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Evaluating distance education

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Constructivism.
  3. Constructivism critiqued.
  4. Direct Instruction.
  5. Assessment as autopsy.
  6. Conclusion.

Online Distance Learning (ODL), also called distributed education (DE) has yet to revolutionize education. While the potential of the Internet ? a multi-media medium of information that can combine synchronous and asynchronous communications, video, audio, text, and graphics ? for learning is profound, but has not been tapped. Like many previous technological advances (microcomputers, television, etc.) the Internet been adapted to play relatively marginal roles within traditional paradigms of the educational process - putting old wine into new bottles. Traditional educational paradigms are under challenge, but no potential replacements have been widely accepted

[...] What are needed in higher education is formative evaluation methodologies that are as innovative as the current educational technologies. These methodologies should include reliable and valid evaluative measures, frequently administered to learners, with meaningful results and interpretation made immediately and conveniently available to the appropriate stakeholders. This form of evaluation would help instructors improve the delivery of learning in "midstream" with a minimal time investment. Students would receive feedback to their feedback ("closing the loop"), thus removing obstacles to learning and demonstrating that students are an important part of the learning process. [...]

[...] Mayer (2004) concluded that the ?debate about discovery has been replayed many times in education but each time, the evidence has favored a guided approach to learning? (p. 18) (pp. 81-82) Kirschner et al (2006) point out that the initial construction of essential information happens in a student's working memory which is highly limited. The multi-staged task of problem-discovery, solution means- discovery, etc. all happen within WM, overloading it, and making it difficult to impossible for the information (both "practical information" and the experience of performing operations) to move from WM into long term memory (LTM). [...]

[...] According to constructivists, the essence of distributed education is independent study, the guiding principle that each learning system is designed to enable learners to learn effectively. Constructivist models view teaching and learning as assisted performance, or as a process of guided participation, and suggest that learning arises both as the result of deliberate guidance of the learner by a more capable other and, incidentally, through participation in collective activities with the members of the learning community. The central focuses in these metaphors of learning and teaching are on calibrated assistance and the nature of the interactional support that adults or peers can offer to learners. [...]

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