Distance education (DE) occurs when a learning interaction takes place between an instructor and one or more students separated in space and time. The prototype for DE is the correspondence course by postal mail. However, Internet-based, multimedia communication has given rise to the virtual classroom - a far cry from the one-on-one correspondence course.
Just as in a conventional classroom, the instructor in an online class of adult students acts as a catalyst, creating meaning in the interaction between three basic elements - his or her academic expertise, the course materials, and the collective experience of the students.
In a Web-based learning system the classroom is a site on the Internet. The instructor and students access the class space frequently (three or more times per week) at any time of the day or night on any computer connected to the Internet. In an online course, class participants work together on projects, collaborate in the creation of documents, and discuss issues in a threaded conference space. [Please Note: DE is not the same as independent study. DE is not a collection of one-on-one correspondence courses by e-mail!]
Real-time Internet chat is an option in some online classes, but is rarely required. All significant interaction occurs asynchronously, i.e., not at the same time. Online discussions are created with written notes and responses in the conference, or discussion area of the virtual classroom.
Before teaching online DE courses, it is mandatory for faculty to complete a three-week online training class. During this virtual class, faculty participate initially as "students," completing research exercises and assignments, and later as "faculty," developing and posting online course modules. Review the schedule for the Teaching Online Certification Course for New Faculty.
If you would like to learn more about the DE program at UMUC Europe, visit the Distance Education home page and browse the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). You will also want to check out the UMUC Europe faculty home page.
If you any questions, please contact the Distance Education Office.