are the key trends and issues in distributed learning?
the last few years, the size and importance of the distributed
market have grown steadily. Many universities and colleges have
distributed learning as a top priority and a strategic development
Peterson's Web site lists almost 1000 institutions in Canada and
which offer some form of distance learning course. In 2000, an
three million students took online courses, up from 1.6 million
According to a recent International
Data Corporation study, e-learning
will become a $5.5 billion industry in North America by 2002.
of Distributed Learning
information technologies into teaching has great potential to
enhance the learning environment. The focus is on how students
rather than on teaching. This new approach creates an opportunity
examine and enhance teaching methods. The model supports the
needs of nontraditional students and encourages life-long
learning. Education transcends time and space barriers, and
takes place at a pace set by the students themselves.
studies have concluded that distributed learning can be a quality
service if professors use new approaches and try to make the learning
experience interactive. However, small-group, interactive courses
expensive and time-consuming to produce.
of Distributed Learning
distributed learning has many virtues, it also has critics who
the teaching community of its potential threats. Some fear that
rather than pedagogical, considerations are driving the distance-learning
trend in certain universities. Some argue that the movement is
spearheaded by administrators and information technologists rather
than instructors. This aspect of it provokes criticism from faculty,
believe that pedagogy should drive technology. Some also stress
the value of face-to-face interaction as a valuable part of the
are some interesting articles that voice these concerns:
David Noble, Digital
Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education,
First Monday, 1998.
Diploma Mills: A Dissenting Voice, First Monday, 1999.
Eyal Press and Jennifer Washburn, Digital
Diplomas, Mother Jones, 2001.
course materials that support technology-mediated instruction
are important digital assets. They need to be organized, accessed,
managed. Many of these materials may lend themselves for reuse,
allowing leveraging of these intellectual investments. Current
learning projects, some of which require building extensive databases
or repositories of information, usually focus on present use,
and often lack any procedural or technical provisions for archiving
and retrieving data for future use. The long-term viability of
critical academic resources needs to be addressed at the early
of course development. Faculty will need production and maintenance
guidance to ensure the longevity of these instructional materials
in the face of rapid technological and organizational changes.