What is the Best Blend of Distance Education Variables for Teacher Professional Development?
There are multiple ways of conceiving and implementing educational systems where students can learn via a basically non-face-to-face interaction with others, the essence of distance education. All of these systems intend to overcome situational barriers that adults might have for learning, but they can differ in several dimensions. A multidimensional set of opportunities are available to offer at-a-distance education, including several continuum, such as the following six:
- from “correspondence” instruction (lessons being delivered by using learning objects) to “collaborative” learning units (knowledge being built by interaction among learners who have previously explored and reflected on relevant learning objects),
- from content-based learning processes (willing to fill content learning gaps) to problem-based learning processes (willing to find answers to relevant questions),
- from synchronous (students and facilitators interact synchronously) to asynchronous learning processes (interaction is time deferred),
- from self-contained learning objects (all knowledge is packaged and ready to use) to tutor- or peer-managed curriculum materials (knowledge requires interaction both with materials and co-learners),
- from individual (self-managed) learning to social learning (meaning is built via human interaction),
- from mono-media to multi-media learning objects (one or more media are needed to learn), and so on.
With the above framework I would like to invite participants to reflect on the type of combinations you have found to be cost-effective in technology-based distance education. My two cents contribution deals with the Concord Consortium eLearning model.
My personal experience applying this model for online and blended teacher professional development through different countries in Latin America has shown that it is expensive to provide this type of collaborative, asynchronous, multimedia-based, facilitated-from-the side, at-a-distance learning experience, and it is worth the effort.
Participants are engaged in unique knowledge-building processes that generate enduring understanding of key ideas; they understand and apply knowledge in regard with relevant challenges, their level of satisfaction is high, as well as the level of transference of methods and means to other educational settings. Feedback collected from multiple participants has confirmed that sound pedagogy and appropriate use of media make the difference.
I invite participants to share other cases where a particular blending of distance education variables has created a coherent and effective approach to teach and learn at-a-distance.
Alvaro Galvis uses Information and Communication Technologies in formal and informal educational settings, with experience in both developed and developing countries. He was a computer science professor at University of Los Andes, a Senior Researcher at the Concord Consortium, and the creator and leader of the Center for Excellence for Teaching and Learning at WSSU. He is currently President of Metacursos SAS, a Colombian consulting firm devoted to helping educational organizations and corporations innovate their educational practices.