Virtual Teaching and Learning

#oltak Global Distance Learning


Things this week that peaked my interest…

The UK…“the academic staff who created the courses would not necessarily know anything about the problems of adult education, of which many of them had had no previous experience. It was therefore, considered vital that the regional tutorial and counseling services should be undertaken by [people] with a long experience of the particular problems involved in that kind of work” (Tait, 2002, p. 155). I think about the thought our team has put forth, when designing our credit recovery course, into the who and how our student population is and learns. Even when listening to the math group, they have given careful consideration to the design of their course beyond the base criteria of formulas and calculations, of which there is an exact execution to complete. How the course is designed to “speak” to the student, in my opinion, plays a vital role in the students retention and success rate. I’m sure with the guidance of counselors and on-sight mentors the courses designed by the academic teams in the UK are well received and the general student population does just fine, but I wonder how many fall through the cracks of that system…become disengaged, don’t use the resources of that support system or maybe are unaware of them, and never complete their degree.

Japan…The comment by Mr. Satoru Takahashi, (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 248) about how his experience with distance education was less than student-friendly was great insight for us, as course designers, to reflect on. It also reminded me of some distance courses I’ve taken taught by adjunct instructors that were purely recycled with no new thought put into them from semester to semester. I found it extremely frustrating to navigate through old postings from semesters gone by, try and sort through outdated materials and to receive little to no feedback other than canned responses put in place by the original designer. I asked repeatedly about accountability of these instructors to actually teach the course but was led to understand that there was little, if any, mentoring for adjuncts. Mr. Takahashi says “both faculty development and staff development are essential for those institutions to continue encouraging current learners and attracting future ones” (p. 248). And he’s right. UAA, within the last year has begun to address that particular shortfall and has instituted a workshop/orientation for all adjunct instructors. I don’t know to what extent they are mentoring or if that is actually happening at all but at least connecting on some level with these very important resources is a great start. Here is the link for the UAA adjunct resources page 

…it gives several options to link to other sites that provide everything from Blackboard how to’s to an online training program called iTeach, that UAA has collaborated with UAF on…find it here…

 Brazil…How incredible was the PROFORMACAO  project? 3,200 hours of training with  tutor manual, supporting texts, videos, guides for state and supervisor training agencies with a 85.6% success rate (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 250). Impressive that Brazil’s’ Secretariat of Distance Education achieved this without an actual institution…it was all distance (p. 251)!!!

Norway…I thought that the Studiesenteret whose principle objective is to “…level some of the differences in educational services between the towns and rural areas and bring educational opportunity to small communities, i.e. 80 municipalities,” seems like a great model for Alaska. I especially like the idea of study centers in remote areas. In smaller, collective communities, there may be a way to create buy-in with students if the elders of the village or group of parents, combined with the on-site teacher/para, collected at the community hall to help with distribution of lessons. It would give the student the opportunity to interact and share their experience, maybe instill a sense of pride in them by “teaching” through the task of completing their coursework while gaining insight. 

New Zealand…New Zeland is no different from most other countries where governments support and fund distance education with consideration of how the communities and country will be served by this system, it looks like distance ed. may take a hit in the future in regard to funding. Their government is looking at funding “future tertiary education on the basis of completion and pass rates rather than enrollment rates” (Moore and Kearsley, p. 256). Sounds like they are going through what UAA is right now as well….The state of Alaska has flat-funded our university for this year and CTC is going through a “rigorous” prioritization process where each program must account for enrollment and graduation numbers, where money is spent, how many sections are offered, etc. the list goes on and on. In my department we are being asked to shave off just under $100,000 this next year…Chef Vern (our bakery instructor) thought if perhaps if we raised the prices on our pastry, student-run retail cart that maybe we could recoup some of those funds to put back into the program. That’s going to take a load of pastries!!!
I’m sure its challenging for a University-wide system to figure out how to cut costs and allocate money fairly…I just wonder about the wisdom of funding according to graduation or completion rates….it’s been discussed time and time again that the majority of distance education students are part-time and working which contributes to a lower, or more importantly, a slower completion rate.

