EDUC-6135 – The Impact of Open Source

The Impact of Open Source

The 21H.116J / STS.029J – The Civil War and Reconstruction – is a free open source course offered by MIT. The course is the same version of an online course available for credit. This course is an example of a course ill-structured for a distance learning environment.

Far from retooling the traditional course to shift instruction to visual presentations, engaged learners and careful timing of presentations of information as suggested by Simonson (2009), the free open source course is lecture based, text intensive, offers little visual content and no opportunity for student group work. The course design adheres poorly with many of the recommendations for online instruction outlined by Simonson (2009). Specifically, the course is broken into 22 lectures rather than 3 or 4 core units centered about specific bodies of knowledge and representing major subdivisions of the course’s content. While the quantity and quality of assessment in the form of short reflection papers and quizzes seems within the guidelines set forth by Simonson (2009), the absence of a stated learning objective makes observing and measuring learning outcomes impossible.

Instructor participation is also absent in the open source course. By Simonson’s recommendations, the instructor should comment on discussions as part of threaded discussion board, should provide progress reports (grades) to students every 2 weeks, should make the organization and requirements of the course clear to students, and keep students informed constantly. These elements are absent. Further, according to Simonson, the instructor in a successful distance learning environment will think about course outcomes, test applications and not rote memory, integrate the power of the web into the course, extend course readings beyond the text (or to replace the text), and train students to use the course web site. The open course at MIT employs none of these principles. Rather, the course seems to have employed the common practice of ‘dumping’ a face-to-face course onto the web (Simonson, 2009).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

The Civil War and Reconstruction


EDUC-6135 – Week 3 – Distance Learning Technologies – Application

Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

To deliver the Collaborative Training Environment I would employ Power Point to record the presentation of the new automated staff information system, Microsoft Live Meeting, Cisco WebEx, Citrix GotoMeeting or other Web X (Boulton, 2009) to deliver the presentation live, and a Wiki for document sharing for screen shots and collaboration.

Web conferencing is “ideal for project reviews, employee training (especially for regulatory compliance), prospective employee interviews, contract negotiations, and keeping in touch with resources” (Heck, 2005, p. 23).

 “A wiki is a collection of Web pages that are linked to each other, and reflect the collaborative works of many authors” (Beldarrain, 2006, 142). “Wikis are designed to facilitate the exchange of information within and between teams. Their power comes from the fact that content can be updated without any real lag, administrative effort, or need for distribution; users simply visit and update a common Web site. Wikis can centralize all types of business data, such as spreadsheets, Word documents, PowerPoint slides-anything that can be displayed in a browser. They can also embed various standard communications media such as E-mail and instant messaging…The functionality of a wiki is limited only by the programming skills of the person who implements and maintains it. (Goodnoe, 2005, p. 54)

Today’s workplace, as in the collaborative training environment scenario, requires that individuals create and collaborate within the constraints of time and place (Beldarrain, 2006, p. 150). Web conferencing and Wikis in combination provide the combination of tools that enables exactly this type collaboration.

“In a Web conference, each participant sits at their own computer and is connected to other participants thru Internet” (Boulton, 2009).

Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance education trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2),139–153

Boulton, C., (2009). eWeek, January 5, 2009, Vol. 26 Issue 1, p14-16

Goodnoe, E., (2005). Informationweek, August 29, 2005, Issue 1053, p54-58

Heck, Mike. InfoWorld, 5/9/2005, Vol. 27 Issue 19, p24-29

EDUC-6135 – Distance Education Defined

Distance Education Defined

Before starting this program I had several years of experience as an online distance learner at the graduate level, I had created, led and participated in many remote corporate training sessions, and I had taken many Computer Based Training classes, both online and via CD. As a result, I understood distance education from the perspective of the learner and to mean the consumption of education at a distance, with the consumer (learner) being at a distance from the source of the education. Resources this week have influenced my personal definition of distance education by reminding me that distance education encompasses any “institution-based formal education where the learning group is separated” (Simonson, 2008).

Because learners are separated from each other, from their instructor and from the resources that form the content of their education, technology must function as the connecting glue. Tools to facilitate communication and collaboration, tools to deliver content in engaging ways, tools for course management, and tools to evaluate instructional design and learner performance, all work together to create the distance education experience. A revised definition of distance education, then, would be the delivery, through technology, of institution-based formal education from a distributed group of providers for consumption by a distributed group of learners, connected to each other through technology.

My vision for the future of distance learning as it continues on a path of evolution and change is an exciting one. As advances in communications and information race forward, I imagine corresponding exponential growth in technology and the tools available to support distance education. For the consumer, advances in mobile technology, in readers, IPads, Wikis, Course Management Systems, Web 3.0, and the tools that are just beyond our reach will have dramatic influences on the effectiveness and affordability of Distance Education.  Current trends in the field of distance education indicate a shift in perspectives and frameworks, with student interaction at the heart of learner-centered environments (Beldarrain, 2006). This means the advancement of MMORPGs and Augmented Reality as viable elements of Distance Education. For the provider, schools might be open all day and all year, with groups of students rotating in and out of session.  Classrooms might include students of different ages. A multi-disciplinary approach toward teaching will result in longer-term projects that cut across disciplines, combining the subject matter of previously separate classes. Multiple choice tests will be replaced by new kinds of assessments that measure the acquisition of higher-order skills. (Bingham, n.d.).

I am in agreement with Bingham’s vision: “These new models of learning foster communities of lifelong learners, where intellect and cooperation are valued. Within these communities, decisions will be made by those in the best position to make them – by students, teachers, and educational administrators… As distance learning technologies become more powerful and plentiful, and as the needs of society more urgently call for a new model of education, American schools will be caught in the irresistible forces of change (National Academy of Sciences, 1996).

Mind Map of Distance Education

Mind Map

Mind Map

Beldarrain, Y., (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, Vol. 27, No. 2. (August 2006), pp. 139-153.

Bingham, J., Davis, T., Moore, C., (n.d.). Emerging Technologies in Distance Learning. Retrieved July 3, 2011 from

National Academy of Sciences, (1996, February 22). Reinventing schools: The technology is now! A new model for education [WWW document].

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.)