Life by Design

Archive for September 2010

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the artwork on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art.

Given this example, the best CMS choices are the new Web 2.0 Social software for learning.  Models such as Edu 2.0 or EctoLearning. are learner driven, allow for media viewing, communication and collaboration.  Also, both of these systems have email capabilities allowing for communication (threaded discussion) not only between students, but with the instructor and in this scenario, museum curators.  Both models also support project based learning, which will allow small groups of students to work together on a project, collaborate and actually present their group findings digitally. These systems combine the function of discussion technologies, podcasting and media sharing as is presented in our course resources (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010).

The specific components of a course management system that are available in both examples and speak directly to this scenario are: Content presentation, course communication, and group project space and partner applications. (Simonson et al, 2009, pp. 239-242).

According the Pew Internet & American Life project  (Lenhardt & Madden, 2007. Extracted from, a great majority of today’s learners are actively developing new methods of communication and on their own acquiring competencies in content creation, sharing, and distribution. These learners are often actively involved in what has been called participatory cultures.

EctoLearning “ is a social, collaborative, online learning environment that directly addresses the needs of the modern learning environment by making the new communication skills and competencies for content creation and sharing central to the classroom experience.  This system enables students to create, collaborate and learn.” (Extracted from

An interesting application featuring EctoLearning comes from an educator, Alana, who is studying the use of EctoLearning to control cyber bullying in their school system.  Alana states:  “Educational networking sites like these provide a safe environment controlled by the school district that enables students, parents and educators to actively participate in the use of 21st-century social networking technology.”

Edu2.0 is again a good example of a social software based learning network that puts all learning tools in one place…wikis, blogs, email, embedded media and the like so that the student can have ease of access, communication and collaboration.  A case study demonstrating the efficacy of Edu 2.0 highlights the use at Central Cambria High School.  In interview with Aaron Minor (2010), a business teacher and member of the technology team, it was discovered that:

“Central Cambria is using almost every aspect of edu2.0.

  • Teachers are accountable to place their lesson plans on edu2.0.
  • Many of our teachers utilize the different assessments that are available.
  • Content and resources for lessons are uploaded to edu2.0.
  • Soon we are going to begin utilizing the parental support on edu2.0.
  • All of our special education teachers are co-teachers of the regular education classes. Adding the special education teachers as co-teachers has improved communication between the regular education teachers and the special education teachers.
  • Our use of online education will only increase over time. Our district has consistently been adding more laptops to our school over the past three years and is committed to adding more in the future. Currently, Central Cambria is located in a county that provides a broadband wireless signal that blankets the entire county. Central Cambria is committed to advance with the evolutional changes of online education.”

From a report in 2007, the National School Boards Association is encouraging schools to take another look at the use of social networks in the classroom.  In the report, it is stated: Social networking may be advantageous to students — and there could already be a double standard at work. 37% of districts say at least 90% of their staff are participating in online communities of their own — related to education — and 59% of districts said that at least half were participating. “These findings indicate that educators find value in social networking,” the study notes, “and suggest that many already are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to use social networking for educational purposes with their students.”  And “In fact, 76% of parents expect social networking will improve their children’s reading and writing skills, or help them express themselves more clearly, according to the study, and parents and communities “expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology.” “

There are a number of new learning technologies that fall into this category.   The Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies has created a Tools Directory of Instructional Tools that allows you to compare the vast array of CMS and LMS for specific needs.  It is clear that with these systems, distance education is a viable and sustainable form of educational delivery.


Alana (2010) Enhanced Learning in Professional Contexts.  Extracted from :

Cassel, D., (2007) School boards:  net dangers over-rated; bring social networks to school. Tech.Blorge Technology News.  Extracted from:

EctoLearning website:

edu2.0 website:

Minor, A. (2010) Central Cambria High School Case Study.   Extracted from:

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albirght, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (4th ed). Boston, MA:  Pearson. pp. 236-242.

Multimedia Presentation:  “The Technology of Distance Education” (2010) Laureate Education, Inc. Video Production. Extracted from:  (Click on Week 3 Resources).

Tools Directory. Centre for Learning and Performance Technology. Extracted from:


Prior to this course, as an online student in two different programs with success, my definition of online learning based on this experience has been that online learning is defined as an educational opportunity where the student and teacher are separated by geography, ability and time.  The student progresses through the courses at their own  pace supported by the use of technology for access to resources, collaborative learning with other students and teacher guidance.

In reading and viewing this week’s resources, I am surprised to learn of the long history of distance education and the wide variety of forms it has taken.  I never would have imagined that it began back in 1833 when European newspapers began to offer courses through mail correspondence.   With the modern view of distance learning firmly in my mind, I hadn’t considered that correspondence courses were the early version of this phenomena. Certainly the greatest steps  distance education have occurred in the last 30 years with development of the PC and all the forms of technology that have sprung up.  Clearly, the advances of technology have shaped the advances of distance learning.  I also see now, with the economic recession impacting our global economy, online coursework is gaining in popularity and acceptance in many cultures around the world.

In looking at societal acceptance of online education to date, I would say that both one’s profession and technical skill base have a lot to do with how distance education expresses in one’s daily work life.  There is more demand for distance education developers now in business, specifically in  training and performance.  The level with which this is experienced, I believe, is determined by the  technological skills  one has with regard to designing, developing and deploying different learning instruments.  The financial resources that an organization has to devote to distance education also determines the quality and depth to which distance education is developed.

In higher education, often faculty buy in, technical training and economic resources are necessary to develop programs that can stand alongside brick and mortar classroom instruction.  While it does take certain qualities to make online education successful in terms of the student, by and large, many students can  and do benefit from education delivered to suit individual lifestyles.

I now see that distance learning being a part of all forms of education in the future.  Either as a stand-alone modality or delivered in tandem with f2f education in more of a hybrid fashion.   The vast array of educational material on the World Wide Web cannot be ignored.   I also see more collaborative learning with students worldwide via video conferencing, virtual environments (i.e. Second Life) and social networking learning (i.e. Livemocha).

Overall, I think there are several factors that contribute to the definition of distance learning:  economic factors, internal and external politics, cultural and societal values and norms, corporate and organization climate and social adaptation.



Multimedia Program:  “Distance Learning Continuum” Extracted from: (Click on Week 1 Resources)

Second Life:

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009).  Teaching and learning at a distance:  Foundations of distance education (4th ed.)  Boston, MA:  Pearson.

Video Program:  “Distance Education:  The Next Generation” Extracted from: (Click on Week 1 Resources)