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Cogito ergo sum

Latin: “I think, therefore I am”
René Descartes (1596-1650)

Elizabeth Perrin

Cogito, ergo sum is a far cry from substantiation of the teaching/learning process in distance learning – whatever supportive technology and sophisticated interactivity is available to us.

Distance adds dissonance. Otherwise the overall philosophy and practice of distance learning follows standards set for face-to-face teaching and learning. Teachers impart knowledge, students absorb the information. Motivation is mostly subliminal. The teacher may truly be enthralled with the subject matter, but is teaching to pay the rent. The student may be somewhat interested in the material, but is really taking the course because it is required for graduation. When all of this is tied into Distance Learning, synchronous or asynchronous, video or text based – we have a big gooey confusion of research, design, implementation and evaluation of teaching and learning in the distance learning area.

Fortunately for the future of teachers, learners, and distance learning, excellent research is ongoing to identify significant aspects of the teaching/learning process and incorporate them into the design, delivery, teaching and distance learning processes. The wave of the future, vis a vis distance learning, continues to smash many of us, who are teachers, rather flat on the education shore. In an effort to sort out significant variables in design and presentation, we sometimes lose sight of the variable with the largest standard deviation that is most difficult to control – the learner.

A growing body of empirical and research data is paving the way for alternative systems of teaching and learning that are comparable, even competitive, with learning in traditional face-to-face classrooms, laboratories, and libraries. New technologies developed for distance learning are finding their way into face-to-face classrooms. And just as faculty learn from each other on campuses and at professional meetings, they are learning from each other on the Internet.

Ongoing research, innovation and implementation is reconfiguring distance learning through infusion of thoughtful substantive research and analyses. For 21st century education, this is indeed becoming a brave new world.



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