So much information this week! The thing I liked the best was in the summary of this chapter where Michael Foley, Lead Distance Learning Specialist of The World Bank said of distance education in developing countries, ” the aim will be to mine the implicit knowledge of practitioners rather than the explicit knowledge of the textbook, through a process of storytelling and the building of communities of practice” (Moore and Kearsley, 2012, p. 271).

iTeach, University of Alaska, (2014). Retrieved from

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Online Resources of Adjunct Faculty, University of Alaska, (2014). Retrieved from


5 thoughts on “#oltak Global Distance Learning

  1. Hi Naomi,

    I made it all the way through Brazil when I backed up and tried to get into Blackboard training. I ran into a snag at the need a password level! I want in! Whaaaa!

    Here are some other thoughts about what I read so far:

    I got to sit in on a Google hangout meeting with the math group presenting to Frank from AKLN. So I agree that they have given much consideration to the way they have designed their course. It will be a math course that meets the common core standards. And they have considered the rural students as well as students on the road system equally well, making sure to consider everything from testing with proctors to providing opportunity to present explanations to how they obtained their answers, in spoken or written form. The course will also be module by module similar to our course, with consideration that some of the class must by nature of the subject build one upon the other.

    Wow! It is hard to believe that a college would want the type of course you described to even be “on the air!” Out dated materials, no feedback, posting from another semester! The antithesis of what we are trying to do. I looked at the site you posted: I wonder if our school at UAS has this type of training set up. Apparently not yet or we would have likely been given access to this already for this class.

  2. Speaking of funding cuts in education, I think that many administrators see online education as a way to save money. Some online K-12 schools will have over 100 students in a class…
    When reflecting on our own course design, I think that we’re doing all of the right things. We’re making things accessible for everyone and trying our best to make the course enjoyable in the process. I also like the fact that our assessments won’t require proctors–they will just require that a teacher read their work while consulting a rubric! How simple is that? Our course has the ability to be entirely self-paced if necessary.

    • You’re right about educators looking at MOOC’s as a way to save money… “MOOCs have the potential to be used as tools to expand access to higher education and supplement what instructors offering the classroom, but also to marginalize faculty and cheapen education in pursuit of profits or cost savings” (Weingrten, 2014).
      I also think that there is a lot of value in allowing some courses to be self-paced…I think that’s one of the issues we’ve been discussing with our potential student population. Some of these kids reading level will be lower, some of them will take more time to “get it'” and some of them may have a personal life (kids, etc.) that need to allow them more time to complete their work. Honestly, taking the pressure off in some ways, may prove to knock down a barrier that could keep them from graduating.

      Weingarten, R. (2014). Technology is no substitute for faculty-student engagement. On Campus: The National Publication of AFT Higher Education Faculty and Professional Staff, 33(2), 1.

  3. Hey, Naomi…
    I noted the Foley quote in our reading, as well (“the aim [of distance education] will be to mine the implicit knowledge of practitioners rather than the explicit knowledge of the textbook, through a process of storytelling and the building of communities of practice.” In “traditional” K-12 education, so much emphasis is placed on the textbook, even when those books are 10 or 20 years old. One of the things online learning does well — and much more effectively, if it’s done right — compared to traditional classrooms is the development of those communities of practices, learning communities, or whatever one wishes to call them. The discourse required of students in an online course requires a lot more work, thought, and intent than in most traditional classrooms, and an online environment exposes every student and simply does not allow the “sit in the back row with your head down” student to show up and earn credit without demonstrating learning and/or participating in the learning process.
    Really enjoyed reading the passages you pulled from this week’s reading…and I admit to being blind to what’s happening globally on this topic, as well. 🙂

  4. Naomi,
    Thanks for a post that was really enthusiastic about the chapter. I was a little overwhelmed with the survey of all of the global programs in the text but I appreciated how you reviewed them all.

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