The Role of the Distance Learning Teacher

With the increasing popularity of online education, due to advancing technologies and an increase in funding for universities to offer distance learning, the role of the teacher, trainer or lecturer in modern higher education is certainly changing. But with greater use of technology in a student’s education, does the competence and overall quality of the teacher become less important?

In his essay “Distance Learning: Promises, Problems, and Possibilities” (2002), Doug Valentine describes “teachers and their attitude towards teaching in a distance learning environment as a potential major obstacle to effective distance learning” because “the teacher can set the tone for learning in the distance learning environment.” Specify educational environment.’ In response, therefore, it seems to be of great importance that in addition to knowing how to use the technology to deliver education, he/she must also be eager and confident about his/her new teaching tools. Following this idea, the University of Florida also published a paper entitled A Teachers Guide To Distance Learning (1995). This paper calls for distance learning technology to be “as invisible as possible” and supports the notion that it is merely a means or “tool” offered to support the delivery of education.

This is where a problem highlighted by Valentine comes into play. There are two different opinions as to what the exact purpose of distance learning is. The first, as Schlosser and Anderson noted in 1994, is “to provide an experience as similar as possible to that of traditional face-to-face teaching. While the second opinion, that of Bates (1995), states that “it should be used to improve teaching”. Depending on which of the above is to be adopted by the institution, it seems that the quality, competence and connection between teacher and student should be of paramount importance for the former. However, if a better education system than that of the traditional form is required, the position and actions of the instructor can be quite different.

Apparently, for a distance learning course to be more successful than a traditional learning program, the role of the teacher should be more in line with University of Florida directions. For example, the UoF highlights four adjustments, the first being to establish “effective strategies for implementing small group activities and individual exercises”. The second is to refine “techniques for maximizing teacher/student and student/student interactions.” The third is to “establish successful approaches to integrating technology into the teaching/learning process. And the final method of adaptation is to implement “tactics to motivate students remotely.”

The role of the distance teacher is undoubtedly changing compared to that of the traditional lecturer. However, where an institution implements the most radical changes and latest technologies, today’s distance learning teacher has just as much responsibility to his students and a further responsibility to the future advancement of education in general.

Thanks to Sarah Maple

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