Week One

Technology can be an important tool to bring educational reform and innovation, as well as change current teaching and learning customs. Since the 1970’s, more and more researchers have started to research and develop Distance Education using the tools of computer science and from the 1990’s, internet technology. Distance Education contributes to being able to share the best educational resources across previous time and distance barriers. As long as you have internet, you have access to the best educational resources that are available for distance learning. However, all the research was focused on adults, and researchers pointed out that “the more highly autonomous the learner, the greater the distance they can be comfortable with.” Will Distance Education continue to benefit the same groups of people, or will it be able to benefit an even broader audience? Jane Munro asked if K-12 students would be on the map too as well. Will other demographics that previously have had barriers be able to benefit?

When I was reading the Distance Education textbook I was very excited when I found that the researcher’s findings were similar to my own experience. This past summer I was involved in a project which was composed of three trial classes as part of a larger project for an online English reading workshop, which was dedicated to introducing an English reading workshop for any K- 6 Chinese students who wish to improve their English reading skills. We did some research on class size, student age, class process, class activity and other technical issues.

Distance Education makes it possible for Chinese students to study face-to-face with American teachers without having to actually cross an ocean. On the other hand, there is a big difference between learning in a physical classroom with the teacher and distance learning online. For example, it will be much harder to do group activities online than it would be in the physical classroom, and class management will be more difficult, especially for younger students. We have to adjust the teaching process to fit the online education environment.

I hope more people will have the opportunity to study Distance Education at the K-12 level, or maybe we can combine virtual education into the physical classroom.



This week Josie and Teresa talked about the extra work for instructors to keep up with the constant updating of tools and apps, and Marian also mentioned about the support to instructors, so I was thinking from a different angle that since the teaching methods and learning environment have been changing all the time, we should also think about changing the corresponding policies. For example, maybe we should add the online tools and applications as a module of teacher certification and teacher training to help instructors get closer to the newest technology. Moreover, when a school district or an institute is going to start an online program, maybe they need to add the support to online instructors as a must have condition. We are in a period of change, and I am so looking forward to the future of education, and trying to imagine what the digital classroom will look like, just like I am trying to figure out where each character will be at the end of the story in the Game of Thrones.


We talked about the changes in distance education, and I think that Figure 12.1 in our textbook Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning (What’s New in Education) is a good example of why we need to change. Figure 12.1 lists the technological developments since the first edition of the book (Moore, 2011). So the content of the book had to be changed. Why? Because the technology changed, therefore the author had to make a lot of changes to the content and the way it was taught. But how should we manage these kind of changes? I don’t think there is a best way, but there are certainly many, many ways we can do it.

First, be curious. As an educator, we are trying to stimulate students’ curiosity. So, it’s hard to do that if you are not curious yourself. If we lose our curiosity of new skills and tools for teaching, how could we guide a student’s curiosity for learning. As an online educator, being curious about the “new skills, tools and knowledge to positively change how we work” (Gibson, 2016) is a good way to manage changes.

Second, be diverse. No method of managing change fits all situations. Different countries and different programs have their own situations, and changes have to be aligned to different situations. An online learning course could be redesigned and improved along with newer technology and more impressive platforms. However, a new platform may require the latest operating systems, faster internet speeds, and higher data downloads for streaming content. It will not be suitable for learners in countries with that have not caught up to these advances. A different kind of change will be needed that is suitable for those learners. Another example is if two different universities are both developing and promoting the same course to be an online course, say Peking University and UAA. These two universities have different standards, different resources, a different student base, different education environment, and different availability of technology platforms. So the methods used by UAA to achieve success with the course will not have the same results at Peking University, and vice versa.

I do agree with Neil Postman when he wrote: “every culture must negotiate with technology, whether it does so intelligently or not. A bargain is struck in which technology giveth and it also taketh away. The wise know this well and are rarely impressed by dramatic technological change, and never overjoyed”. (Postman, p.5.) So even as the technology changes, the goals of education won’t change.


