What am I seeing out there about Distributed Learning?
Distributed Learning is a fairly new term to me…possibly used other terms like online learning, web-based learning, virtual learning, eLearning, open education, distance education and even blended learning (part online/distance and part onsite). There seem to be various definitions available from various sources…just to name a few.
- The BC Ministry of Education defines that Distributed Learning (DL) takes place when a student is primarily at a distance from the teacher, whether he/she is at home; or connected to teachers from another learning facility.
- Learn BC outlines the difference of Distributed Learning from traditional learning is ‘in how courses are delivered – at a distance from the traditional classroom. Many can be completed online, while others use a combination of online and print materials.’
- (M. Ally, 2008) focuses on the learner/learning process in his definition of Distributed Learning is “the use of the Internet to access learning materials; to interact with the content, instructor and other learners; and to obtain support during the learning process, in order to acquire knowledge, to construct personal meaning, and to grow from the learning experience.”
- (Matheos & Archer, 2004) base their model on blending a choice of appropriate technologies with aspects of campus-based delivery, open learning systems and distance education. They define a distributed learning environment as a ‘learner-centered approach to education, which integrates a number of technologies to enable opportunities for activities and interaction in both asynchronous and real-time modes’.
Perspective of Personal Interest Regarding Distributed Learning
A perspective I appreciated was From Distance Education to Distributed Learning Thriving Surviving by K Matheos who believes that ‘Distributed learning combines the most advanced forms of distance learning technologies with aspects of conventional, campus-based education. Because the new technology requires radical rethinking about how to administer and use it most effectively, this transformation presents both a great opportunity and a considerable threat to campus-based, research-intensive universities. For specialized distance learning institutions such as Athabasca University, it presents the opportunity to move from their former position on the fringes of higher education into a much more central role.’
My education includes a distributed learning model of online and on-campus sessions at Royal Roads University, so I particularly find this opinion interesting. I experienced pushback in the late 1990’s and early 2000 when I finished my schooling, from people who were not convinced of the effectiveness of online or distributed education. To see opinions that this model has moved towards a central role in education today is very satisfying as I believe it is the future for education.
I believe that, as Matheos explains, that ‘For university students, distributed learning is becoming important in order for them to meet their learning goals. It allows them more choice and flexibility along with opportunities to learn new and important communication skills necessary for work in the global networked environment.‘
Distributed Learning Concept Map
It would appear that DL has a broad definition, and encompasses other commonly used terms like those seen in green above, within its definition.
I found the definition by Matheos & Archer of ‘learner-centered approach to education, which integrates a number of technologies to enable opportunities for activities and interaction in both asynchronous and real-time modes’ resonated with me. I don’t really think my interpretation of DL has changed much during my research but has been enhanced by further understanding it’s components and subtleties.
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There is definitely a difference in DL terminology that is linked to different educational organizations and contexts and this could be very confusing. Having a consistent language and definition amongst all the organizations would decrease the lack of transferability amongst the organizations. This could be particularly important in an example where a model of in class and synchronous online, in my opinion, is much superior to simply asynchronous, individual online learning.
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I’ve recently joined this huge multinational company as a junior-level employee and they have this whole distributed learning program to train newcomers and interns. While many schools have adopted various methods of online learning, distributed learning is still a rare phenomenon.
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