Teaching-Learning Model for Distance Education


The purpose is to develop a "principle- centered" document of the distance education teaching-learning model. This will be accomplished by evaluating the existing teaching-learning model designed for campus implementation against the realities of distance education delivery. The purpose is to expand, adapt, and enhance the University's educational model to incorporate the unique attributes of teaching via technological media.


The group is comprised of faculty and administration representatives.


The committee met face-to-face on _______, to organize it's activities. Facilitators subsequently led discussions on their assigned topics over a period of several weeks. When each topic discussion was completed, audio conferences were held to summarize and analyze progress. This report constitutes a summary of the committee's key ideas. Complete transcripts are available upon request. The following teaching-learning model topics were facilitated by faculty:

Topic Facilitator

    • Educational Structure
    • Curriculum
    • Faculty
    • Learning Outcomes
    • Miscellaneous Subjects

Student-faculty ratios

Distance education environments can be more sensitive to class size; there, the technology for education delivery, as well as the course being taught, should be examined before assuming optimal class size. If curriculum is designed with various options for teaching small groups and larger groups, the University would have more operational flexibility without compromising academic effectiveness.

Technology tools, both current and future, should be exploited in the curriculum to improve the efficiency of faculty and students and to reduce class size. (This refers to simple tools such as spreadsheet templates and curriculum on disk more complex audio-visual equipment and desktop video technologies.)

Orienting distance education students on self-direction and peer reliance effectively diminish the teaching load, as students take more responsibility for their learning needs met.

Collaborative, problem-solving methodologies

Collaboration for the purpose of problem-solving can assume a different form and function in distance education. Directed study work is solitary by design. The physical environment can mask some of the communication difficulties inherent in phone and computer links. In Online, asynchronous communication makes collaboration more intense and tedious; yet, an Online class can incorporate much more interaction than many face-to-face groups. Distance education curriculum should reflect the differences in group collaboration and - solving and identify alternative strategies for this process.

Study-group process

There is a mix of opinion among faculty about the effectiveness of the study-group process across different delivery systems. However, most are in agreement that study- group activities and collaboration in general is a valuable precept of our teaching-learning model. Accommodating effective study-groups in distance learning environments frequently requires different approaches to collaborative activities.

Directed Study students have little or no opportunity to interact with other students. It is possible however, to design assignments for them which requires involvement with a group; i.e.; through their place of work.

In Online, decision-making takes longer and is more cumbersome. However, the entire class group can frequently replace the benefits of smaller, study-group, since the interaction in the class group requires the participation of all.

If the purpose of study-groups is to encourage collaboration, teach negotiation skills, and promote effective relationships among members, then it should be recognized that the study-group is only one means to this end. Groups of two (use of materials on disk; work-place outreach; and other alternative methods should be considered. In addition, group assignments should not be rigidly placed in e curriculum. It may be more appropriate in distance learning to have a single group assignment spread out over several weeks, rather than having smaller group tasks assigned for every workshop.

Classes offered at convenient times and places

The distance education programs provide maximum flexibility with regard o place and time. The world today still assumes that distance education is an "alternative" to classroom- based learning, but this will change as more institutions begin using technology to support education; just as tele-commuting has changed the business landscape. The immediate goal of the University should be to approach distance education development as a primary activity with it's own set of strengths and weaknesses, rather than to artificially constrain development by closely mirror the classroom setting.

Courses are structured in sequence

The sequencing of courses in programs, and the policies governing the students' progression through them does not impact distance education specifications. On campus, as well as through electronic or mail delivery, the University should strive to maximize flexibility for it's adult student population.

Course materials (are provided to students in advance)

While it is deemed important to provide course materials in advance to status participating in all forms of education delivery, the materials themselves may be adjusted to accommodate the absence of "real-time" instruction. Classroom materials are frequently inadequate for purposes of illustrating a concept or principle. More effective teaching aids are often prescriptive materials in the form of words, software and audio/video tapes and CD-ROM.

Electronically delivered materials for students and faculty would provide efficiency and would capitalize on existing technology. Graphics, simulations, interactive materials would appeal to various learning styles and enhance instructional flexibility.

Learning outcomes are specified in the curriculum

Distance education should include measurable and clearly articulated learning outcomes that arise from curriculum designed for distance education delivery systems. Delivery systems do impact the type of learning outcomes appropriate a given course, but this does not imply that distance delivery is inferior. It should be recognized that technology will enable new learning outcomes to exist that may not exist within the traditional classroom environments. The University should identify common learning outcomes which are appropriate across delivery systems; but also distinguish those which are unique to specific media, and make the adjustments required to ensure instructional quality.

Students are required to complete a research project

Successful research projects require that faculty and students enter into interpersonal, one-to-one relationships for an extended period of time. This exists in all education settings, but the logistics and demands required for this relation distance education complicate issues of faculty compensation, communication, and learning resources. The research project requirements are not at issue in this.

Differential content and processes and are required for distance education settings. Both course scheduling and assignment scheduling must flex with the medium of instruction and the location of the student. Availability of more documents through LRS, and strengthened support would assist students who do not have access to resources in their communities or the time to locate them otherwise.

The University should also examine team-teaching approaches to the research project, to reduce the intense responsibility placed upon faculty who must be consistently "available" over the course of two or more years.

Theory and practice is integrated in the curriculum

The successful integration of theory and practice into the learning experience does not depend solely on the curriculum, but it is agreed that this is a critical component of the teaching-learning model. Opinions were expressed that the dynamics of the distance education classroom can promote and reinforce the theoretical understanding of course material in a way that enhances conceptual learning, even over the traditional classroom setting. However, it was also agreed that teaching and learning is more complicated when there is an inability to "show" or demonstrate certain procedures.

