About The Role of the Distance Learning Teacher
With the increasing popularity of online education, due to advancing technologies and an
nincrease in funding for universities to offer distance learning, the role of the teacher, instructor,
nor lecturer in modern higher education is certainly changing. But with a greater input of
ntechnology upon a student’s education, is the competency and overall quality of the teacher
nbecoming less important?
nIn his essay, Distance Learning: Promises, Problems, and Possibilities (2002), Doug Valentine
ndescribes, ‘instructors and their attitudes towards teaching in a distance-learning environment
nas a major potential roadblock to effective distance education,’ because, ‘the instructor can set
nthe tone for learning in the educational environment.’ In response to this, it therefore seems of
ngreat importance, aside from having the knowledge to utilize the technology for the delivery of
neducation, that he/she must also be eager and confident by his new means for teaching.
nFollowing this idea, The University of Florida also published a paper entitled A Teachers Guide
nTo Distance Learning (1995). This essay calls for distance learning technology to ‘be as
ninvisible as possible,’ endorsing the notion that it is simply a means or “tool” on offer to aid the
ndelivery of education.
nA problem highlighted by Valentine is noticeable here. There are two differing opinions as to
nwhat is the exact purpose of distance learning. The first, as stated by Schlosser and Anderson
nin 1994, is to offer ‘an experience as much like that of traditional, face-to-face instruction as
npossible. Whilst the second opinion, that of Bates (1995), is that ‘it should be used to improve
ninstruction.’ Depending on which of the above is to be adopted by the institution, it seems that
nthe quality, competency, and connection between teacher and student should be of the utmost
nimportance for the former. However, if a better education system is required than that of the
ntraditional form, then the position and actions of the instructor may be quite different.
nFor a distance learning course to be more successful than a traditional learning programme, it
nseems that the role of the teacher should be more in line with the instruction of The University
nof Florida. For example, the UoF highlights four adaptations, the first is to establish ‘effective
nstrategies for implementing small group activities and individual practice.’ The second is to
nhone ‘techniques for maximizing teacher/student and student/student interactions.’ The third
nis to establish ‘successful approaches for integrating technology into the teaching/learning
nprocess. And the final method for adaptation is to implement ‘tactics for motivating students at
nThe role of the distance learning instructor is no doubt changing in comparison to that of the
ntraditional lecturer. However, where an institution is seen to be implementing the most radical
nchanges and newest technologies, today’s distance learning instructor has as much
naccountability to his students, and a further responsibility to the future advancement of
neducation in general.
Posted Date: 2009-01-24 18:14:07