Distance education as a primary means of instruction is expanding significantly at the college and university level. Simultaneously, the growth of social networking sites (SNS), including Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, is also rising among today’s college students. An increasing number of higher education instructors are beginning to combine distance education delivery with SNSs. However, there is currently little research detailing the educational benefits associated with the use of SNSs. Non-commercial, education-based SNSs have been recently shown to build communities of practice and facilitate social presence for students enrolled in distance education courses. In order to evaluate the largely unexplored educational benefits of SNSs, we surveyed graduate students enrolled in distance education courses in ANU, an education-based SNS, based on their attitudes toward SNSs as productive online tools for teaching and learning. The results of our study suggest that education-based SNSs can be used most effectively in distance education courses as a technological tool for improved online communications among students in higher distance education courses. Debates rage about the appropriateness of using social networking in teaching, with arguments ranging from waste of time and distraction from academic goals to the need to reach net generation students. This paper explores a range of current social networking choices and argues that like any tool, they should be carefully evaluated in terms of affordances and course goals. Several different tools are reviewed, and questions that might be useful for evaluation are discussed.
The future is not a result of choices among alternative paths offered by the present, but a place that is created – created first in the mind and will, created next in activity”. The methodologies of 21st Century learning and teaching offer positive, hopeful answers in an age of austerity and exponential change. Ubiquitous information, open global communication, instantaneous, universal and almost costless access, challenge the rights of universities to assure the quality of learning. Lost in translation is profound teaching and learning – the kind which changes the course of lives and colours existence with meaning and moral significance. Teaching is an art, a conversation between people, an act of service; a desire to serve the common good. While 21st Century learning and teaching is challenging traditional taught delivery patterns and methods, these challenges may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the future of learning. Learners have already learned how to collaborate, share and care for the other outside the constraints of formalised learning. They are equipped, as John Schaar says, to make paths to the future because the activity of making the future using the affordances of social technologies has changed both the maker and destination.
The main characteristic of Distance Learning is that the student is taught and learns without his tutor’s physical presence in the classroom. The opportunity for a direct (face to face) communication between all members of the educational group [tutor counselor (TC) and students] in Distance Learning is offered by the Tutorials/Contact Sessions (CS). Although these CSs are not compulsory, it is estimated that they are of high importance, since among other things, they help in clarifying difficult to understand points and they also help in the cognitive subject becoming more fully comprehensible by the student (Holmberg, 1995).
For the discussion of the various issues at the CSs many different educational techniques within the framework of adult education such as teamwork, short lectures, debates, questions and answers, case studies, simulations, role play, etc. are used in combination. These are techniques raising the student’s interest, facilitating his/her participation in the learning process and developing interaction between TC and students and between students themselves. They also create a learning and research environment; encourage the students to work in a group and to learn by acting (Kokkos, 1998).
One of these educational techniques is the field study, which is the subject of this paper.To this day, no research has been carried out for the possibility of implementation of this technique in Distance Learning nor have any results of such implementation been studied.
This paper comprising of three parts contains a general presentation of the field study as a teaching technique in the first part while in the second part the successive stages of development of this technique in Distance Learning are analyzed. Finally, in the third part the students’ views of Hellenic Open University on this technique are presented.
Article originally appeared in: “Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education – TOJDE”, V. 7(2006), n. 4, Art. 1. Reprinted with permission.