An Open Door to Learning – Distance Education and Online Learning

After hearing all about the Sunwest Distance Learning Centre (@SunWestDLC) in class this week I started to think back on my experiences with online and distance learning. As hard as I have tried I can’t think of a time in my 4 years of high school where I personally experienced online learning. I am sure that my high school offered classes via correspondence but it was never something that I accessed or that was used as a teaching tool in my classes in such a way that I remember it today.

The first time I remember really experiencing online or distance education was in my undergrad ECMP 455 class with Dean Shareski (@shareski). I am fairly certain that our class was done through Eluminate sessions. I remember one project in particular where we were to do an interview with a learner. We were assigned educators from around the world to interview through Skype and present back to the class. Should you feel inclined to read an undergrad blog post and watch a fairly awkward video interview check out my blog post from that project Pick One Thing and Do It Well – Interview With A Learner. Please ignore my poor choice in haircuts at the time! I should also note that I still use Allanah’s advice today – one thing at a time!


I remember at the time feeling overwhelmed by the idea of interviewing someone I had never met through video! I also remember feeling a little in awe of the idea that my professor could have a connection with so many people from all over the world. Not only that but that they were willing to support his current students journey to becoming educators. I think this is perhaps where my introduction to twitter came from!

The opportunities that we are provided today through online learning and distance education seem to be limitless. We can connect from anywhere in the world in a matter of seconds, share a document just as quickly and do it all at the same time. I really enjoyed the presentation from @jadebellak of the Sunwest Distance Learning Centre this week. I had followed Jade on twitter for a long time and connected with her through #saskedchat but had no idea what her role was. From right here in small town Saskatchewan they are connecting with and teaching students from across the world!

If we take our current #eci833 class as an example, we have people in the class that do not live right here in Regina but they are being provided the same opportunities as anyone else in the class. I think perhaps opportunity is a key word when talking about online and distance learning. The option and opportunity to learn are there but I would think from what I understand that a student in this situation has to be motivated to learn and participate. One of the things I like most about using Zoom as a tool for this class is the chat feature. I can interact with the people in class and ask questions along the way the same way I would in a face to face setting.

One of the pieces that Jade shared this week kind of blew me away. I had no idea that their learning centre was also teaching primary students. I had always thought of distance learning within the realm of high school and adult learners. Never had the idea of teaching primary students through online learning crossed my mind.

This lead me to wonder if online or distance learning is the best option for primary students. As a primary teacher especially but really at any grade, I feel it is imperative that I provide my students with an opportunity to learn and show their learning through hands on experiences. One of the things I find most beneficial about sitting down with my students as they are learning is that I can catch little misunderstandings and help correct that right on the spot. How are these things caught in a distance learning?

Known as multisensory learning, the hands-on teaching strategy engages the senses in a way that promotes learning comprehension on multiple levels. – Importance of a Hands-On Experience in the Elementary Classroom by Christine Bartsch

Outside of my understanding that online and distance education allows anyone, anywhere the opportunity to learn, I don’t fully know the scope of the technical side. Thinking in particular about K-12 education –

  • How do things actually go down when a lesson is taught?
  • How is learning shared?
  • Are students provided the opportunity to share their learning in multiple ways or are they limited?

I think the idea that someone no matter their age can connect to an educator anywhere in the world is fantastic! I also think that I have more to learn about the ins and outs of online learning and more specifically distance education.



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