Week 2: Distance Education Definitions and Education Research Issues

This week I reviewed articles about the history of instructional/educational technology definitions (Reiser 2018), how distance education and eLearning have evolved along with these definitions (Anderson & Rivera-Vargas, 2020), and ways that education has been researched (Reeves & Lin, 2020).

It was great to see the definitions of instructional technology move from focusing on the media in the earlier part of the 20th century, to seeing it as a more complex process as we get into the middle of the century, and even more so in the 1994 definition where we see the 5 domains of “design, development, utilization, management and evaluation” (Reiser, 2018). It shows that people aren’t seeing instructional technology as just the things used to teach, but they’re also seeing the hard work in designing, maintaining and evaluating it. As definitions evolved, so have the ways that distance education is delivered. Anderson and Rivera-Vargas (2020) cite four contexts of distance education: distance education with and without virtual environments, teaching in dual environments, and fully virtual environments (eLearning). It was fascinating to see the different ways distance education has been used, from asynchronous radio and television used for one-way communication of ideas to more synchronous collaborations between students and teachers and using learning management systems. One of the biggest takeaways from this article was that instructional technology itself is not the cure-all for education. It can certainly help share ideas and allow for more opportunities to learn information but if it doesn’t come with the understanding of how students learn effectively, it misses the point. Just because the technology is there, doesn’t mean it’s inherently effective.

This article also talked about attrition with distance education, which I have seen a lot recently with students not feeling the motivation and accountability in online classes (especially asynchronous ones) like they do if they’re physically in the classroom with their peers and teachers. This has been especially true for students who are just starting college, and may have not had to be independent learners to that level yet. Seeing these issues brought up about distance education made me think about research in education needing to focus more on the problems still in education instead of on new products (Reeves & Lin, 2020). We can have the most sophisticated technology available in education, but if we aren’t addressing issues like student motivation and accountability, inequities in access to education, and other barriers students face we aren’t providing students the best education possible. For my students taking Human Anatomy, we can give them online lab simulations and video lectures but it’s not addressing underlying issues that may prevent them from actually understanding the information they’re given.

References:

Anderson, T., & Rivera-Vargas, P. (2020). A critical look at educational technology from a distance education perspective. Digital Education Review, 37, 208–229. https://doi.org/10.1344/der.2020.37.208-229.

Reeves, T.C., Lin, L. The research we have is not the research we need. Education Tech Research Dev 68, 1991–2001 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09811-3

Reiser, R.A. (2018). What field did you say you were in? Defining and naming our field. In R.A. Reiser & J.V. Dempsey (Eds.),Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Published by mdcrist92

Pronouns: She/They. Student Success Advisor at IUPUI. Master of Arts in Student Affairs in Higher Education from IUP, current student in IU Bloomington's Instructional Systems Technology Graduate Certificate program. Amateur chef, podcast listener, and walker of Indianapolis neighborhoods.

3 thoughts on “Week 2: Distance Education Definitions and Education Research Issues

  1. Hi Madi,

    I appreciate the opportunity to comment on your thoughts this week. Your reflection was well written and I liked your succinct use of the works cited. The term EdTech instantly can make people respond with thinking of gadgets and gizmo’s. These could be seen as a tactic or approach only, from what I am learning. As you said yourself, “It shows that people aren’t seeing instructional technology as just the things used to teach, but they’re also seeing the hard work in designing, maintaining and evaluating it”. I would also add to that analyzing the instructional situation to gain a clear understanding of the need. We could find it has nothing to do with a lack of skill or knowledge and the situation could be solved through other means (non-instructional).
    I also think you hit the nail on the head regarding our current situation with online learning. The last ten months have given us a lot to think about (and study) regarding all the different contexts that have been thrust into the distance-learning world.

    Jeff

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  2. “We can have the most sophisticated technology available in education, but if we aren’t addressing issues like student motivation and accountability, inequities in access to education, and other barriers students face we aren’t providing students the best education possible.” — Well-said point!

    I like how you connect these readings with real-life examples and experiences. Like you said, we might give students online lab simulations, but they may not be sufficient to address the real problems students encounter while they are trying to understand things. On the other hand, students might have different levels of comfortableness, familiarity, and acceptability with learning with new technologies. So we need to understand how our students learn with those technologies and how the technologies really helped solve their problems or not, as Reeves and Lin (2020) would say, focus on “solving problems” and be “responsive.”
    Chaoran

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  3. I liked your critique of technology-as-panacea here, especially in your discussion of distance education. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype that a new technology will “revolutionize learning” or will someone how make all previous issues disappear. As you mention, though, it’s important to really pay attention to the individual context of each student: their prior knowledge and motivation. Without these “human factors”, all the most advanced technology in the world would be useless. I agree with Chaoran that you use real-life examples very effectively here. Thanks for an excellent post!

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