Distance Learning is changing education. The changes are being driven by technology and the student demand for immediate information and flexibility. New technology is facilitating enhanced methods of communication between students and faculty, content delivery, assessments of them, and key education elements. Students are exploring new ways to continue their education as they continue working full-time and raising a family. The changes in the student population are forcing instructors to "develop new modalities of teaching" and transition to facilitators in education. Administrators are then "forced to provide new infrastructures" and support.
Distance learning goes by many names including: online learning, e-learning, distance education, online education, and web-based learning. Distance Learning is a formal educational process in which there is geographical or time separation between the students and instructor. This separation is bridged through the use of technology. Learning can take place synchronously, asynchronously, or a combination of both. Content delivery methods may include audio, video, computer technologies, internet, wireless communication devices, conferencing, DVD's, and CD's. Through interactivity students will create a connection between themselves and the facilitator (Instructor). All students are accountable for their own learning and are expected to fully interact with facilitators and other participants.
Blended learning involves the integration of online educational elements into a traditional face-to-face course.
OSF Saint Francis College of Nursing has adapted to the changes in learning and education by integrating technology into its curriculum. This integration involves blended learning environments for traditional undergraduate classroom courses and fully online courses for all graduate degrees.
Why is this important?
At OSF Saint Francis College of Nursing we strive at providing each student with the highest quality nursing education possible. The use of technology along with distance and blended learning allows the College to engage students with a variety of activities that promote a higher level of thinking and deeper understanding of the material. These elements allow for the accommodation of multiple learning styles and personalization.
What value do blended and online learning environments provide?
Accessibility: Learning is available to everyone without limitations to location or socioeconomic status. Students are provided access to courseware and instructors of the highest quality that they otherwise would not.
Flexibility: Online learning environments allow students to choose when, where, and how they learn.
Engaging: Through the use of technology such as games, movies, and other interactive elements online learning is engaging students in new ways. Students are reaching a higher level of thinking and deeper understanding of the material. The interaction between facilitators, students, and the class increases in the online environment.
Social: The online environment provides a rich and rewarding social experience. Students are able to communicate with and learn from the experiences of students in different states or countries. Students who are reluctant to engage in the traditional passive classroom believe it is easier to participate online increasing the overall classroom participation rates. Through the use of conferencing, threaded discussions, meet-ups, field trips, clubs, group activities and social gatherings social experiences are encouraged. The flexibility to learn at one's own time allows students to choose participation in community activities that would otherwise conflict with course scheduling.
Rigorous: A myth exists that online courses are easier than traditional courses. For an online course to be successful students must actively participate in the activities. Failure to actively participate decreases what the student learns making the course more difficult than the traditional passive classroom.
Student-Centered: Student-centered learning requires the active participation of the student. The student is responsible for eth direction of their learning while the teacher provides guidance.
Instructor-Facilitated: Instructors provide the necessary tools for students to engage the learning process. Instructors facilitate course activities while guiding students to explore their knowledge and experiences to achieve course objectives.
Transformative: The online environment transforms instructors, students, and the way we learn. Students are now able to reach a level of mastery that is guided by the instructor, technology, and flexibility. Courses are now transformed into social environments that provide a personalized experience for each student.