum, B., Haavind, S., & Tinker, R. (2000). Facilitating online
learning. Madison, WI: Atwood Publishing.
Drucker, P. F. (1986). The frontiers of management: Where tomorrow's decisions are being
shaped today. New York: Truman Talley Books.
Garrison, D. R., T. Anderson, and W. Archer (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based
Environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher
Eduation 2 (2-3): 1-19.
Muilenburg, L. Y., & Berge, Z. L. (2005). Student Barriers to Online Learning: A factor
analytic study. Distance Education, 26(1), 29-48.

Palloff, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2001). Lessons from the cyberspace classroom: The realities of
online teaching. New York: Jossey-Bass.

Shotsberger, P. G. (1997). Emerging roles for instructors and learners in the web-based
instruction classroom. In B. Khan (Ed.) Web-based instruction (pp. 101-105.).
Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Educational Technology Publications.

Distance Education

Simpson, C. (2001). Copyright 101. Educational Leadership, 59(4), 36-38.


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