The loneliness of the long-distance student

Blended Learning is more then online-delivery of content

This title went first through my mind when I did some talking with students who are mostly learning home after working-hours.
The part online-learning in Blended Learning is frequently considered as an online-delivery of study material. The teacher translates his contact hours in selfstudy, delivery of digital presentations, digital assignments,online-tests.
In an educational environment where management gives time and space to their teachers for coaching, students and teachers have also the possibility to participate on discussionboards, blogs, wikis, skype sessions, webconferences…

Content management systems are too much content-centered

Nowadays teachers make use of learning-platforms such as Blackboard. These platforms are developed as educational CMS’s whereby content is central. Most of these platforms integrate the above mentioned coaching facilities, but as a part of the content. All starts with a subject, presentations on that subject, discussion concerning the study-material, tests …
In the article on (2004) Dzuiban ed. write:” a shift is going on from lecture- to student-centered instruction”. Have CMS-systems responded to this shift? Can these systems still be used for Blended Learning where students are at least 30% dependent on these platforms (Allen ed, Sloan Consortium ,2007)?
Despite the integration of communication tools in a CMS such as Blackboard, students are complaining about the lack of communication. Why is that? Because teachers are still to lecture-centered? Or because the CMS is to content-centered?
I asked some of our “long-distance students” how they feel about their study. Some of them students feel one or another way abandoned.They refuse to use a tool as Facebook, which they consider as non-suitable for education. At the same time they expect the same excellent usability of Facebook when using educational tools offered by the institution. They considered peer contacts as important as contacts with their teachers. Edmodo, the closed-community- facebook- application, was tested for a while, but didn’t succeed. Probably because of “to much technology” (mail, Blackboard, Edmodo,…) for one purpose : communication.

Bringing distance learners and teachers together: a communication management system.

During a session of Online Educa Berlin 2011 Miss KALALAHTI of the Finnisch University of Tampere presented her research-project on Blended Learning. She asked her students to make a list of wishes to succeed in the online part of Blended Learning. Their wishes:
• Communication (audio & video) must be considered as the most important feature
• Simple and easy to use
• Good realtime connection
• Discussionboard with attachments
• Mobile
They tested different platforms and after a one year trial period students were most satisfied about Yammer, a platform based on communication.
This platform is communication-centered (CMS = Communication Management System?). Like in Facebook, messages are central, attachments are a part of the messages (not vice versa). The profile can be extended with communication tools such as Twitter or Skype.
ICT extended with the term Education seems to me not suitable for Blended learning, in case students are for example just visiting their campus for practical reasons or some introduction for specific subjects or for their exams. In that case communication should be the first concern when implementing Blended Learning. By consequence learning platforms with a central communication module should be further investigated.
Lucas Verhelst
Creative Commons Licentie
The loneliness of the long-distance student van Lucas Verhelst is in licentie gegeven volgens een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-NietCommercieel 3.0 Unported licentie.
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