Cyberliteracy (4) – Distance Education

Gurak, L. J. (2001). Cyberliteracy: Navigating the internet with awareness. New Haven Conn.; London: Yale University Press.

Even in 2001 (when Cyberliteracy was published), the use of the internet for distance education was growing. Gurak addresses this point from sort of a media richness perspective.

“The richest form of communication has always been face-to-face. Humans can communicate so much with their bodies. Vocal expressions, eye contact, and gesture constitute the best way to add meaning to what is being said. …Teaching relies on the same cues, and for thousands of years, students have learned by interacting–in the physical world–with other students and instructors” (156).

This supports the direction I’ve been going in discussing the importance of both verbal and non-verbal cues in communication and the ability of the OVC to offer that at a distance.

She goes on to write, “If we are not careful about how far we go with distance education, we will sell ourselves out of the best type of learning there is: person to person” (156). It is interesting to note that she did not write “face-to-face.” There are many available technologies and methods associated with education, and whether face-to-face (live) instruction is “the best” may be arguable. An advantage of most distance learning technologies and methods is the archivability, which provides students the ability to go back and (re)experience conversations to enhance comprehension and retention. The OVC, which offers this archivability, as well as both verbal and non-verbal cues, is not face-to-face in the common use of the term, but it could be seen as person-to-person in that one sees and hears the person speaking and can respond, albeit not in real-time.

Gurak predicts that “New technologies will create classrooms in which the students may be in 100 different locations, all different from that of the teacher” (156). This has, essentially occurred with distance students taking classes from any location with an internet. Yet, by communicating through the OVC, they are actually all present in a single “space.”

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