Elements of Distant Education Diffusion

Posted on September 19, 2011 by mittootech

Studying away from the class room has been an ongoing trend for decades.  The trend was to facilitate the craftsman’s training (apprenticeship) with technology that would lift the prestige of “tradesmen.” The gorgeous architecture of buildings with patterned artifacts could not be just the handy-craft of vocational equipped-tradesmen. Technology must interface with the skills that are applied for end results. Colleges facilitated young tradesmen in their field, but for those who were not able to attend college full time or part time there must be a way to “get to them.”  Correspondence courses became the innovation that allowed the craftsmen to be certified. Where ever there was a hand craft skill a learning program would be developed to facilitate distant learning with appropriate technology.

Huett et al. (2008, Sep./Oct.) believe that the advances in technology bring the world closer together in a global community. While they recognize that distant education must rise to another level to meet “customers” need they must realize that they are also integral players in the distant education playoff and seek to make valid contribution of changes. Identifying the problem that there is no face to face encounter as with traditional education is a major issue, but the million dollar question is, how do we fix it?

Formal education from the renaissance age involved face to face encounter with the instructor and the learners within a classroom setting. The reality of distance learning for first and second generations had little or no interaction between the learner and the instructor. The content was the median between the learner and the instructor. However, the term “corresponding” was fitting to commutate some kind of “face to face” encounter which was, and is still the hallmark of education. Moller et al. (2008, May/Jun.) believe that there must be some transparency into how learning can be best achieved. Traditional education has established objectives for measuring performance. A carbon copy for measuring performance standards in distant education may not be comparable to the learning process.

Dr. Simonson (video presentation) sees a problem in how we perceive distant education in the 21st century and onwards.  He believes that the innovation of the internet and the World Wide Web has brought us near enough to “face to face” encounters on a digital front where almost instantaneous communication and interaction redefines distant education to be distant learning and distant teaching, to be paired and inseparable. Distant education is constructed as formal education that involves interaction of a “learning group” made up of students, resources and teachers. The major element of separation is geography and the intellect that prevails. Therefore, institutions must develop instructional designs and strategy that will bring the interactive experience among learners, resources and teachers in the program’s learning technology.

Although the internet and the World Wide Web seem to be the communication technology of today, many institutions are probably developing innovations that are not conducive to individuals learning resources and availability. And, it should be remembered that while integrating audio, video, graphics and synchronous chats, the media design is only of added quality as the impact it creates with the learner receiving parallel technology. According to Palloff et al. (2007) “We always need to take into account the person at the other end of the wire…the technology should not drive the course…the desired outcomes and needs of the participants should be the deciding factors” (P.96).  Hence there must be scaffolding technology that is parallel and reflective of learning technology that incorporates the learner’s needs. 

Bransford et al. (1999) in Anderson (2010) postulates four attributes of learning to be community centered, knowledge centered, learner centered and assessment centered. They believe that those factors for consideration will give the frame work for a structured learning environment. Each factor is independent in focus within the formal institution of learning, but all are keyed in systematic approach to course design and institution image. However, Anderson (2010) is skeptical about how the learner should be catered. The learner needs can only be realized if all other attributes are considered equally, Anderson argues that “The learner-centered contexts must also meet the needs of the teacher, the institution and the larger society that provides support for the student” (p.470).

Educational technologists are challenged to execute distant learning that not only place the institution at the zenith of course design and offering, but constantly evolve the changed agent metabolism of knowledge, sensitivity, and future thinking. At the same time the diffusion of innovation is not a guarantee to be “sold clean” but even without a “sell out” the social system must realize that their benefits to de derived outweighs the cost and sacrifices of the innovation. Rogers (2003) thinks that there are four crucial elements to satisfy in the diffusion process.  The innovation itself must be technologically sound new, and adoptable to the creed and culture. The communication must be endemic to the intellectual capacity of the clients. The time must see the need for opportunity and extension for clarity. The members of the social system must be the focus of the innovation. The changed agent is preferred to be client-oriented than innovation-oriented. According to Rogers “A news story that is perceived by an individual as having high salience leads an  audience individual (1) to seek further information and (2) to tell others, often strangers, about the news” (p.78). 


Simonson, M. (2000). Principles of Distant Education: The Next Generation. DVD (2008) available from Walden University or MBS Direct • 2711 West Ash Street • Columbia, MO 65203 |

Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of Innovations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Anderson, T. (2008). The theory and practice of online learning. (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.

Pallof, R., Pratt, K (2007). Building Online Learning Communities. Effective strategies for the virtual Classroom: Second Edition of building Learning Communities in Cyberspace. Jossey Bass Press

 Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends.

 Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 1: Training and Development). TechTrends.


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