Life by Design

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Posted on: September 23, 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:


3 Responses to "Selecting Distance Learning Technologies"

Cool, I’ve seen a lot of development in this area. Do you think this will bring about a fundamental change in learning, or will just serve as a small aid in teaching?

From what I can gather from the literature, these new methods of delivering education will work in tandem with the existing traditional styles. I don’t think it will supplant the tried and true methods as there has been so much investment of time, energy and money toward the existing style. However, I do see that this new view of learning directly meets the digital native where he/she lives and that is very valuable. I want to eventually work in a capacity where I am assisting and nurturing this kind of learning as I think it is a lot more interesting and effective than what I grew up with and I think it will serve our students to fully step into the 21st century. Thanks for your response.

Hi Deborah, Here we are blogging again! Looking forward to reading your posts about Project Management!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: