Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Posted: November 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
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For this blog entry I am responding to an assignment for my Distance Learning course, EDUC 6135.  The scenario I chose to address is listed below.

            Example 2:  Interactive Tours

            A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display.  Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art.  As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance.  In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

            Identifying distance learning technologies to meet the needs of a particular situation requires much research and careful thought as to the best solutions.  In this scenario, a distance education technology solution is being sought for a specific lesson in an otherwise traditional classroom.  For this activity, the curators will take the role of distance educators and the students will become distance learners.  According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), “The instructional environment should be viewed as a system, a relationship among all the components of that system—the instructor, the learners, the material, and the technology.” As I looked for possible solutions that would address the need for the ability to tour two different museums and their exhibits, synchronous access to the museum curators, and tool to allow students to group critique four pieces of art.  I spent some time searching for individual technologies for each individual activity and even as I considered technologies that I thought might work I could not see how the various technologies might all work together in concert with the instructor, curators, materials and students as a system!  With each component working separately it seemed too cumbersome coordinate and likely to fail.  I was flummoxed.  I knew I needed to take a different approach, to change how I was thinking about the problem.  I thought about some of the trainings I have attended through my department and tried to recall some of the functionality I had observed during these web conferences.  This led me to my eureka moment.  On a web conferencing platform, the virtual museum/exhibit tours could be played as PowerPoint or other multimedia presentations and the curators could be present to interact with the students synchronously via voice-over-IP, and web cam.  An example tool that I found was Blackboard Collaborate, which offered this multimedia presentation explaining the capabilities of the platform specifically for web conferencing.  Blackboard Collaborate allows for two-way communication, built-in voice-over-IP for up to six speakers, video of the person speaking, live chat, whiteboard area for content sharing with the ability to draw and write on the content.  In addition, there is a cool feature referred to as follow-the-speaker-video which automatically shows live video of the person who is speaking at the time.  Blackboard Collaborate offers a free 30-day trial which may be sufficient for this singular virtual field-trip, however there is a cost consideration if more access time is required.

            Next I had to consider the need for students to be able to provide group critique of four individual art pieces.  I decided that a Web 2.0 tool that allows for collaboration would be an effective solution. seemed like a perfect choice. Simonson et al. (2012) describe wikis as “an excellent tool for collaborative online writing assignments and group activities compiling information in a single online resource.”  Wikispaces provides a “classroom workspace” instructors and students can work on projects collaboratively and they are available for free to teachers and students! Take a look at this introduction page for examples of what can be done.  Wikispaces provides students with online, interactive collaboration experiences.

            When examined according to, the use of the web-conferencing and Wikispaces together provides a rich and engaging learning experience that is both synchronous and asynchronous and comprised of audio, video, collaborative, and interactive components.  In case you might be interested in seeing how a Wikispaces page might work, I located this 8th-grade U.S. history class site as an example of a successful Wikispace page for students.  And here is a video by Blackboard Inc. in which a variety of K12 educators provide testimonial regarding the successful use and cost savings of Blackboard Collaborate.



Blackboard Inc. (2011, August 26). K12 schools save time and money with Blackboard Collaborate. [Web page]. Retrieved from

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

Welcome to Mr. Armstrong’s U.S. History Wiki. (n. d.). [Web page]. Retrieved from

Wikispaces classroom. (2013). [Web page]. Retrieved from


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