Benefits to Distance Learning vs. Face to Face Instruction
“The ability to learn asynchronously is one of the primary benefits of online learning. Students are able to reflect upon their ideas before sharing them with the class, leading to more reflective responses and in-depth meaning” (Teacher Stream ®, 2009). Transferring face to face training to distance learning has benefits for both the learners and the instructors, though it requires thoughtful planning in order to be successful. Quality of communication can certainly be enhanced by converting face to face instruction to a form of distance learning.
As training, has already been established as the solution to the problem, and the general attributes of the training participants are already known, there are a whole new set of considerations for distance learning that need to be taken into account.
- What is the desired outcome or goal?
- What experience do participants have with distance learning?
- What technology tools are participants familiar with?
- What technology tools do participants have access to?
- What format will best serve meeting the objectives on the spectrum of distance learning? (Fully online, blended, or hybrid, etc.)
- What technology tools will participants need to use in order to complete the distance learning experience?
- Do participants have proper training in these tools, and access to these tools?
- Planning an orientation to prepare participants to participate in the training in this new format.
- How will content be delivered? (CMS, wiki, blog, multiple tools?)
- How will participant growth be assessed?
- How will the training’s success be assessed?
Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012) promote the following considerations:
- Assess available instructional technology
- Determine learning outcomes
- Identify learning experiences and match each to the most appropriate learning technology
- Prepare learning experience for online delivery (p. 115)
Trainers need to be prepared to accept a very different role in training in a distance learning environment, and shift from being the central focal point of the instructional experience to being a facilitator of learning. Facilitators find themselves serving in multiple roles from technical support, subject matter expert, Heathfield (2010) states that the “online instructor’s role can be viewed under four categories: pedagogical, social, managerial, and technical” (p. 536).
In order to, specifically, facilitate communication and learning, among students, according to Dr. George Piskurich (n.d), the facilitator will need to know the software the students will be using, review the lesson plan with the facilitator, participate in all synchronous and asynchronous discussions, and keep in constant contact with students. (Laureate Education, n.d).
Keengwe, J. & Kidd, T., (2010). Towards best practices in online learning and teaching in higher education. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 6(2) (p. 536).
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating online learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.
TeacherStream®, LLC, (2009). Mastering online discussion board facilitation: Resource guide. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/pdfs/stw/edutopia-onlinelearning-mastering-online-discussion-board-facilitation.pdf