Effective Distance Teaching
Many studies of adult learners indicate
generally positive attitudes toward distance learning. One study
looked at student perceptions of teaching behaviors and found
five statistically significant factors in effective distance
teaching; effective teachers used students' names, set clear
purpose statements, used print materials, encouraged discussion,
and did not speak in a monotone.
Research in effective course and curriculum
design has focused on overcoming
the differences between the distant and local classrooms. One
study introduced "teletechniques," a set of components
taken for granted in face-to-face instruction but not automatically
found in distance education. These components include the need
to humanize the teaching experience (create rapport with students);
encourage participation (ensure interaction between students,
and between students and teacher); attend to message style (vary
tone of voice and volume, use videos and visual aids); and provide
regular feedback (monitor student interest).
A synthetic model of student attrition
in a distance education program is based on field research which
has shown significance in reducing attrition in distance education
programs (Billings, 1988). It contains four classes of variables
and hypothesizes that attrition is a causal relationship which
is based upon variables in the student's background, organization
offering the course, the environment of the program and outcome/attitude
which includes the student's attitude about the course, and the
student's intention to complete the course which is used as the
At least one study has been done using
the model (Lane, 1988). A survey instrument was constructed which
consisted of 72 questions and administered to students enrolled
in telecourses. Through factor analysis, 18 variables were identified.
The null hypothesis stated that there is no significant difference
in students reporting satisfaction with their telecourse and:
- Year in School.
- Previous telecourse experience.
- Work; employed, telecourse is job related,
company pays tuition, work allows flex time to study, employer
gives advice, information, feed back on education.
- Marital status.
- Family; family helps with house for study
time, family values telecourse, family values graduation goal,
student has private space to study.
- Distance from campus.
- Telecourse value for future employment.
- Required course/need for degree.
- Loyalty to school.
- Telecourse: interesting, stimulating,
materials (text, study guide, handouts, video), lesson objectives
are adequate to direct study, study guide kept you motivated.
- Content: difficulty, challenge.
- Lessons: lessons 1 & 2 too small,
too large, easily managed; lessons 3 through end too small, too
large, easily managed; units were paced to allow free time.
- Feedback: personal, timely, lessons, telecourse
progress; member of study group, called classmates, have on-campus
classes; called instructor #___ times, instructor called # ___
times; requested meeting w/instructor #___ times; instructor
requested meet w/student #___ times.
- Felt isolated from: instructor, faculty,
peers, resources, library, computers or felt general isolation.
Fifty-two percent of variance was explained by whether the course
was required for graduation, lessons and isolation. The study
reported a 95 percent certainty that an increase in the predictor
variables, required course, lessons, and isolation is associated
with an increase in the criterion variable satisfaction.
The relationships are positive for required
course and lessons implying that if the course was required for
graduation, and if students felt lessons were easily manageable
and properly paced, their ranking of course satisfaction went
up. The relationship for the variable isolation implies a negative
relationship so that as students reported no sense of isolation
their ranking of course satisfaction went up. As they experienced
isolation their ranking of course satisfaction went down. For
a complete report, contact Dr. Carla Lane.
Billings, Diane M, (1988). "A Conceptual
Model of Correspondence Course Completion," American Journal
of Distance Education, Vol 2, #2, pp 23 - 35.
Lane, Carla. (1988). "Video Instruction
Program Student Satisfaction."
Pearson, Virginia. (1989). "Overcoming
the Barriers: Strategic Planning for the Implementation of Distance
Wohlert, Harry S. (March, 1991), "German
by Satellite, " in The Annals of the American Academy of
Political and Social Science, pp 107-118.
from "The Distance
Learning Technology Resource Guide," by Carla Lane