Ohio University is home to nearly 2,000 highly qualified, award-winning faculty, many of whom teach the University’s eLearning and distance courses. Faculty who teach in our distance learning programs come from disciplines ranging from Accounting to Visual Communications. However, they have two things in common — a passion to make a difference in the lives of their learners-at-a-distance and the expertise and support to do so.
What is Distance Education?A first step in investigating offering courses from a distance is to review standard definitions. The research typically describes the alternatives as:
Technology enhanced learning and technology delivered learning have distinguishable differences. Technology enhanced learning has the opportunity for some face-to-face meetings with the instructor. It is seen as supplemental to the traditional classes, is typically asynchronous, and has instructor-led live sessions. In technology delivered learning, students are never or rarely in physical proximity to the instructor. The class is described as distance education or distance learning, and the content can be delivered with a blend of synchronous and asynchronous technology.
At Ohio University, generally we describe online learning as courses that are delivered 100% online.
Online QualityThe Ohio Learning Network (OLN) Task Force Report on Quality in Distance Learning (2002) “Quality Learning in Ohio and at a Distance” noted a summary of the seven principles of good practice in teaching, originally developed by Chickering and Gamson (1987) and applied later by Chickering and Ehrmann (1996) in “Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education”. Those were to: encourage contact between student and faculty, develop reciprocity and cooperation among students, use active learning techniques, give prompt feedback, emphasize time on task, communicate high expectations, and respect diverse talents and ways of learning. They felt that if the power of the new technology is to be fully realized, they should be employed in ways consistent with the seven principles. From this report, the OLN Task Force determined that quality is defined in many ways in higher education, but the basic elements MUST involve interaction among and between faculty and students. This “relationship building” is a key component in quality learning. The task force went on to offer faculty, student, and institutional roles and responsibilities in online learning. As this task force sees it, the role of faculty include:
Other distance education researchers would add to this list of instructors’ roles to include providing accessibility, creating a non-threatening and collegial atmosphere with appropriate boundaries, and facilitating and interacting in the course.The role of students, as offered by the OLN Task Force, is preparation for the use of technology and the responsibilities associated with online education. This includes technical expectations, readiness for learning, and set career goals. Other distance education researchers might add to this students’ roles of reading/reflecting, providing input and interaction, and offering mutual support.
Finally, the OLN Task Force suggested that the role of the institution includes: