So, what’s up with the 680 year old bridge? What is its function? Chapel Bridge is a footbridge that spans the Reuss River in Lucerne, Switzerland. It’s function is to provide access from one side of the river to the other (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kapellbr%C3%BCcke). I am using the picture from Wikipedia because the photo given to me by a friend is hanging in my home, and I am in the US. I fell in love with this bridge during Spring Break, 1980. It is charming, it is beautiful and when I first saw it when it was almost 650 years old, it was still performing its original purpose, as it is now. This technology is almost seven centuries old, yet it is still functional; granted, it does not provide for vehicular crossings, but it didn’t allow horses with carriages to cross when it was completed in 1333.
Yes, I realize, I seem to have a thing for bridges – which I didn’t really realize until I started studying Distance Education. This one, though helps prove a point. We do have all sorts of technology available for transmitting content to the learner, and they all have their place – but the availability of all the more modern technologies have augmented the oldest technology, not replaced it. Yes, we can broadcast by radio or television; we can use audio and video either through cassette, VHS, or digital files; we can go virtual and use applications for personal computers, mp3 units, or smart phones; we can use social engineering applications like Facebook or Twitter. What we must do is be sure that the technology chosen to deliver the content is the best technology for the students to use.
Our DE ‘founding fathers’, Peters, Holmberg, even Bates preached that DE would open up higher education to the masses. This only works if the masses have access to the technology required. Although many students either have access to the Internet personally, or to a ‘computer center’ through the institution, a public library or an employer, they may not have access to a smart phone to access Twitter. Older students may not be comfortable with applications such as social networking sites – either with their use or the privacy issues inherent in their use. In countries as disparate as Japan and Cuba, radio and television broadcast are widely used. Although often technologically advanced, in Japan radio and television broadcasts are still used as well as through the Internet to meet student expectations at The Open University of Japan (Bray, Aoki, & Dlugosh, 2008). In Cuba, the University for All provides educational programming (albeit without credit or certification) through television broadcast in areas ranging from Cuban history to English language (Griffiths & Williams, 2009). In Japan, not only are smart phones available, but Internet use is widespread and easily available; in Cuba, however, cell phones are generations behind smart phones and Internet access is the exception, as opposed to the norm.
Only by considering the needs and technological abilities of the learners can Distance Educators best serve those learners. Sometimes, a footbridge is enough.
Bray, E., Aoki, K., & Dlugosh, L. (2008). Predictors of learning satisfaction in Japanese online distance learners. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 9(3). 1-24, Retrieved from http://ezproxy.umuc.edu/login?url+http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct= true&db = ehh&AN= 34905551&site=eds-live&scope=site
Griffiths, T. G., & Williams, J. (2009). Mass schooling for socialist transformation in Cuba and Venezuela. Journal For Critical Education Policy Studies, 7(2), 30-50. Retrieved from http://ezproxy. umuc. edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login. aspx?direct=true&db= eric&AN= EJ868820&site=eds-live&scope=site