I have mentioned in a previous post that I had the option of taking video conferencing classes when I was in high school, a system that was new at the time and occasionally involved technical difficulties. My overall experience with video conferencing was positive, I was able to take classes that would not normally be offered in my small community and I still had a direct link to my teacher.
In contrast the one experience I had taking an entirely online course was lacking. I tried to take a photography class online before the video conferencing system was in my school. The teacher running the course was over 500 km away and had students all across BC. I took the course with four classmates and we soon noticed a pattern. Our assignments were to google search a type of image (Fish-eye lens, portrait) and then send it to the teacher, for our efforts we all received 97% on every assignment. (I ended up changing courses).
I have seen negatives and positives in distributed learning. I do think a wider reaching entirely online course like my photography class could be successful provided there is someone there for support (a teacher or learning center). There needs to still be class size limits and students should have some method of consistently contacting their teacher. If the teacher designs a class with the mode of education in mind (a well done video conferencing class) it can go well.
Distributed learning is important as learners and teachers are distributed geographically and due to circumstance.There are going to be students and teachers who can’t always meet face to face in a classroom. Whether in kindergarten or grade 12 it will be an obstacle that we now have more and more tools to help overcome.
One of the other tools we saw today was the Beam Robot, a robot connected to a computer which can be remotely controlled. Students who are not able to be in the classroom can control the robot, see their teacher and friends, and talk through the speakers. It allows for participation in the class you don’t get from notes or watching a recording.
Learners may prefer not to be physically present in a class, they may have a long commute or costs involved with reaching a school. I currently commute two hours to school one way, this means that on my days off I am very hesitant to commit the time to come into school to work on projects or discuss assignments. I would much rather call, text, or work collaboratively on google docs than spend four hours on the bus for an hour meeting.