Myths of Interactive Television Distance Learning

Article excerpt

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to explore common myths that surround distance learning based on the authors' perceptions acquired through several years of teaching via interactive television. The article will refute the following myths based on a review of related research literature and the authors' experiences:

Myth 1. Students at distance sites will not perform effectively.

Myth 2. The equipment is a barrier to interaction.

Myth 3. The number of sites and students does not influence learning outcomes.

Myth 4. Students' attitudes toward distance learning tend to be negative.

The four myths addressed are issues of concern and should be taken into consideration when preparing to teach a course using a distance learning system.

Myths of Interactive Television "Distance Learning"

Distance learning is not a new concept. It began over a hundred years ago with home learning programs and correspondence courses. Gibson and Gibson (1995) have observed, "With all the current hype and the rush to spend millions on new technology, we need to pause and reflect on lessons that we have learned from 100 plus years of distant learning" (p. 15). The ability of educators to reach out to students has escalated with advancements in technologies in the communications web. The networks now in place include two-way communications (real time) at multiple sites. Students now have the capability of interacting at will, through voice stimulation. This enables each site member to participate without having to have a monitor adjust the camera and thus take time from the learning process.

The terminology of distance education has been recently realigned. Hopey and Ginsburg (1996) assert, "Clearly, we are no longer talking about distance education but rather beginning to envision distance learning" (p. 2). Dubois (1996) states, "To excel in the 21st century, higher education must undergo a paradigm shift from an environment and culture that defines learning as a classroom process, shaped by brick-and-mortar facilities and faculty centered activities, to an environment defined by learner-centered processes" (p. 3). "Distance learning is the conduct of classes when the students are physically separated from the instructor by any distance. All communications are mediated in synchronous or asynchronous time via audio, video, computing, print, or any combination of these" (Cyrs & Conway, 1997, p. 385). Interactive television, as defined by Cyrs and Conway (1997), is highly visualized, highly interactive (teacher/student, student/student, student/media), and highly student-centered.

It is pertinent to educators to explore the avenues of research pertaining to common myths that surround distance learning. Myths are born out of a lack of tree understanding of a system. Distance learning myths are no exception. Myths have been engendered because distance teaching does require additional skills that must be learned by those wishing to use this vehicle as a teaching tool. Effective teaching used in the traditional classroom must be incorporated into the distance learning environment. However, additional competencies are required: engaging every student at all field sites, presentation skills for interactive television, projecting a professional television image, interactive television management techniques, etc.

Myths

Myth 1. Students at distance sites will not perform effectively.

A review of research by Webster and Hackley (1997) entitled "Teaching Effectiveness in Technology-Mediated Distance Learning" reported that distant learners progress as well as learners in a face-to-face classroom environment: Effectiveness of educational television and face-to-face instruction has no or small differences in student achievement (Wetzel, Radtke, & Stem, 1994), and there was no difference between the performance of students given interactive video instruction and face-to-face instruction (Storck & Sproull, 1995). …