Friday, February 6, 2009

1.1.1: Distributed learning relationships

In reading through Mason & Rennie (2008) for the next E-Primer, I found this representation of how f2f, blended learning, distance education and elearning inter-relate.

All of these are situated in the context of distributed learning, used as an over-arching term to describe all learning that seeks to "customize learning environments to better-fit different learning styles, whether students are on or off campus" (Mason & Rennie, 2008, p.25).

This diagram is interesting to contrast that from Bullen & Janes (2006; see earlier post), in that it illustrates again the confusion that can result from inconsistent terminology (the curse of the e-learning field!)

What confuses me most about Mason & Rennie's diagram is the lack of connection between f2f and e-learning - as if 'using online resources' suddenly infers distance education. So, making a series of URLs available to students in a f2f classroom on a Web page becomes evidence of distance education? My hesitation with Mason & Rennie's diagram is that it appears to be techno-centric, rather than the more pedagogical or methodological model proposed by Bullen & Janes.

Of course, I could just be confused. The discussion on pp.25-28 of their book seems to imply that distributed learning is characterised by the whole diagram above; it could also be read that it exists in the overlap of blended learning, distance education and e-learning (but this would disqualify f2f as a valid component). The statement on p.26, "technologies of varying sorts are a central component in the practice of distributed learning" gives strength to the latter.

I am glad that Mason & Rennie give space to defining their terms, but am unconvinced by their reason that "distance education and campus-based teaching are converging due to the growth of ICT and the Web". I don't doubt that convergence is taking place; I just think it's too early to pretend that the two are no longer distinct, or that all e-learning use is indicative of distance education practice. Guri-Rosenblit, in Higher Education (2005) 49:467-493 states definitively that "'distance' is not a defining characteristic of e-learning" (p.470). Personally, I would link e-learning and f2f so that their overlap is possible as blended learning...

...the terminological nightmare continues!

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