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Theory and practice of distance education

, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign . Awarded


Through interviews with exemplary practitioners of distance education and a review of relevant literature and documents, this study provides a summary of current best practice in distance education. From the interviews, three major themes of teaching and learning, technology, and administration emerged as the categories which comprise best practice. Although all of these elements are necessary for effective distance education to occur, tensions among the three elements sometimes develop. When tensions develop, a dilemma for distance education develops: the competing priority of learning needs versus those of technology.

While the respondents described the dilemma in the interviews, the potential resolution of the dilemma came from the literature. By using concepts from organizational and learning theory, the dilemma can be explored and the competing values of learning versus technology can be reframed. What was once a paradox can be better understood in terms of an emerging value for distance education. This emerging value is characterized by a consideration of risk, situated learning, instructional design, learning communities, technology, outreach, internal structures, and adaptive leadership. These characteristics of the emerging value suggest a template which serves both as a tool to evaluate current programs as well as a way to plan future distance education efforts.


Barrett, N.F. Theory and practice of distance education. Ph.D. thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved September 26, 2022 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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