Distance learning is generally described as an educational environment in which there is a physical separation between the student and the instructor. Computer-mediated communication, collaboration and assessment tools are used to disseminate course materials, promote interaction and evaluate students’ learning. South College uses the Learning Management System, Moodle, to support the delivery of hybrid and distance learning programs and courses. Distance learning classes are driven by student learning outcomes and designed using sound pedagogical principles in online teaching, learning and assessment.
Students enrolled in distance learning programs and courses are held to the same high academic standards and have similar educational experiences as students taking on-campus courses. Course lectures may appear in or written form or written form enhanced with multimedia (i.e., narrated presentations, audio clips, video components, including lectures and screen captures). In addition to lectures, course materials may include online discussion forums and chats; collaborative learning and group work; quizzes and assessments; student presentations; writing assignments; readings; web-based research and other activities as identified by the faculty member.
Distance learning: A distance learning course is one in which the instructor and student are physically separated during the term and the majority of instruction (at least 90%) is delivered online using computer-mediated communication, collaboration, and assessment tools.
Hybrid: A hybrid course is one which combines on-campus instruction with online course delivery using computer-mediated communication, collaboration, and assessment tools. In-class meetings may be enhanced with electronic supplemental content, electronic assignment submissions, course announcements, online discussions, assessments and other multimedia-based learning activities.
Synchronous: Synchronous learning activities occur when the instructor and students are in different places participating at the same time. Examples: online chat and web-conferencing.
Asynchronous: Asynchronous learning activities occur when the instructors and students are in different places participating at different times. Examples: discussion forums, email, the journal tool in Moodle, blogs, wikis.
You must have unrestricted access to a computer and a high-speed Internet connection (cable or DSL). At a minimum, it’s recommended you use at least a Mac OS X Lion or PC Windows 7 (or higher) operating system, a 1.8 GHz (or faster) processor, with 2.0 GB (or larger) RAM.
An alternative means of Internet access through the school’s computer labs, local library, or a family member/ friend is a good idea in case your computer or your usual connection method fails during the course.
Although not the same as an on-ground course, a distance learning course will still involve interacting frequently with your teacher and classmates in an online environment through email, Moodle messages, discussion forums, chat rooms, wikis and other collaborative activities. It is important for students to be able to work independently.
Most communication in a distance learning course consists of written messages between you and the instructor and discussions among class participants. If you have difficulty with an assignment or have questions, you must be willing to “speak up” to inform the instructor. Good typing skills are a plus.
You must “check in” to Moodle and interact as required by your instructor. This can include checking course announcements, downloading course materials, uploading assignments, participating in discussions or group projects, completing online quizzes and tests, and responding to e-mail and Moodle messages. If you’re not accustomed to routinely accessing the Internet, it may be difficult to motivate yourself to do the work. You must be disciplined enough to stay on task and meet required deadlines.
Much of the material for a distance learning course is in written form. Some material will be in audio or visual form such as audio narrated PowerPoints, audio podcasts, or video screen captures. Students must be able to learn from a variety of presentation formats.
Students enrolled in on ground courses usually have a consistent schedule to follow each week, with in-class instruction followed by out-of-class assignments. For distance learning courses, students may have to find their own ways to stay on top of their work. Students should be able to dedicate two-three hour blocks of time to work on assignments, in a quiet workspace free of distractions (kids, social media, outside interferences, etc.).
One of the major reasons students register for distance learning courses is that it is more convenient to take courses without having to come to campus at a specific time. This allows you to avoid parking problems, too. Keep in mind that you must still spend about the same amount of time (12-20 hours per week) on coursework as for an on-ground course.
It’s often tempting to wait until the last minute. If you’re a procrastinator, you may have already learned that sometimes things don’t work quite as well as you had hoped. With distance learning courses, it’s better to get your work done a little ahead of time so if problems do occur, they can be resolved prior to the deadline. Good time management is a key to success in a distance learning course.
Sometimes learning new programs or applications on the computer can be frustrating if they don’t work exactly as you expect. Taking a distance learning course may require you to learn new techniques beyond just e-mail for interacting with other students in the class.
While instructors are available to help throughout the courses, you may need to find answers to class questions independently. Your instructors may not be available immediately. You have to be willing to go out and find answers on your own.
It’s necessary for you to be familiar with basic computer functions, such as copying and pasting text from one location to another. As with any computer application, saving your work by backing up important files is a necessity in case of a hardware problem. If such applications are unfamiliar to you, consider taking a basic computer class before registering for distance learning courses.