Modes of Delivery and Learning Objectives in Distance Education

Article excerpt


South Dakota is one of the leading states in distance education development in the U.S. Since 2003, the South Dakota distance educational system has applied different distance modes of delivery which include the following primary approaches:

1. Correspondence Courses: a print based asynchronous distance learning system.

2. Telecourses: an one-way audio & video based synchronous distance learning system.

3. Digital Dakota Network (DDN): a two-way audio, video, computer & Internet based synchronous distance learning system

4. Online Courses: a computer & internet based asynchronous distance learning system.

Different modes of delivery have the potential to provide different accessibility, interaction, and efficiency. To develop appropriate and optimum distance modes of delivery requires expert attention to the planning and design of learning experiences, including a clear vision and purpose for learning, as well as educator skill in instructional design and technical resource management.

Research on comparisons of distance modes of delivery have continued for the past several decades. Literature generally has concluded that learning effectiveness will not be influenced by different modes of delivery (Clark, 2001; McIsaac & Gunawardena, 1996; Moore & Kearsley, 1996; Russell, 1999; Sherry, 1996). The distance education research direction has shifted in the new millennium away from media comparisons to explorations of variations in instructional design, teaching methods, and media attributes analysis in order to investigate different levels of learning effectiveness, student and teacher satisfaction, interaction patterns, and learning efficiency (Kozma, 1991). The debate about the best media for learning, has suggested that the instructor's desire to interact with learners is the key to influencing learning. Different modes of media have not been found to influence learning effectiveness, but different media attributes will influence other learning factors such as attitude, levels of interaction, motivation, and efficiency.

The traditional media comparison studies have emphasized review of modes of delivery as variables for comparison. Researchers have commonly ignored other compounding factors such as teacher, learner, and objectives which will also significantly influence learning (Clark & Sugrue, 1990). In order to design appropriate distance educational system research, it is necessary to adopt appropriate instructional design models. Instructional design steps should focus on several important questions: Who is the learner? What are the learning objectives? What instructional strategies fit the available delivery resources? When educators consider broader issues beyond the learning effectiveness of a course, issues such as access, equity, cost and quality all need to be considered.

Instructional design literature indicates that the determination of learning objectives is one of the most important steps for developing distance education. Bloom's taxonomy is the most classic learning objective theory, with cognitive learning objectives consisting of six levels from lower to higher levels as follows: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

The consideration of levels of learning objectives will contribute in the selection of the appropriate instructional methods and modes of delivery (Strauss & Frost, 1999). There is a need in distance education research to focus on cognitive efficiency (Clark, 2001 ). Other issues such as mode accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and interaction ability all need to be considered in considering distance delivery mode selection.


Klasek (1972) stated, "For instructional media to become an integral part of the learning process, a particular medium for instruction must be considered only as It is able to assist the student in fulfilling an instructional objective" (p. …