On naming my discipline

This has been quite an eventful last week. It started with the 16 hour flight to Melbourne and the publication  of a short article in the Journal of Distance Education.  A Rose by Any Other Name: Still Distance Education – A Response to D.R. Garrison Implications of Online and Blended Learning for the Conceptual Development and Practice of Distance Education. In the article, I challenge Randy’s assertion that distance education is really only independent study and that e-learning has a completely different epistemological history. I came out in favour of the inclusiveness of the term “distance education” to encompass print, mass media, conferencing and other web based mediated forms of teaching and learning.

But since being in Australia, I see that the term distance education is quite out of favour. I spent three days at a symposium at Deakin University that focused on flexible learning. Flexible learning is defined very broadly  at Deakin but MAY (where appropriate) include pace, place, content, approach, form of interaction, teaching types, content etc. We spent some time trying to clarify the “where appropriate” and realizing that sometimes flexibility is either too expensive or not even desired by students – and then of course a teachers’ perspective on flexibility may be radically different than students’.

I then prepared for a presentation on Boundless Learning” for a group from Haaga-Helia University of  Applied Sciences in Helsinki Finland, that I presented using Adobe Connect. I won’t whine about the performance of Connect, except to say the sound quality, not to mention the dropping from the system, leaves it far behind competitive web conferencing systems. After a few reboots of both my own machine and the Connect server, I managed to do the show, but it wasn’t great. I tried to explore some of the potential of OERs, open publication, open courses etc the need to form some sort of boundaries – on the boundless and often overwhelming opportunity of learning in a new infused society.

All of which, made me realize again that “distance education’ at least when considered from a geographic notion of distance, is but one dimension of flexibility, boundlessness and openness. Maybe I will have to give up the term, but then, to be inclusive, I’d have to become Canada Research Chair in Boundless, Flexible, Open, Customizable, Adaptable, Configurable, Learner-centered, and Distance Education! I think I’ll keep with the status quo for my last 2 years as Canada research Chair in Distance Education!

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