Insights from the Field: Moving Outside Our Comfort Zone – OLC. (2016). Retrieved November 11, 2016, from http://onlinelearningconsortium.org/insights-field-moving-outside-comfort-zone/

Rene, Q. E., Nicola, R. L., Yun, L., Rhonda, N., & Trusti, P. (2016). Standards based design: Teaching K-12 educators to build quality online courses. Journal of Online Learning Research, 123-144.

Moore, Michael G., and William Anderson G (2011). Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Knopf



Both Amy and Sara mentioned about the culture difference issue this week, and also Amy thinks that the UK has developed a successful model. I agree with that. Personally, I think the U.S. also has a very good atmosphere for developing different distance education models. Universities usually have plenty of educational recourse and technical support, and so are very good organizations for delivering online courses. Based on each university’s situation, including financial, research field, organization and so on, different programs are designed. Compared to the U.S., in China, the Chinese government is involved too much on some of these online teaching areas, so there are many levels of bureaucracy that get in the way of efficient online courses. And as with all other educational programs, an unrestrained research atmosphere is very important. The government’s support will be nice, but too much control can get in the way.


This week we talked about distance education in different countries. Because distance education can really share high quality education resources in a much larger area, many countries have already benefited from it. However, each country has its own historic or political situation to which distance education has to adapt to.

For example, in China, colleges and universities restarted enrolling students in 1978 after the 10- year Cultural Revolution. The limited education resources were not enough satisfy the high demand of so many people who required them, so the radio and television universities supported by the Chinese Ministry of Education, started to broadcast classes all over the country to make up for the shortage of school resources. In the past 20 years, the market for distance learning was transferred from diploma education to training, such as after school tutoring, postgraduate entrance examination lectures and English classes. One of the reasons might be that in about the year 2000, the Chinese government started to expand campus’ by lowering the entrance requirements, merging vocational schools and upgrading them into colleges, building more dormitories, enrolling more students, and of course raising the tuition. After all these innovations, students had a better chance to go to college and university instead of taking distance courses. Due to the enrollment pressure, the radio and television universities switched from delivering distance classes via audio and television to online education, and also changed to being called open universities.

During the golden age of the audio and television universities, the 80s and 90s of the 20th Century, the Chinese Ministry of Education cofounded a company with TCL, an electronics company, to provide the technical support for the audio and television universities and other distance education institutions, which are called the Open Educaiton. I introduced this a couple of weeks ago. As I shared last time, the Open Education is cooperating with other colleges and universities on diploma education. However, they are still facing enrollment pressure. After so many years of exploring, both open universities and the Open Education are still trying to find a new way to get the good old days back. Distance learning also needs to adjust itself to adapt to the new era of social changes.


Moore, Michael G., and William Anderson G (2011). Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

奥鹏教育-国内知名的远程教育内容服务运营机构. (n.d.). Retrieved November 04, 2016, from http://www.open.com.cn/

中央广播电视大学 | Crtvu.edu.cn | RankInsider.com. (n.d.). Retrieved November 04, 2016, from http://www.rankinsider.com/crtvu.edu.cn

中国现代远程与继续教育网. (n.d.). Retrieved November 04, 2016, from http://cdce.cn/details.aspx?id=2270


I’m taking three courses this semester, and all of them are online courses. So I reflected on my own experience as a student, and found out there are some factors that really encouraged me. First, like when I responded to Dan’s blog that the instructor is not IT support, but sometimes students might ask for technology or administrative help from the instructor. Useful guidance and patience will be appreciated. Second, a fast response from the instructor inspired me to communicate. Third, clear and concise instruction will encourage me to deeper thinking about the topic instead of trying to figure out what the professor wants me to do. All these will be added on the list of my requirements to the instructor who will teach the course I designed, including myself.


