Computer Mediated Education
The rapid growth of computer-mediated learning has created both the ideology and the challenging need to crossover to an online learning environment. Although there are several differences between the design processes of computer-mediated learning modules and distance learning, changes can be made to implement the computer-mediated module as a distance learning product. The literature on teaching online is just developing and as a result, researchers are forced to speculate on particular teaching and learning problems due to the absence of research studies. This paper will examine some of these necessary changes in this type of an environment, in which the student would complete all requirements online without the presence of an instructor.
The main difference between these two modules is the lack of the physical presence of an instructor. Research indicates that contemporary learners often have legitimate instructional needs and vary greatly in their academic abilities (Muirhead, 2001) The most significant concern that must be addresses is that most learners lack the substantial self-monitoring skills that such a method of distance education requires (Muirhead, 2001). As a result, one of the changes that must be implemented is comparable to that of a “virtual instructor,” and “virtual peers” to provide the same quality of academic support that a computer-mediated classroom would have. This is supported by theories that indicate that students need more academic support from their peers and teachers (Muirhead, 2001). Learners must be empowered through thoughtful interaction to acquire the necessary skills to effectively work in an open-ended environment (Muirhead, 2001).
Since distance education places fewer restrictions on learners, learners must take greater responsibility for their educational experiences (Muirhead, 2001). Frequently, distance learners are under major time constraints with work and family obligations and being efficient with their graduate studies is an important issue (Muirhead, 2001). Ultimately, this will demand changing the traditional role of teachers from information transmitters to guides who arrange meaningful learner-centered experiences (Muirhead, 2001). As educators refine their philosophy of distance learning, they are concerned about sustaining interactivity in their educational process. Today’s adult learning theories are built upon the premise that teachers will assist their students to become self-directed and independent. Learners must assume responsibility for their educational experiences, but independent study has natural limitations. Without adequate teacher feedback and reinforcement, students may not know whether they possess an accurate knowledge of their subject matter. Distance learning products must be carefully designed activities that guide students and promote personal acquisition of knowledge simultaneously with independence.
This requires planning creative online instructional assignments that intellectually stretch students but do not confuse or overwhelm them (Muirhead, 2001). Distance educators view computer-mediated education as an excellent format to encourage a variety of adult learning styles while serving an ethnically diverse student population. A recent successful implementation of distance learning is Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, where Professor Yuanchun Shi’s “smart classroom” displays photos of students at other universities across China who have logged in (Huang, 2004). Shi poses a question and calls on a remote student by shining a laser pointer on his photo. The student’s picture switches to live video and audio as he answers. Shi writes on a digital whiteboard that transmits her handwriting to the students’ computers, complementing audio and visual feeds from cameras and microphones (Huang, 2004). Changes such as these can be made to implement the computer-mediated module as a distance learning product, for the successful “new education” of the future.
Huang, G.T. (2004). China’s Clever Classroom. Technology Review, 26.
Muirhead, B. (2001). Practical Strategies for Teaching Computer-Mediated Classes.
Retrieved March 15, 2005, from Ed at a Distance Web site:
Computer Mediated-Education / Distance Learning
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