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Social Presence in Distance Learning

Social Presence in Distance Learning
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Author(s): Brian Newberry (California State University - San Bernardino, USA)
Copyright: 2009
Pages: 7
Source title: Encyclopedia of Distance Learning, Second Edition
Source Author(s)/Editor(s): Patricia L. Rogers (Bemidji State University, USA), Gary A. Berg (California State University Channel Islands (Retired), USA), Judith V. Boettcher (Designing for Learning, USA), Caroline Howard (HC Consulting, USA), Lorraine Justice (Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong) and Karen D. Schenk (K. D. Schenk and Associates Consulting, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch281


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Online learning can be seen as a form of distance education. Though online education is relatively new, distance education is not. According to Rumble (1986), the term distance education may have first been used as early as 1892 in a catalog of the University of Wisconsin. Distance education is, according to Verduin and Clark (1991): “...any formal approach to learning in which a majority of the instruction occurs while educator and learner are at a distance from one another” (p. 8). This emphasis on distance between learner and instructor or teacher is common, for instance, Berge and Collins (1995) define distance education as “the delivery of the educational process to receivers who are not in proximity to the person or persons managing or conducting the process” (p. 14). These definitions cause one to envision learners working alone with their materials and completing assignments that are ultimately evaluated by a teacher also working alone, connected to their students by only the most tenuous of lines inscribed on the papers that they share. Indeed, prior to online learning, many forms of distance education were largely text based and relied on postal delivery of course materials to students, and to carry completed assignments to the instructor. This correspondence model, which primarily used mail as the primary delivery system, has been adapted to exploit perceived advantages of new media such as radio and televised systems for distance learning in both the United States and Australia (Lewis, Whitaker & Julian, 1995). However, while these models of distance learning used new media to transmit information to the learner, many still relied on postal delivery of materials from the student to the instructor. New communications technologies have changed this by making possible greater and more rapid interaction between participants in the online learning experience.

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