Essential Question: How can we manage the change that is inherent in our distance learning efforts?
Distance learning is exploding around the world at the same time that technology is rapidly evolving, and many times teachers can feel unable to keep up with the new media as quickly as their students. The knowledge we learn quickly becomes obsolete as newer information is produced, and we can get caught up in the fervor to gain more and more knowledge so we are not left behind in the Information Age. Whereas once humans considered knowledge to be solid for a lifetime, we must now engage in the “process of first preparing and then ‘repairing’ knowledge throughout the life span” (Moore & Kearsley, 2012, p. 276). As we attempt to maintain our effectiveness as teachers in this period of rapid change, it’s imperative that we focus on core elements that will allow us to teach distance courses.
As we design and implement online learning we need to keep in mind the Quality Matters elements and use the QM rubric to constantly be assessing our online courses, using this tool as a formative assessment to change our practices as needed. This allows us to make sure that our teaching is effective and is tailored for distance learning. Also important for us to consider is how we integrate technology, and whether we are using technology to enhance the course or simply using it because it is the modern thing to do. Most important for teachers’ success with distance learning is for them to receive training in the content and delivery of the distance courses.
As online educators we need to engage in professional development in order to develop effective courses that maintain their relevance in today’s rapidly changing world. Quiroz, et. al (2016) maintain that there are four key elements that teachers need to keep in mind while designing distance courses: authenticity, relevance, mentoring, and considering the standards. Authenticity promotes the idea that online courses need to be project-based and utilize the inquiry model. Assessing relevance ensures that students are finding the course content having value in their lives. Having a mentor system in place for teachers helps to ensure that they are delivering online courses in a manner that sets up student success. Courses have to be standards-based to ensure that they cover the necessary content. Keeping these four elements in mind are key to managing the plethora of data available in our world.
Many people try to predict the future of education and teachers’ role in a system where face-to-face learning may no longer be the normal practice. Rather than doubt the necessity of teachers, Rosen (2014) states that, ” In fact, elearning can be a great resource because it frees up time and provides much richer content, and educators’ roles will evolve to fit the times.” We need to do our best to embrace the changing system of education and keep learning through seeking out contact with people in the field, participating in learning communities, reading research, and trying out new technologies to see if they would enhance online learning. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the burgeoning amount of information around us, but as Zane (2015), states, “the key to lifelong learning is [to be] a human mediator, someone who has engaged in the ancient task of searching and sorting through knowledge.”
Larkin, I. M., Brantley-Dias, L., & Lokey-Vega, A. (2016, September). Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment, and Turnover Intention of Online Teachers in the K-12 Setting. OLC Online Learning Journal, 20(3), 26-51. Retrieved November 6, 2016, from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/read/online-learning-journal/
Moore, M. G., & Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Quiroz, R.E., Ritter, N.L., Li, Y., Newton, R.C. & Palkar, T. (2016). Standards Based Design: Teaching K-12 Educators to Build Quality Online Courses. Journal of Online Learning Research, 2(2), 123-144. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
Rosen, D. (2014, July 11). ELearning Future: What Will eLearning Look Like in 2075? Retrieved November 06, 2016, from https://elearningindustry.com/elearning-future-what-will-elearning-look-like-2075
Zane, J. P. (2015, March 19). In the Age of Information, Specializing to Survive. The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/20/education/in-the-age-of-information-specializing-to-survive.html?_r=0