Fly Away!

Mary CassattFrm

Example 2: Interactive Tours
A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

In the scenario above, a teacher, whom I will identify as Ms. Jensen, has planned an exciting and educational “field trip” for her students and one that with the right technology, should succeed in meeting her objectives. Beldarrain, (2006) stresses that the instructional designer needs to select the technology tool on the basis of its appropriateness for the interaction it is needed for. As a supportive instructional designer, I take this directive to heart and analyze the technology for a place-shifted environment which is critical. Since I am working in a bit of a vacuum in this assignment, I will say that Ms. Jensen works in the San Francisco area (which has connections to the Silicon Valley), and the equipment in those schools is sufficient to handle what she wants to embark on. So with this information in mind, I would recommend a few technology tools which would help ensure that all the pieces come together to make the experience a memorable one for the class and boost the interactivity level to encourage collaboration and synthesis of the content (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The options I would suggest for her to consider include: Google Hangouts, which would make a synchronous meeting with the museum curators a possibility, or at the very least provide an opportunity for a threaded discussion or chat; a virtual tour for the students to participate in by using a computer lab, and a blog to synthesize the art observations together for discussion.

First to consider is the possibility of a face to face discussion with the museum curators. Google Hangouts makes synchronous meetings a viable possibility. A couple of blogs by teachers who have experience with implementing these types of classroom discussions might help Ms. Jensen get started in planning; so I would suggest she check out “How educators and schools can make the most of Google Hangouts” (Hertz, 2013) and “Incorporating live broadcasts into your classroom” (Zuhlke, 2013). Both blogs give an overview on different ways Hangouts can be used in the classroom and the latter blog addresses a process just like the one Ms. Jensen is considering.

A virtual field trip is a definite possibility as many museums in New York City, notably, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Guggenheim, provide virtual tours which Ms. Jensen and her class could participate in. This activity could ideally be an interactive one if Ms. Jensen schedules the students in a computer lab or with a mobile lab, after which she could use the tour experience as a launching point of discussion with the curator. A virtual tour with interactive components falls into the “doing” portion of Dale’s Cone of Experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012), so the students would gain more from the experience than simply viewing pictures of art. I would also recommend, “Take a museum field trip—without leaving your classroom!” a teacher’s blog in Education World (Cromwell, 2010). She lists a number of museums that offer virtual tours, among them The Metropolitan Museum of Art with an overview of what the museums offer.

As the time difference between the west coast and the east coast could present an issue if Ms. Jensen has more than one history class that she wants to participate in the experience, Google Hangouts would still offer the opportunity for the students to ask questions or share their critiques with the art curator in an asynchronous capacity. In addition, the students might be able to expand their observations afterwards by posting their observations in a blog. The blogging activity would help students synthesize and reflect on the concepts they learned on their tour (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). If Ms. Jensen’s school uses a course management system, she would probably already have access to that feature, if not, she could set up a class account on

Ms. Jensen should be able to take her students on a field trip to New York City and be back in time for the dismissal bell using the technology tools available. She might need some support from another teacher or from the school technician as she puts the pieces into place, but overall, the effort of putting it all together should not be too cumbersome and will result in a successful class experience.


Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139–153.

Cromwell, S. (2010, November 19). Take a museum field trip–Without leaving your classroom! education world. Retrieved from

Hertz, M. B. (2013, February 1). How educators and schools can make the most of Google Hangouts. Edutopia. [Web Log]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Zuhlke, S. (2013, May 2). Incorporating live broadcasts into your classroom. National Geographic Education Blog. [Web Log]. Retrieved from

What. . .no football team?


I wanted to go back to school to earn my master’s degree. I also had a day job, children, a husband, and a mother with some health issues. The nearest universities were over an hour away with no freeway route. In addition, all the brick and mortar universities I considered, (some had distance programs), wanted a copy of a GRE test. Not an inexpensive test, and one I would need to prepare for as I hadn’t done Algebra II in ages.  Then there was applying, waiting to see if I was accepted, and then the wait time for the program to start. There had to be a better way!

