A mentor of mine just forwarded me a link to sign up for (and take) a distance course - the subject: Winston Churchill. Being a history major in college, I have always had a very high opinion of Churchill and more recently, after traveling to London and reading / learning more about Churchill, I feel that his actions as Prime Minister during World War II may have single handedly saved democracy. (as a side note, his statue across from Westminster Abbey and his "War Rooms" is said to be electrified so pigeons and other birds cannot sit on it. It was very clean when I was there.)
The course is being offered from Hillsdale College out of Michigan. Now throw in the technology end - how effective can this distance learning course really be, especially when there isn't a grade involved and we all have busy lives?
I think this is an important question and a debate I've had recently with my wife. Our district has been offering some professional development using a learning management system - we used the open source curriculum from Leading Edge Certification last spring for the Digital Educator series and are now using the Online and Blended Teacher curriculum. This is an enormous culture shift for many teachers, not to mention an entire change in pedagogical practice and beliefs. When we started the Digital Educator series last semester, we lost half of the class - due to time constraints and challenges with using many of the technology tools. But as I look at this curriculum, which I believe is pretty solid, I do understand the challenge it becomes for the adult learner, many of who know no different than the way they were taught.
Regardless of what many believe, I do think there is a place for online and blended learning. It comes down to two things in my opinion: 1) a solid facilitator who truly encourages and stays on top of things and 2) a constant reminder to take what is being taught and put it into the context of what is going on in your class and how these tools and experiences can enhance the teaching and learning that takes place in your class. How can learning be taken to the next level? Personalized?
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill