Critical thinking in distance education: Developing critical communities in an audio teleconference context
Garrison, D. Randy
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Distance education has long been associated with independent study and delivery of prepackaged learning materials. These characteristics effectively deny distance education students the opportunity to participate in communities of inquiry and, perhaps, opportunities to develop their critical thinking slulls. This paper reviews the theoretical impact of socially situated learning, critical thinking and their implications for distance education. It then presents the results from a study of learners' perceptions while enrolled in two different models of audio teleconferenced delivered, university courses. The study reports quantitative results from a mail survey of these students and the qualitative results from interviews and classroom observations. The impact of the insrmctional design used by the delivering institution resulted in two distinct models of audio teleconference delivery with significant qualitative and quantitative differences in student perception. The paper concludes that learning communities, which support the development of critical thinlang skills, can be created at a distance and that they provide a mechanism for improving the quality of higher level distance education.