Thus began my foray into what distance education was and how it would apply to me. Originally, I thought of distance education as being something like correspondence school but with computers. I would be given as assignment, the teacher would grade it, and once in a while I would have to take a test. It didn’t sound very interesting, but on the other hand, it would give me some control as to how and when I could study. My kids had taken some online classes at their respective universities, and each told me they were much harder and took more time. I realized when I started looking, I really didn’t know much about distance education.

This week I learned that distance education is a rather big box containing all kinds of interesting pieces (“Distance learning timeline continuum”,” n.d.). It began as correspondence school, but much earlier than I had known–1833; and was also developed for women who wanted an education but were unable to attend school in the traditional way. As technology developed, so did distance education. The telegraph started the march towards narrowing the distance in communication, and education found ways to utilize the progression. Starting in the 1930s and into the 60s, education made use of radio and television to find inroads into developing education that transcends classroom walls. With the advent of the personal computer and fiber optic wiring, it’s a whole new ballgame. Distance education has emerged as a real player in the education field.

When I finally decided to take the leap and enrolled in a distance learning program at Walden University, I was amazed at how many of my concerns were groundless. I have found online education is a lot of work, but not really different than managing a full load in any graduate school. I worried that I would miss the give and take of the classroom, something Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek, (2012) note in their first chapter is common among most students considering distance education. However, because so many of the students in my classes are working towards the same goal, there are familiar faces each term. I also have the benefit of getting to know fellow students from around the country, and from around the world. This feature gives depth to my experience as the differing viewpoints expand my own perspective. Far from being sterile, this environment is rich and challenging.

One of the areas I had not considered, but once I started, thought, “Oh, yeah, how do we do this?” is how is the material taught? My experience had been with the teacher lecturing in front of the class, I hadn’t considered how it would happen online. I was worried it would be really boring. This concern was also allayed as I worked through each class. As a prospective instructional designer, I have been interested to see how good design works. Most of our classes have been exceptionally well designed. We have reading, media, and discussion to guide us through the content. Each project is carefully planned so we can accomplish what we need to so each week builds upon the previous one. I have rarely felt like I didn’t have the tools I needed to do the work assigned. So, ultimately, my definition of distance education has evolved beyond simply reading and writing. I found a vibrant universe of interaction, different from the classroom in some ways, but similar in so many others. I still find interesting people in the class, I still have so much to think about, the teachers have been challenging and caring, and I am still learning a great deal.

This past decade has brought with it a surge in mobile devices, a wider range of multimedia capabilities, more people with broadband access, and a more informed population when it comes to what the options are in the digital world. Distance education is no longer some marginal alternative, it has become recognized as a mainstream option not only at the university level, but at the K12 level, particularly in many high schools. As Huett, Moller, Forshay, and Coleman, (2008) state, distance education can open doors to a more varied course offering, better interaction between teachers and students, and closely aligned standards for their courses. However, they also caution that distance education can be viewed as some kind of magic potion that cures all ills but if poorly done can do more harm than good. I thought the statement at the end of their article summed it up well, “We just need to choose to view e-learning as the question rather than the answer.” (p. 66).
Distance learning is definitely an option, but like any good educational tool, it needs to be planned and executed with clear objectives and understanding of the learner. The school also needs to be clear as to why it is considering a course for distance education and not just slapping it online because the school wants in on the trend.

I think the future of distance education is bright. Opportunities are richer, and with technology becoming more and more mobile, education can be accessed with more ease. As long as the focus is centered on quality educational offerings as stated in Fain’s (2012) article, more and more students will find it a viable option, even if they have to resort to fantasy football to cheer for the home team.



Distance learning timeline continuum”. (n.d.). Laureate Education, Inc. [Flash Media Program]. Retrieved from

Fain, P. (2013). Ed tech and the establishment. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from

Huett, J., Moller, L., Forshay, W. R., & Coleman, C. (2008). The Evolution of Distance Education: Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Web. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 52(5), 70–75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Foundations of distance education. In Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (5th ed., pp. 2–31). Boston: Pearson.

Check out my discover of distance education in the mind map I created. Click on the map to enlarge it.

Mind Map DE