Ec0168's Blog

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Distance in distance learning May 3, 2010

Filed under: CECS 5510 Technology- based learning environments — Echang @ 8:02 pm

It’s about distance

I am an advocate of Vygosky’s theory regarding ZPD ( Zone of Proximal Development) as” distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving  and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers.”

Learning in the future is more self-directed and ill-structured, so to find ZPD is very crucial for instructional designer where scaffolding should be out in the more independent studying.

From this point of view, I connect “distance” of Vigosky’ ZPD theory to “variation” of Marton & Trigwell’s variation theory. In variation theory, there is a gap between students in variation theory which explains the phenomenon that students will have different experiences of the same context. Distance is not just geographical differences which online learners have. There will be time distance, level distance of cognitive process or learning process, and distance regarding learning styles or learning preferences.

Therefore, an instruction should be considered to fulfill the differences (distance), applied blended learning for student-centered learning. All stakeholders need to find these distances and support learners to overcome their distances.

From my experiences

As a foreigner living in America for four years, I have been interested in how to learning English as a second language. At the same time, I have witnessed that my daughter learn Korean and English as a bilingual speaker. In addition, I have taught several students in Korean writing class and English writing class with some strategies what I learned as an ESL student and what I have had as a professional writer. While doing this, I found that writing develops cognitive process and what elements are useful to learn how to write and to improve metacognitive skills for communicate, express, reflect, reasoning, and argument.

While I am studying on learning technology, I designed a web-based writing instruction for 3-5 elementary school students, facilitating their writing process. Actually it was not a distance learning only, but it is blended learning combining distance learning ( interaction) part and F2F learning (instruction).

Problem statement

Many Korean ESL students and their parents, those who have just arrived in the United States, expect to learn the English language through exposure to the bilingual environment of church Sunday school. Writing is often the most challenging and subject-integrated skill to learn in the school setting. Students often have trouble writing because it commonly becomes a boring, difficult, and complicated task. For this reason, it is critical for ESL students to be taught strategies for writing that will help them apply themselves in a way that they can become comfortable in their own skills.

Since the instructors are all volunteers, they may not be as adept as a trained professional. For this reason, all instructors will utilize a web-based teaching method, approved with curriculum standards, to assist ESL students with their writing skills in Bible study classes. The instructors will provide common online reading materials, curricular-based handouts, and PowerPoint presentations to teach writing strategies in these classes. They will also use a set of assessment tools (including graphic organizers, self-checklists, and peer evaluation cards) that will help to determine the students’ progress. This supplemental instruction for both ESL students and volunteer instructors will support directional curricular work while teaching Bible stories. Web2.0 will offer a discussion forum that will connect parents, students and teachers on ongoing issues.

In the implement stage of this instruction for 6 months, I found out that students have various distances and started to think about elaboration for more learner-centered learning following individual studying model.

With this situation, I consider the general learning model integrated with the writing instruction.

Here is my conceptual map which shows the process of effective learning.

Figure 1 concept map

Figure 1 concept map

I am going to apply my web-based writing instruction into this conceptual map.

Writing instruction flow chart

Figure 1 writing instruction flow chart

Learners go through the process of learning from login the site to finish assessment for every lesson. From the beginning, I will point out those distances which learners would take in each step.

For preparation, they check what is going on each lesson from syllabus or a content module. Otherwise, they can check it from the content map ( module schedule Appendix I). Learners can catch the topic and concept by checking the syllabus and content map. If they have question, they can ask their instructor through e-mail for this step.

When they enter the lesson, at first they find out what is the topic of today’s lesson and some description about the lesson. According to the learning style, students can choose an reading material (story telling) from the list of learning objects: video tutorial ( 3D Avatar role play, PPT presentation, Podcast, e-book). Then they find an instruction material from the list of learning objects: tutorial ( 3D Avatar explanation, PPT presentation, Podcast, e-book). Through finding proper activities depending on their learning style, learners can easily approach the lesson topic and concept. If learners want to clarify what they learn, they can share their idea on the Q&A forum regarding writing style.

Then they do interaction activities: reflective discussion or voice chatting while they create graphic organizer. When they finish their graphic organizer, they put them on the discussion board and get feedbacks. While learners are sharing their opinion, they may notice some differences. This would be a good method for individuals to correct their misunderstandings or their failure privately with positive or negative feedback during the discussion. However under individual studying model, community discussion board will provide chances to share their ideas asynchronously. For synchronous chatting would be designed in certain time schedule. This will minimize time difference of learners.


The learners apply what they learn from the lesson writing their own composition. As an assessment stage, they write their composition and have a chance to check with a self-check form (rubric). Then they upload their work on the final forum.

This is a designated circle for one lesson.

By choosing appropriate learning objects for each step, learners can have proper scaffolding and reach to their goal, minimizing the distances.


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