Today I have Kate Wilson as guest blogger. Please be sure to check out her unique guest post. Guest posts are always welcome, please contact me.
Distance education has come a long way from its humble beginnings. When most people hear the phrase “distance education,” they probably imagine a student ordering catalogues of books to read on their own, taking tests over their material either by mail or online—earning an education in an isolated environment, in essence. But distance education courses—especially online college courses offered by accredited institutions—now offer a wide array of course methodologies meant to make their learning experience even more worthwhile than in typical classroom settings.Distance learning allows instructors much more creative freedom when designing their classes since they’re not limited by the classroom dynamics. Because of the liberty granted to distance learning, many instructors opt for class formats with a variety of class activities meant to diversify the learning process in ways that make students think critically.
The results of such diverse course strategies are clear. Online education fosters self-reliance in students that makes them more independent and passionate about their studying, because the process is largely in their hands. This experiential education prepares students for real life scenarios, whether it’s researching material on the web, collaborating with work colleagues online, or learning to take the initiative in a professional setting.Below are a few of the most popular methods utilized by instructors and professors of distance learning courses.
Online lecturesOne of the standards of a college education, the classic lecture, is among the teaching methods often cited as a critical element missing in distance education. Without an experienced professor explaining the subject matter through lecture, detractors argue, there’s no proper way for a student to make sense of their readings.
But that’s no longer the case. Now instructors guide their students through their courses over a series of web-based lecture videos posted online. Students can watch these videos at their leisure unlike with typical college classes where students have to keep pace with weekly lectures. Instructors design online lectures to accommodate the varied schedules of their students, who can stop and restart the video lectures as often as they like to ensure that they absorb the entire lesson.Instructors might also post lectures from industry professionals who offer critical insight to subjects at hand. For example, some professors might present their students with relevant videos from awe-inspiring TED talks in order to spur discussion.
VideoconferencingDistance learning skeptics might raise concerns about the level of interaction between a student and their instructor, and for good reason. As I said before, distance education does away with the old school dynamic of a classroom setting where the professor conducts the lesson while the student passively absorbs the information. Students may interact with class materials and communicate with their peers without direct supervision from their professors for great lengths of time.
So how do the professors keep in touch with their students? Outside of using email to communicate, a great deal of professors and instructors utilize video conferencing (through Skype or Hangouts on Google+, for example) to check in on their students. With video conferencing, professors can discuss coursework and the student’s struggles on a personal one-on-one level not available to many students at huge state universities. Students that videoconference with their teachers are also more apt to make use of their discussion time since they have such infrequent face time.
Forums/Message Boards for discussions
Just because there’s no physical gathering space for a professor and their students in distance learning course does not mean that they can’t meet together online. When professors of distance learning courses plan their class around group discussion and group participation, they might create an online forum or message board that the students can contribute to.
There are a number of new and innovative services that create private forums and message boards for a classroom setting. Consider services like Edmodo made for teachers who want to build a dynamic online experience for their students. In these online forums, students can start discussions threads about critical issues and problem points of their lessons and readings that other students can comment and build upon as the class progresses. In effect, these forums foster in students a sense of community and shared experience with their classmates that they might not have experienced had they been sitting among each other in a classroom.
Kate Wilson is a freelance education and tech blogger who writes for collegecrunch.org. Kate is an avid believer of online education and introducing smarter tech into the classroom to enhance the learning experience. She’s a tech junkie and a strong advocate for forward-thinking education policy.
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Many thanks to Kate.
Many thanks to Kate.
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