This article was a good summary of the complexities of the distance education experience. Distance education (DE) spans the spectrum from synchronous to asynchronous, active learning to more passive learning and structured to more open, less organized, approaches. Contrary to the popular view, DE allows for a variety of teaching and learning styles while generally increasing flexibility and expanding access to education. In the future the question may be less about whether we will engage in the DE experience and instead be about what type of DE model works best for your learning style.
One of the more interesting statements in the article is: “No serious distance educator would ever suggest that distance education fully supplants the benefits of a live in-person experience. Rather, we argue that the loss of face-to-face benefits in a classroom can be mitigated in a distance learning environment if students achieve the intended learning outcomes while benefiting from convenience and increased access to higher education.” I do wonder about the importance of the social experience in the educational environment. In DE it is often just replaced by a different type of social experience, at least among the less passive types. One of the main questions in considering this issue is whether we are achieving the desired outcomes and is the social experience one of the desired outcomes? In today’s marketplace, you’d certainly expect a level of social competency that may be lost in a DE environment. There are things like synchronous and asynchronous video that approximate the social experience – but is it enough or even necessary? As DE evolves and the marketplace evolves with it, will it be necessary then?