Instructional Technology and Media for Learning

The distance learning community uses several different types of instructional media to achieve their purpose. A method rapidly gaining popularity is video conferencing, but there are times when such high tech gadgetry is not necessary. Such is the case when asynchronous (no face to face) learning is called for. In this case, the correspondence method is used. Simply put, the media is printed learning material.

Why is such a low tech method so popular? The students can read and study when and where they choose to. There is also no need to invest in expensive equipment such as computers, dedicated software, Internet access, routers, web cams, etc.

At times the correspondence media will be supplemented with different forms of material. These might include CD-ROMs, DVDs, cassette tapes or video tapes, for example. The makeup of the media package is dependent on which is best able to convey the topic.

Just the act of preparing the correspondence takes a significant effort. The person who has been assigned this duty must research the lesson material, prepare the document and supporting materials in the proper format, and send the document to all the students in the class.

Once the master documents are prepared, they are duplicated in the proper quantity, packaged in a professional manner and made ready for delivery. Finally, the individual correspondence packages are sent out to all the students in the class.

Correspondence distance learning has several distinct advantages. First, the material can be supplemental to other forms of education. Secondly, there are many students with no computer or Internet access. Finally, students enjoy an open schedule. They are able to do their studies when and where they like according to their needs, and unlike a traditional lecture format where the content was just delivered once, students can review the material as often as necessary.

Since the material is costly to research and produce, it is important that it is done efficiently and correctly when it is first produced and before it is shipped out to the students. Printed material is usually sent out via the mail. In many areas, such as high tech curricula, the information changes on a day to day basis. In order to stay current, it is advantageous to establish a regular cycle of research, revision and material preparation.

The distance learning method of correspondence is asynchronous in nature. Because of that fact, the strategies used by the schools are limited.

When is it a good idea for the school to use correspondence as the method of choice? As inferred above, a good choice is when the information is most likely to remain static. Courses in ancient history or English grammar are two good examples. The political slant of the history presentation is going to change, but over a period of time long enough to make revision a minor consideration.

The correspondence method is also advisable when the topic is learned by rote or by repetition in other words. A course in math comes to mind. In order to become proficient, the student must work many, many problems, but the methods of solving the problems largely remain the same at the higher education levels.

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