A New Era in Distance Education
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2) A New Era in Distance Education Dr. Martha Cleveland-Innes, Associate Professor of Distance Education at AU, is co-editor with Dr. D. Randy Garrison of the University of Calgary, of a new book, An Introduction to Distance Education: Understanding Teaching and Learning in a New Era. The book serves two purposes. It documents the scope and nature of distance education as it existed and exists in industrial and, currently, post-industrial society. It also outlines the current requirements of teaching and learning in online communities of inquiry. Online teaching and learning is rooted in the transection of distance education and advanced computer technology . Absent from the developing field of ‘e-learning’, the broader term referencing technological support for learning, is a foundation of thought from the fields of education and adult education. Current texts on the topic of online learning pay little attention to this deficiency; what reference is present is superficial and separate from the premises of facilitating online learning. This text presents a conceptual model of factors contributing to the successful implementation of online learning, and provides some necessary ‘how to’ information required, but additionally provides the reader with a rationale, answering the ‘why’ question, unavailable in other texts. As the embodiment of education for the future, online communities must be seen clearly for the advantages offered to learners in the post-industrial era. At the same time, those advantages only emerge when online teaching and learning is understood in detail. This text is of particular relevance and value to those in higher education who want to understand and guide the adoption of rapidly proliferating Internet and communication technology. The authors chosen for the book are people who have participated in the research and practice of distance education for many years and/or have made a continuous long-standing contribution to the field. The chapter authors are the movers and shakers of contemporary distance education. The common theme of the book is that new ways of doing business in education have innovated and challenged the conventional structures of education institutions. These changes now offer possibilities for reform and reshaping of education everywhere. Teaching and learning have moved from simple models of material presentation and review to constructivist, collaborative models. These changes have their roots in distance education models, and are now being integrated into teaching in higher education broadly.