Theory and Practice of Distance Education

By Börje Holmberg | Go to book overview

5

STRUCTURES AND MEDIA OF DISTANCE-EDUCATION COURSES

While the principles so far discussed may serve distance educators as guides to course structure, there are a number of further considerations of how to organize the presentation of course content that deserve our attention.

In most cases, distance teaching and learning are based on courses pre-produced for the purpose. As print is the dominating medium for the presentation of learning matter in distance education, the relation between distance-study courses and other presentations in print is of prime interest.

A printed study course is basically different from a textbook with questions. A textbook gives all relevant facts and, if it is a good textbook, does so in a clear and logical way, but it does not guide or teach. That is to say, it does not induce the student to learn, as we must expect a distance-study course to do. The presentation of facts in a textbook has normally to be supplemented by the exposition of a teacher, who kindles the interest of the students, tells them what to pay most attention to, what comparisons to make, directs their inquisitiveness towards profitable framings of questions, etc. A distance-study course guides and teaches by causing discovery learning and/or giving complete explanations with elucidating examples, by providing exercises of various kinds, by constantly referring to what the student has already learned to master, and by paving the way for successful problem solutions. This can be done by means of mediated guided conversations (see section Overarching principles in Chapter 4 above). The course is thus a substitute for both a conventional textbook and the exposition of a teacher (unless the course is attached to one or more books or other sources, in which case it replaces a teacher's comments and the discussion of the expo-

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