This week we are talking about the role of the online instructor. There are many useful tips and a lot of good information that can help us to have a better interaction with students. A research study by Perdue and Valentine (2000)“In summary, research and experience suggest that the three main causes of dissatisfaction and resistance to distance education are: 1. Bad course design and teacher incompetence (the cause of most problems!) 2. Wrong expectations on part of students 3. Poor technology or inability to use technology properly.”We can see that there is more than one role to fill to be an online instructor. Not only should you be familiar with the content, but you also need to know each student, and be ready to help them both academically and technologically.

There are lot of qualities necessary to be a good online instructor, and it’s easy to make a requirement lists, for example: a good listener, a good learner, fast response and so on. However, one of my requirements is you must be good at asking questions. Because it is harder to communicate with students through the internet than face-to-face. Making sure every student can be involved in the class is a key point to retaining all the students. One way is to ask each student a question that you know they have the answer to. In this way the student might feel more and more comfortable about taking the class. Another reason is the course I am designing is about Chinese culture, and one of the goals is to lead the students to learn more about themselves through learning about other cultures. In that case, the instructor not only needs to know the Chinese culture very well, but also needs to know about the local culture and each student’s background. The instructor needs to ask questions and place the correct expectation on students, and guide them to stay on track.  Otherwise, some students will always be quiet while others are discussing.

Of course there are a lot of good qualities that can make an online instructor be liked by students, but I think the first step is to let the students feel comfortable and want to stay in the class, and help them start to communicate with others.



Moore, Michael G., and William Anderson G (2011). Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

University of Wisconsin Stout | Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. (n.d.). Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/timemanagement.cfm

H. (2016). 5 Essential Tips for Using Physical Space & Assessments in Your Online Course (EdSurge News). Retrieved October 28, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-07-12-5-essential-tips-for-using-physical-space-assessments-in-your-online-course


This week we are talking about theories, rules and tips for supporting students. Everyone has very good points. Teresa shared a very good book for new teachers which I definitely want to take a look at. Mariah brought attention to at-risk students. Josie talked about the different guidance necessary in different learning phases, which gave me a different perspective to think about how to provide support for students. The difference guiding in three phases curve Josie shared  remind me a Chinese saying: 师傅领进门,修行靠个人。The master will guide you on the correct way, but you must rely on yourself to do the practice.




Even though most of the students who choose online study would probably have a higher level of motivation to study, but still I think there is a lot we can do to support their success in online courses.

As Moore summarized: “Five categories of student support that are especially critical: orientation and admissions, administrative assistance, study skills, crisis intervention, and social interaction with peers.” (2011) I totally agree with it, because I have a very good example in my own experience. I had a hard time deciding my direction when choosing classes and even to find the right program last Spring when I was working in CA, but looking for a school. I searched the UAA website, read the program lists, but still had a lot of questions in my mind. I communicated with two professors via email and then I decided to visit UAA and make a decision.  Finally, I meet my professor in his office, all my questions were resolved in 20 minutes. So, as for choosing direction and choosing classes, face to face communication will be more efficient, especially for international students or for ESL students. Also, these students might need more help on extracurricular concerns, for example: admissions, buying insurance and how to apply for a driver’s license.

As for study skills, teacher’s reminder emails also can help students deliver homework on time. It might not resolve procrastination, but personally, I found the due day reminder emails really helped for me, especially in the first couple of weeks.

Anonymous interactive activities can help introverted students to be more involved in interaction either in content-student interaction, student-instructor interaction or student-student interaction. Moreover, anonymous interactive activities can help instructors get more useful feedback. I look at email as an anonymous interact activity, responding to students’ email in a timely way is also very important.

Break sessions are definitely a good student-student interaction time. Some students will talk more in a small group rather than in front of the whole class. The atmosphere there in the break session is more like in the on-site classroom, simple casual chatting that will get everyone involved easily. However, clear instruction, like who will be the one leading the group discussion or who will present to the whole class, is necessary.

There are many ways to help students have more confidence and success in an online course. The most important thing is to supply clear, straightforward guidance and requirements and give them feedback as soon as possible.


