In his article "A Canadian Perspective on the Uncertain Future of Distance Education," Distance Education. Melbourne: Aug 2005. Vol. 26, Iss. 2; pg. 239, 16 pgs, Bill Muirhead expresses concern about the discipline of Distance Education (DE) being no longer considered the major informing body to all aspects of DE delivery, services, and programs. Traditionally DE was a distinct field with influence over all matters related to learning and teaching at a distance, and as you will find out in this class, some of these distances were huge. The only way that some students could complete school or obtain a certificate or degree was by learning and completing programs by not actually being on campus. They would stay home or go to a regional centre to participate in learning.
In our modern times we are finding that many learners select to take courses at a distance in order to have family or job flexibility, while living a block or two from the university, and potentially being able to physically attend class on campus. Thus DE courses are meeting the needs of the distance learner who lives in town.
Muirhead's comment "distance education [being] conceived of only in terms of overcoming the tyranny of distance" by enabling interaction and material sharing between students and instructors, by connecting over the distance can be seen in contrast to the more and more widely spread rich technology enhanced learning (TEL) environments that exist all over campus. Are these TEL environments informed by the discipline of DE? Should they be? What does it mean today to learn at a distance?
Muirhead asks the question "why, when aspects of distance education are so widely practiced at the beginning of the 21st century, do distance educators feel so pessimistic about their roles and possible influence in a world increasingly using learning at a distance?"
Another question that Muirhead poses and then comments on is "How is Greater Availability of Distance Learning Opportunities Transforming Traditional Conceptions of Distance Education?"
Perhaps the concept of DE needs to be reconfigured, or maybe we need to give what occurs today as DE a new name (read the connection to Chaos Theory in the reading). What could the future landscape of DE look like? What are its options?
These above questions in bold and italics are some of the questions you should be thinking about and deliberating on in your responses to this post. You can reflect on the reading and connect aspects of the reading to your own understanding about the meaning of DE and how you use it in some way, or see others use it, for teaching and learning purposes in your classroom or workplace environment.