Handbook of Distance Education

By Michael Grahame Moore; William G. Anderson | Go to book overview
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Exploring the New Conception
of Teaching and Learning in
Distance Education
Morris Sammons
University of Kentucky

The traditional conception of teaching and learning activities was used with what Nipper (1989) refers to as the “first and second generation systems” in distance education (p. 63), the first generation being that of printed materials and the second that of print combined with some form of broadcast media. He adds, “The main objectives of the first and second generation systems have been the production and distribution of teaching/learning material to the learners” (p. 63). In this conception, adjustments made because of distance were handled “by implementing effective presentation and distribution methods” (Nipper, 1989, p. 64).

Authority and control over how material is presented and especially what material is presented rests with the teacher as the scholar/expert of the material. In the case of materials designed by a team, scholars and experts of the subject content decide what is to be presented. The content consists of facts and ideas drawn from an established body of “codified knowledge” (Twigg, 2000, p. 42), i.e., a discipline or professional field. In this conception, the teacher assumes the role of directing, guiding, and assisting learners. Learners' attention is focused on the teacher and the content because they determine what happens in the learning environment.

In this teacher-centered conception, teaching and learning are characterized by formalized activities. As much as possible of what the teacher says and does in a traditional, face-to-face classroom is designed into the printed materials. Ideally this includes the nuances and implicit factors of a face-to-face environment. As far as interactive communication is concerned, Nipper points out that in the first and second generations of distance education, “Communication with the learners has been marginal, and communication amongst the learners has been more or less non-existent” (p. 63). The communication that does occur is usually teacher-to-learner and typically in the form of comments and questions (Nipper, 1989, p. 64).

In the traditional conception of teaching and learning activities, success is measured primarily by how well each individual student understands, retains, and repeats the content presented. Assigned learning tasks are to be accomplished individually, and each individual's mastery of the subject matter is measured separately. Learning activities are “highly structured and


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Handbook of Distance Education
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