Constructing Quality Questions for Discussions

picCollaboration is an essential part to learning in the online classroom. By learning together students have the opportunity to extend and deepen their learning, test out new ideas with a cynical group and receive critical and constructive feedback (Palloff & Pratt, 2005).

Please review the resources provided for this week’s discussion. Reflect on your own collaborative learning experiences in both the face-to-face environment and the online environment and consider the following questions:

  • What elements did you find were essential in a distance learning environment to build collaboration between the learners?
  • What elements have you found to be most beneficial to your own personal learning experience?
  • What are the benefits of using collaborative learning techniques to both the learner and the instructor?


By Wednesday:

Building on your own personal experiences with collaboration, explain the disadvantages/advantages in the online learning environment vs the traditional face-to-face learning environment. Provide several examples and discuss how these experiences could be handled differently to promote more efficient learning.

By Sunday:

Respond to at least two of your classmates initial discussion posts. Comments should be supported with at least one outside resource.

Be sure to respond to classmates who have commented on your initial post throughout the week.

Click here for Discussion Rubric:  discussion rubric


Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2005). Learning together in community: Collaboration online. Retrieved from


The Impact of Open Source

In any distance learning education course, the planning process is crucial and requires a great deal of time and effort. Learners must be provided with the proper learning resources for the course as well as activities that create interaction among the students and challenge them. Because of the technological advances over the past several years, distance learning formats are now accessible online. Open Courseware is a term that consists of all supporting digital material for academic courses such as; syllabi, lecture notes, reading lists, presentation slides, case studies and software that is available for educational use and is shared via the internet at no cost (Baldi, Heier, Stanzick, 2002). These courses provide learners the opportunity to learn from college level classes but cannot be taken for college credit. These classes are most beneficial to students that want to see what a particular class is about before actually signing up or for those that just want to gain the additional knowledge.

The course I previewed was Abstract Algebra. URL

Instructor: Benedict Gross, PHD – Harvard Extension School


I chose this particular course because I am terrible at Math. I was hoping this would help to enlighten me on some of the concepts of Algebra that I have had trouble with for many years. No such luck. When entering this course, I found a course syllabus, and some notes for each section – many were hand written though. Each course had recorded lectures that were available for download in Quicktime or MP3 formats or you could play the Flash version directly. Each week consisted of three lectures which were 50 minutes each.

I was really disappointed in the overall structure of this course. The videos were informative, however a lot the notes that were provided by the instructor were just hand written and scanned and the assignments were also hand written. I didn’t find any place to review the assignments or compare answers to see if the questions were being answered correctly. According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek (2012) some factors that are important in a course such as this are: student-instructor interaction and student-student interaction. An example of this would be a discussion group, wiki or blog where students could go and collaborate with each other and the instructor when needed. The material was presented in several different formats such as audio video and the hand written notes, however more resource links could have been posted as additional learning tools.

I found that the majority of this course was basically just a dumping ground for the information. Not many active learning strategies were implemented within this course.


Baldi, S., Heier, H., & Stanzick, F. (2002). Open courseware vs. open source software- A critical comparison.  Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvack, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Yale University (2008). History 116: The American revolution. Retrieved from Yale Open courses website:

Harvard Extension School (2014) Abstract Algebra. Retrieved from Harvard Extension School website:


Distance Education Defined

Simonson defines distance learning as formal education in which the learning group (teachers, students, resources) are separated by geography and sometimes by time (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). To me distance learning is defined as taking one or more classes via an internet classroom. Before starting this course, I had several years of experience as an online distance learner. I was able to complete my Bachelor’s degree online while working a full time job and raising two daughters. I had also participated in many remote professional development training sessions and since I work for a school system, I have seen how important distance learning can be in a school system for many different purposes. Resources this week have influenced my personal definition of distance education by reminding me that distance education encompasses any “institution-based formal education where the learning group is separated” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009).

In the distance learning environment, learners are separated from each other and from their instructors, therefore, the technology must serve as the connecting band. The distance learning experience works so well because of all of the different functions such as: communication, collaboration, course management, evaluation instruments, and learner performance tools. Even though distance learning is continuously growing, it will not replace traditional classrooms. The more technology evolves and advances the more distance education will also advance to reach more and more e-learners.

Distance learning will continue to make great strides in education and also in business. Distance education can and does play an extensive role in training and development providing companies ways to disseminate training, improve performance, and institute new procedures (Moller, Foshay, Huett, 2008). With technology more prevalent in business facilities distance learning models provide cost effective and time efficient ways of training staff.

I see distance learning in the future being used in every classroom to support children at all levels. For example in a mixed classroom with gifted children and regular children, the gifted children could use distance learning classes to enhance their learning experiences while the teachers were helping the other students. This could be used in all grade levels and could be used with iPads so that they could work on their own. With the fast growing technological advances, distance learning will also see exponential growth in the tools and support available.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.)

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends