Defining Distance Education

Distance education needs to be clearly defined and understood for a variety of reasons. Without a clear meaning, significant discussion and analysis on pedagogy cannot occur. Furthermore, a precise meaning is important for both teachers and students when thinking about distance education and learning. Interpreting distance education and learning is made more difficult because the development of this type of education has changed quickly from first-generation correspondence education and learning to fifth-generation intelligent flexible learning. Furthermore, there are multiple published explanations. Before developing a usable meaning, it is helpful to see how distance education’s meaning has been both created and pushed up to now.

distance_educationValentine talks about distance-learning explanations by discovering colleagues’ differing views. He declares, “Greenberg (1998) describes contemporary online learning as planned teaching/learning experiences that used a wide variety of technologies to reach the student at a distance and is designed to encourage student interaction and documentation of learning.” However, Valentine’s notes that Greenberg’s meaning doesn’t address whether the student is learning asynchronously or synchronously. Valentine says that Teaster and Bliezner’s (1999) meaning makes clear that distance education and learning happens when the student is separate in space and possibilities. But the author features that technological innovation isn’t mentioned at all in Teaster and Bliezner’s meaning.

Middle States Commission on Higher Education (2009) describes online learning as “an educational process in which all or the majority of the instruction happens with the instructor and student in different locations.” In this meaning, Center States makes no mention of technological innovation or whether learning is going on asynchronously or synchronously. In evaluating Keegan’s meaning, Valentine says, “Keegan (1995) gives the most thorough meaning. He says that distance education and learning and training result from the technological separation of instructor and student, which liberates the student from the necessity of traveling to ‘a set position, at a set time, to meet a set person, in order to be trained’.” While Keegan’s meaning of online learning is indeed thorough, it is not able to determine education and learning. Learning and education do differ. Furthermore, for successful research to begin, defining online education and learning is imperative.

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