Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Distance Education: Collaborative Interaction

Collaborative interaction in the field of education once meant working in small groups within the brick and mortar classroom. As new innovations allowed for people to connect synchronously and asynchronously from a distance (specifically the internet and various collaborative innovations like Skype, blogs, wikis, etc) collaboration changed. It became global and reached far past those in your immediate environment. Siemens (2008) sees collaborative interaction as a way to improve education through distance learning in a way that face-to-face (F2F) learning cannot.

The need to improve education is seen in greatly in poverty stricken areas. Digital literacy has become an important aspect of succeeding in this digital age, and the digital divide has separated those that are digitally literate and those that are not, and most times poverty is a factor. A blog post by Danica Radovanovic states, "collaboration possibilities using the Internet and social media services present one of the communication practices for overcoming inequalities in e-skills, twenty–first century literacies and communication, and foster better collaboration and participation." In her view, collaborative interaction helps to close the gap by teaching communication skills, specifically digital communication, a skill Radovanovic sees as important to obtaining knowledge in the 21st century, one that has played a part in the knowledge gap.

In the blog "Constructing Meaning," Greg Thompson argues that the ways in which we teach are outdated. He argues that, "It is time for something new, a new idea of what school is based, focusing on what is happening in society today, how innovation happens, how learning happens, and most fundamentally developing a new way of educating children that is collaborative at its core." The antiquated way of teaching he describes is a one directional process that involves information traveling from the teacher to the student. With collaboration, students become part of the knowledge creation.

It may seem strange that I quoted blogs about F2F classroom collaboration using online tools in a blog discussing distance education techniques. However, I believe distance education is becoming a part of our society. Learning through collaboration synchronously and asynchronously with individuals in different geographic locations is becoming increasingly important to 21st century digital literacy. If this is the case, it must begin in K-12 education. Students should have the skills to collaborate before college or the job place. Students should also collaborate and share ideas outside of their immediate environment.

Below is a short incomplete list of collaborative tools:

Google Docs
Social networking
File Sharing
Mind Mapping
Group Communication- discussion boards, text, audio and video chat/conferencing

Laureate Education, Inc. (2008). Principles of distance education: Distance Education: The Future of Distance Education. Baltimore: Author.


  1. Luke,

    I agree that the digital divide is an obstacle that must be overcome if learners from all socioeconomic groups are to benefit. Distance education techniques can be of benefit to those in poverty stricken areas as well as those who live in rural or desolate areas. You are absolutely correct in your belief that distance education is becoming part of our society.

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