Sunday, March 20, 2011

Instructional Design & Distance Learning

Interactive Tours Scenario:
A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. 

Instructional Design Solution: 

Podcasts and social media sites would be two ideal distance learning technologies for this activity. 

Podcasts are beneficial in the classroom because it provides content for both the visual learner and the auditory learner. Students are able to review and pause the content as many times as necessary to reflect on what was discussed (Laureate Education, 2011). Mark Frydenberg (2008) conducted a study of student use of podcasts and found that short podcasts containing supplemental material for a course where the most downloaded and viewed by students. The instructor could create their own podcast by loading images from the chosen art museum and recording a narration. Many large museums provide podcasts of the collections. The instructor could conduct a search for available podcasts and select one that would suit the activity.

Social media sites allow users to interact with each other in a virtual setting. Users are able to post images, links, and videos. Learners are encouraged to actively think about the content and participate in a discussion. Discussions can be in real time or asynchronous (Laureate Education, 2011). For this activity the instructor should choose a tool that allows real time chat. Students can complete the discussion as a class or in groups. The instructor can post the directions to the assignment and students will be able to discuss, critique, and post additional information found on the web about the artwork.

Example 1: 

Museums are offering more and more content online. It is no longer necessary to travel to the museum to see the displays and hear the tour guide descriptions. Museums are beginning to develop resources such as webcasts, podcasts, and interactive media for the virtual museum visitor. The Museum of Modern Art offers these features from multiple view points. The virtual visitor can access these resources geared toward children, teens, or adults. Also available, is a collections section where curators and artists add their comments regarding the artwork.

These features would allow the instructor the ability to show the artwork of the museum and have students listen to the same material they would be hearing when visiting the museum in person. Students would be able to listen to other peers comment on artwork as well as artists and curators. This would be a great activity to lead into the group critique. Students would have an idea of what elements people focus on when viewing a piece of art and review comments regarding their chosen piece from others in the art world.

Example 2: 

Many museums offer online views of the collections. The viewer is able to search the collection, see the title and creator of the work, and a description. The Museum of Modern Art offers these features and links to other related artworks. The site offers multiple search methods, clear digital images, and over 35,000 uploaded images. 

The instructor could allow students to search though the site to view the collection or require students to search for specific pieces of artwork or artists. A note of caution, the content of the artwork is not censored. Instructors will need to consider which works of art would be appropriate for the student’s age.

Example 3: 

Edmono offers instructors a way to set up a private virtual social media page where student can have discussions and post images, videos, and links to content. Since the page is set up much like many users will already be familiar with how the site functions. Instructors can post assignments, create polls, and create an online library for students. 

The instructor in the above scenario could use Edmodo for the group critique part of the assignment. The instructor would set up groups, post the directions of the assignment, and give students the code for their group. Students would log onto the site review the directions, select and post the chosen artwork, and begin a collaborative discussion critique.


Frydenberg, M. (2008). Principles and pedagogy: the two p’s of podcasting in the information classroom. Information systems education journal. 6(6). Retrieved from

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Defining Distance Learning

Those who have little experience with distance learning frequently think courses are an independent study with minimal interaction with instructors and learners in an online or virtual environment. Before taking distance learning courses I too, followed the same line of thought. I questioned the value of a degree earned through distance learning and if students participating in the program would be as knowledgeable and prepared as students participating in a traditional program. 

My first experience with distance education was when I was working towards a BA degree. The course was very much a self study. There was no course management system only a page on the university’s website with a copy of the syllabus listing the weekly readings and directions for papers and projects. Communication and assignment submissions were completed through e-mail. The professor never responded to email communications and there was no method available to discuss the content with other students in the class. This experience did not encourage me to continue taking distance learning courses.

There are many aspects of the education system that play a part in a positive learning experience. The learner, instructor, and resources all affect the learning experience. A brick and mortar classroom versus an online discussion forum does not affect the learning experience as much as a qualified instructor or a motivated learner (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). A quality positive learning experience can take place anywhere. Dr. Simonson defines distance educations as “formal education in which the learning group (teacher, students, and resources) are separated by geography and, sometimes, by time” (Laureate Education, 2011). Distance education programs bring together learners and instructors from all over the world. This allows learners to benefit from the interaction with people they would not normally have been able to meet with due to location.

As technology has evolved, so has distance learning. Educators have marveled at the inventions of the radio, television set, and personal computers and at the same time feared that the technology had the potential to replace the teacher. Technology has opened so many doors for education and allowed everyone the opportunity to access a large quantity of information. A textbook was such a precious resource to the student when information was difficult to access. In today’s world a textbook is just one of many types of resources available to students (Laureate Education, 2011).

Human beings value personal interaction. We learn how to apply concepts through discussion. Most people want to discuss what they have learned with other people who share common interests. The technology will never replace the teacher. Teachers will adapt and learn the best ways to incorporate technology into the classroom to benefit their students (Laureate Education 2011).


Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.

Laureate Education. (2011) Distance learning timeline continuum. Retrieved from

Laureate Education. (2011) Distance education: the next generation. Retrieved from