I found Steve Wheeler’s discussion on the concept of “Distance Education” in this blog post rather timely. Without answering himself, he raises the question of whether the term “distance education” is rather anachronistic in a modern world in which connectivity is so prevalent. We have seen distance education walk hand in hand with the development of technology – to the point that the distance itself may have disappeared.
I don’t see myself as someone working in distance education. It is more about online learning, whether its use in a school context or fully online (where there is no physical contact between students). Even more importantly, it is about ‘learning’. The approaches I take don’t reflect something unique about distance education. Students can work collaborative or individually, workshop with the teacher and each other, be directed or take an inquiry approach – it really doesn’t matter. I merely use online platforms and tools to facilitate the learning. This should also be part of a wider change in how we approach ‘delivering’ formal education. Students should not have to be tied to a teacher and a classroom all the time (see previous post on this subject). For me the term “distance” education conjurs up images of large booklets students are left to work through with very little teacher support. Hardly future focused learning.
I also don’t see myself working in a video conferencing environment. No matter how hard we try it still pops up as a way of describing our programmes. A “VC course” or a “VC student” still haunt documentation and correspondence. This description may have been accurate a number of years ago, but it certainly isn’t now. The video conference is just one important part of the teacher’s toolkit. It does not dominate the landscape as it once did, and nor should it.
I actually enjoy the term “ubiquitous learning” because it gives a sense of learning being everywhere. That is perhaps way too like education jargon so maybe we just call it what it is – learning.