When it comes to distance learning, I still have a long way to go.
Technology has changed just about every facet of our lives. The automobile made us a mobile society. The Internet has made us a virtual society. You can sit in a Starbucks and send email on your phone. It probably won’t be long before the transporters from Star Trek become reality, and we’ll be able to beam ourselves just about anywhere!
The classroom has always been a place to embrace technology to assist in learning, and now the classroom as we’ve known it is becoming a victim of that technology. Distance learning, e-learning, online learning – whatever you call it, it’s here to stay.
The “traditional” college student (18-22) has grown up with technology, so using it in the classroom is second nature to them. But many adult students, even if they use technology at work, are unfamiliar with its use in – or as – the classroom. My first venture back to graduate school came only a few years after I graduated from college, and even in that short period of time, so much had changed. I remember writing my first paper citing sources found only on the Internet and hoping they were legitimate. Blackboard seemed like something from the future to me then.
Fifteen years later, the thought of going to the library to look up a source seems archaic, and checking Blackboard for assignments and announcements is second nature. From that perspective, I am very comfortable with the role technology plays in my studies. So why do I still feel a bias toward an in-person, traditional classroom?
The biggest reason I think I prefer it is for the personal interaction not only with the instructor but also with the other students. And yet, in my professional career, I have become adept at building relationships via phone and email with co-workers who I often know for months or years before I ever meet them face-to-face.
Another reason for my hesitation may be the initial impression I had of online classes when they first became popular with the for-profit institutions. Call it skepticism or snobbery, but they just didn’t seem to carry the same credibility as a “real” class. Now, though, as top colleges and universities have embraced the idea of distance learning, that credibility gap is closing.
I guess I just need to see it for myself. I look forward to having an opportunity not only to learn more about how to design effective distance learning curriculum but also to participate in distance learning as a student. I haven’t always been on the leading edge of technology personally, but if I am serious about wanting to teach (or train), I need to broaden my technology horizons. I think I’m ready. Scotty, beam me up!