Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Distance Educators and Dogma

Oct 03, 2007

Terry Anderson weighs in on some long-standing disputes in distance education. The first pits access against effectiveness: while technology may improve effectiveness, the purpose of distance education is to provide access, and many people do not have access to technology. The second questions the effectiveness of technology by challenging its empirical basis. Anderson essentially bites th bullet on access, conceeding that "there are learners on the trap lines in Northern Canada without even dial-up connectivity or electricity". And on effectiveness he argues that we need to redefine the criteria; "If we think of more general learning outcomes of education as a whole, the rationale for Net learning becomes more apparent." I agree with this, but I don't think he needs to give any ground on access. Traditional distance education is labour intensive and expensive; access is limited not only by access to technology but also access to teachers, funds, and other resources. Today it is cheaper - and hence more accessible - to access the internet than it is to access most any other form of learning. My involvement in distance education is based on access - and that is why I embrace internet technologies.


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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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