Monthly Archives: September 2013

Blog Post: The Case of the Haggard History Teacher

The Scenario (from Walden University, EDUC 6135 – Distance Education Week 3 Assignment)

“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. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?”

The Solution

The history teacher in this week’s example is faced with a two-fold challenge.  First, how does she give her students a look at the artwork in an exhibit at a museum a country away, and do so in a way that is engaging to her students?  To simply show them pictures of the art would be tiresome for many and unendurable for some!  When it comes to performing a virtual “tour,” the first technology tool that may come to mind is the use of a Virtual World – commonly referred to now as virtual reality.  Simonson et al (2012, p.132) observe that virtual worlds have “exciting potential for…experiences in other places and times that would otherwise be inaccessible”, a seemingly perfect fit for this teacher!  Yet, in the same paragraph, Simonson’s team note the limitations of bandwidth required for such an enterprise and the immense amount of time it could take to create such a tour.

This brings us to a second technology – one I believe to be perfectly suited to the high school history teacher’s desire for an engaging tour experience for her students, is prezi (  Prezi takes the best aspects of an older technology, PowerPoint, and recreates the “slide-by-slide” experience into an interactive delight!  Using prezi, the school’s ID could create a floor plan of the museum, and as the students click around and through the floor plan could be treated to views of the museum pieces and even, depending on what was available from the museum, even short video segments taken in and around the exhibits!  For an excellent example of how this might look, please visit Cutco Cutlery’s online demonstration of their product at, one of Prezi’s 15 most popular prezis as of this writing.  Pay special attention to “slide” 5, the first segment to show video, and notice exactly how the viewer gets to the video! This slide in particular demonstrates how to bring the learner “into the museum” – a big win for our teacher.

The tour, though, is only one aspect of the teacher’s challenge.  The second, named above, is to find a way for students to work together on a group critique of certain pieces from the museum collection.  I recommend having student groups each set up a wiki – noted by Simonson et all (2012, p. 129) as “an excellent tool for collaborative online writing assignments and group activities.”  Using the wiki concept, our teacher could break the assignment into its component parts, having the students first contribute individually to the wiki (which would allow her to grade them individually), and then compile their findings into a group critique (enabling her to grade their ability to collaborate and compile their ideas). Wikis have been used for some years now to enable both students and educators to collaborate and build on each other’s work.  Here is a link to a wiki about wikis:

I can’t wait to see how our history teacher’s class turns out!  Can you?


Cutco Demo. (n.d.). Retrieved from

educationalwikis – Examples of educational wikis. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2013, from

Prezi – Ideas matter. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.


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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


Distance Learning: An Evolving Definition

The year was 1976.  I, as a then 17-year-old moving into my senior year of high school, was selected to participate in a pilot program at Sacred Heart University in Bridgeport, CT.  A group of seniors from around the area would be allowed to take their first “freshman” college course as what I recall the college calling “off-campus” students.  We would take a short session each week in the evening on campus in classroom, but the rest of our time and work would happen on our own.  There were three “classrooms”:  first, the actual classroom, where we would spend 1-2 hours once a week; second, our own desk at home where we would complete the bulk of our reading and writing assignments; finally, a teletype room.  This was quite literally a closet at my high school with a keyboard and printer – no screen – where I would interact with the college computer!  The course was in the basic computer language, and I still recall sitting at that teletype playing a simple programming game called “50” with the computer!  That was distance learning to me then.

I completed a college certificate program in 1985 after an on-again, off-again college career.  Fully 17 years later, I discovered that I was but one single course away from completing a bachelor’s degree!  I contacted the school I had attended years earlier and arranged to do the course by “distance learning.”  In this case, I had reading and writing assignments which were emailed to me by an instructor, along with a short knowledge check I had to submit as I completed each chapter in the book.  I emailed everything back as I completed it, and six weeks after beginning the course was done.  Again, I considered this to be distance learning.

Two years ago, I enrolled at Walden, expecting a similar experience to the one I’d had back in 2003.  This was not the case, though.  Now, I was expected to work on a weekly timetable and collaborate with other students.  Within the weekly timetable, I was more or less free to operate on my own schedule – a boon to one such as me who works a constantly varying schedule at my job.

For me, all three of these experiences fit what I would consider a definition of distance learning, since in each case I was for the most part not located on a physical campus.  For me, prior to this class, that was the only requirement for the definition: distance learning simply needed distance!  I learned from a distance, period.  Dr. Simonson, in his video presentation “Distance Education: The Next Generation” (n.d.), gave me the biggest change and the first of the two major changes in my understanding of the subject when he added the notion of distance teaching to what I had already considered.  There was to be a more active involvement by the instructor than I had previously understood to be necessary.  The second major change in my definition, considered by Moller, Forshay, and Huett, in their 2008 article on the implications of internet technology on instructional design, is one I have already alluded to – namely, collaboration among learners.  I now see this as an integral if not yet fully necessary part of the definition of distance learning.  The social dynamic of the classroom can now be to an extent recreated by online collaboration, enabling learners to learn from each other as well as simply from a text.  In the words of Moller et al, this could “hold the promise…of reconceptualizing learning from a one-shot fixed term to an ongoing event that is intermingled with the actual work processes.”

It is my opinion that the both of these changes to my own definition will become more prominent as technology continues to evolve.  Consider the simple fact that even in the short five years since Moller and his team wrote the article referenced, learners have gained the ability to videoconference among themselves without any expensive hardware or software!  Most is free and available to anyone with a smartphone or tablet!  Verizon and VGo have even developed a way for someone who cannot physically be present in an actual classroom to be there virtually.  The ongoing developments in technology will, in my opinion, lead to evolution of how distance learning is both viewed and used in the years to come.


Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75

Simonson, Michael. (n.d.) Distance Learning: The Next Generation. Retrieved from Laureate Education.

Link to Verizon “robot student”:

My Distance Learning: Mindmap

My Distance Learning

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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Uncategorized