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Next Generation Distance Education
International Perspectives on Distance Education Readings II
Susan Connell

Fall 2004

From its humble beginnings in correspondence courses televised content, the spread of broadband Internet availability and emergence of educational technology have brought distance education into the mainstream. With this new prominence come new competitive challenges as well as new opportunities for growth of a global nature. Evans and Nation (2003) cite Wedemeyer (1981) to remind us that we must use these new technological powers for good - as a means and not an end in the development of the next generation of DE.

They note that DE "is a product of modernity" (p. 785) while computer and communications technologies have "fostered a 'disrespect' for time and distance" (p. 783) that extend boundaries and promote globalization for education as well as other endeavors. However, they are quick to point out that researchers and practitioners often ignore lessons of the past in trying to create a new paradigm for distance education. When viewed in the context of globalization, it is more important than ever to maintain sight of factors beyond education including the "economic, political, and social context within which teaching and learning occur (p. 787).

This section seems to be written from a Commonwealth perspective that reflects a historical elitism in regard to higher education. In Britain, and perhaps other Commonwealth countries, the concept of higher education beyond privileged classes is relatively new, making the authors' observations more relevant in this context. In some ways, the globalization of DE is just amplification of what is more common in America where individuals of all classes and cultures have had access to higher education for several generations. And we are still debating the best ways to deal with the social, economic and political contexts that impact learning. Because these interrelated issues are more prominent (in some cases, necessarily exaggerated) in a global perspective it is more important than ever to consider these aspects when researching DE. Factors such as poverty, freedom of expression, class divisions, societal gender roles and similar fields can have a huge impact on any DE endeavor, and must be taken into consideration when developing the next generation of DE theory and practice.

Evans, T., & Nation, D. (2003). Globalization and the Reinvention of Distance Education. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of Distance Education (pp. 777-792). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.


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© 2003, 2004 Susan Connell, Educational Technology Student at San Diego State University