Distance education offers opportunities that cannot be seen when it is conceptualized as a classroom derivative. Therefore, successful integration and practice requires faculty participation in the development of curriculum for multi-media delivery; and, faculty training in integrative processes, specific media of instruction.

Curriculum development is centralized - that is, collectively developed and revised by faculty and program directors

The point has been repeatedly made that distance education requires distance education curriculum. Curriculum designed for alternative delivery systems muse developed, reviewed, and piloted by faculty who teach in these systems. Although the teaching-learning model drives curriculum for all types of delivery, and both my possess similar learning outcomes, the process and content propelled by the teaching-learning model and the learning outcome criteria may be vastly different.

Faculty possess advanced degrees and current practical experience

This requirement does not compel a separate strategy for distance education.

Faculty are assessed, serve internships, and receive training and evaluation

The assessment, internship, training and evaluation of faculty is critical to them in making the transition from a stand-up, face-to-face teaching environment one that is conducted through media. This training must be focused on practices and techniques appropriate for the media as well as on subject areas determined by the University.

Distance education centers should develop a separate core of faculty (as opposed to utilizing only faculty shared with other campuses), in order to ensure that they have a sufficient number of well-trained instructors focused on distance education academic issues.

Faculty are available to students outside of class

"Outside of class" takes on new meaning with the virtual classroom. Online education, Directed Study, and Tele-education enable faculty to be more consistently be available when students need them because of the technology set up to accommodate the communication. While technology can significantly improve communication, in distance education it can also be a hindrance if faculty fail to respond to written or audio messages, or if technology breaks down. Distance education centers should have policies in place to establish appropriate expectations for feedback and response time. They should staff their centers with suitable technical support personnel.

Faculty participate in area committees and academic governance.

Distance education faculty need to be proportionately represented on University-wide committees, faculty groups and academic governance to ensure program integrity regardless of delivery system. Distance educators must maintain an active role in curriculum and policy issues so that differences required for implementation will be accommodated.

Faculty must evidence ability to evaluate student performance

This requirement does not compel a separate strategy for distance education.

Enrollment is restricted to employed adults with experience

This requirement does not compel a separate strategy for distance education

Students must possess basic skills and subject matter knowledge or complete remediation

Evaluation of basic skills is frequently more difficult in teaching at a distance, particularly when proctors must be arranged. The process requires more time and effort on the part of students and staff. In addition, there may be more skill requirements (or different ones) for these students. For example, distance education students must be more self-reliant as well as self-directed than classroom students; they may need to possess more prolific writing skills; they may need to have knowledge of computers and keyboarding skills; and, they might have to learn without direct involvement by the facilitator to make physical demonstrations.

Distance learning centers should adopt basic skill evaluation procedures which work well with their media, for students who need remediation. Systematic process for referring students in need of remediation should be developed.

Students are required to participate in the Adult Learning Outcomes Assessment Program

There are more difficult logistical hurdles to testing in distance education relative to campus classroom education. Therefore, attention to how many tests are being given at one time, how long testing takes, and proctoring conditions need to be considered and evaluated.

A large element of control is lost in a distance environment, and student may not complete testing or surveying as reliably as campus students. It is believed national testing services would improve the convenience, reliability, and integrity testing process.

Faculty & administrators evaluate instruction through peer & administrative revs

This requirement does not compel a separate strategy for distance education, but it should be noted that the media in use can make the logistics of evaluation a more difficult process.

Students evaluate curriculum, instruction, and administrative services.

Distance education students frequently do not complete surveys. It is much more difficult to compel these students to participate because they are not a captive audience that can be motivated by the physical presence of the persuader (i.e., the institution, administration, faculty, or their peers). When they do return surveys, they tend to do so only to report the extremes of positive or negative experience. University distance education centers have attempted to gather process outcome survey data in the same fashion that is successful in campus programs, with little success. They are attempting to implement various methods to improve the return rate, such as student incentives; faculty awareness and training; and email electronic reminder system for students in the Online program.

If the University wishes to produce truly useful and relevant data for monitoring and managing the effectiveness of its distance education programs, it should experiment with different approaches to data collection. For example, faculty could collect information from students on curriculum modules which need improvement; formative evaluations conducted during class could be piloted to determine if response rates go up and if the information collected is more useful in terms of meeting student needs. Still another approach suggested was experimenting with small group instructional diagnosis, which incorporates elements of peer review, student feedback, and coaching. Sampling methods could be implemented, so that students are not being asked to complete surveys after every single course; and a variety of instruments could be alternated, which tie relevant questions to the course just completed. The surveying of students should not become an end in itself, but a means of gathering useful information for institutional and academic improvement. Since current methods do not show promise in meeting these goals in distance education programs, alternative methods should be tried.

The University will remain intellectually open and introspective

Distance learning technology provides an ideal environment for pursuing academic achievements, promoting scholarly collaboration, and providing global access to educational opportunities. If the University's classroom programs used to be the challengers to traditional education, then its technology-delivered programs have become the new challengers. Exploiting the opportunities technology provides can best be done by approaching these delivery systems as separate learning domains with unique strengths and weaknesses; rather than attempting to replicate every successful nuance of the classroom programs. This will require openness, introspection, and healthy skepticism as we assimilate these programs on a daily operational basis, into our current offerings.