There is a recent article at EmailWire.com that states that the model of “distance education” is over 100 years old. Which is true. Unfortunately, however, the article also links modern online education with older distance education. And that, in my opinion anyway, is a faulty comparison.
What is the difference, you ask? Good question. 🙂 Older models of distance education (including the examples given in the article), assume the more traditional model of one-to-one correspondence between instructor and student. In contrast, the most recent and effective (and thankfully more common) models of online education have high levels of interactive community (student-student, student-instructor) as a core, and even required, element of e-learning. In other words, the better models of online education are interactive, have an element of real-time conversation, and have a strong sense of community among a large number of students who are all working through the same class at the same time. This experience of community is something that older models of distance education we not able to achieve. Learning in community almost always trumps learning in isolation.
What about you? What has been your experience with distance eduction and/or online learning?