7 Strategies to Make Your Online Teaching Better | GradHacker. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/7-strategies-make-your-online-teaching-better

6 Essential Tips for Planning an Effective Online Course … (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-06-11-6-essential-tips-for-planning-an-effective-online-course

Top Tools for Online Teaching | Top5OnlineColleges.org. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2016, from http://top5onlinecolleges.org/teaching-tools/

Moore, Michael G., and William Anderson G (2011). Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.


My boyfriend just registered for an MITx online course in Supply Chain Management today on the Edx platform (https://www.edx.org/school/mitx ). These courses are taught by MIT professors, and they are free, anyone in the world can sign up. However, if you want a credential for the course, you can pay $150 for each course credential. If you take all the five online courses for Supply Chain Management, you can also apply to take an exam for $600 to get an overall credential called the MicroMasters Credential. Anyone who has the MicroMasters Credential can apply for the Blended Master’s Degree, which if accepted, GRE is waived, and you must complete intensive courses and thesis project in five months in residence at MIT. The resident tuition is of course much, much more expensive. The professor who developed the online program and the blended masters was very excited, he said his goal is always to provide free education to the world, and for those who require a credential, they can pay a small fee to support the teaching, so it is sustainable. He said more than 10,000 people from over 100 countries took the first class. Many of them didn’t finish, but about 2,000 did complete the whole course and received credentials. The professor said it would take him 18 years to teach that same class to that many students face to face. The goal of that project is to offer high quality free education to everyone, but of course not every university can offer free online courses like MIT, due to financial or other reasons.

Mariah’s friend suggested to never use PDFs and images to explain material because they are absolutely inaccessible. Teresa mentioned in her blog that some of those useful tools for students who have special requirements, such as blind students, are still very expensive. This reminded me that iPad has some free functions which are like screen read, which read text out load to you, and so on. So I was thinking that wouldn’t it be easier for the user to combine those functions to the hardware? One button can start a function. The other thing I was wondering is that on our journey to free education, when will all the adobe software be free for educators and students?


During the past summer, we conducted trial classes as part of a larger project for an online English reading workshop, which was dedicated to introducing an English reading workshop for any K- 6 Chinese students who wish to improve his or her English reading skills. This whole project, including the trial classes was conducted in cooperation with two Chinese companies. One of the companies provided the online English readers from an existing digital library, and the other company provided their online video call platform. However, the video call platform we used was not tailored for distance learning. That made us think about what basic functions we really needed for the class. In the end, the trial classes and market research were implemented using some basic functions which included video call, white board and share screen.

Even though we would have to change the platform for the whole project, based on this experience, I categorized the tools to basic tools, secondary tools and advanced tools. Different subjects might need different tools, or different ways to use these tools. That is why around 6 years ago we developed an online homework system which was specifically designed for learning Chinese based on the market requirements. There were over 10 game templates for practicing Chinese characters and tones.

I totally agree with Joseph that one of the major barriers to offering quality distance learning courses is “Difficulty keeping up with technological changes.” (Joseph McClary, 2013) Touch screen, voice UI, and all these technologies will bring a lot of new apps and tools. Since Sundar Pichai, Chief Executive Officer of Google, said that “In the long run, I think we will evolve in computing from a mobile-first to an AI-first world “in April, there was a lot discussion on the internet. I was really excited even though I can only see the User interface and the voice input and voice output functions in our classroom and will change our teaching and learning practices. We need to keep an eye on the whole picture of these new technologies, and narrow down the tools and functions we need and we like, so that we won’t get lost in the new era.



Moore, Michael G., and William Anderson G (2003). Handbook of Distance Education. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates.

McClary, J. (2013). Factors in High Quality Distance Learning Courses. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, XVI(2), summer.

McCrea, B. (2013, October). Who’s Serving Online Learning’s Forgotten Students? T.H.E. Journal’s.

H. (2015). 8 Helpful Assistive Technology Tools For Your Classroom. Retrieved October 14, 2016, from http://www.teachthought.com/the-future-of-learning/technology/8-helpful-assistive-technology-tools-for-your-classroom/