DE Outline

Interactive Distance Education
for the Adult Learner:
What’s up next? What’s in it for the teacher?

Presentation outline

Introduction and introductions

Lonnie Chu will explore online pedagogy (andragogy!), interactivity and choice for learners and teachers.

Who I am not:

…a technogeek. I do not believe technology will solve all our problems.  (It actually creates plenty.)

“As with the audio language lab “revolution” of 40 years ago, those who expect to get magnificent results simply from the purchase of expensive and elaborate systems will likely be disappointed. But those who put computer technology to use in the service of good pedagogy will undoubtedly find ways to enrich their educational program and the learning opportunities of their students.” (Warschauer, 1996)

Who I am:

…Lonnie (Turbee) Chu, teacher, learner, end user who got fascinated with new possibilities for human interactivity via the Internet.

  • 1993: In-class email: silent students open up
  • 1994: LAN-based instant messaging (chat): silent students open up
  • 1994: Student Lists: cross-cultural understandings and flame wars, early virtual community pedagogy
  • 1993-present: Teacher lists (NETEACH, TESL, TESL-CA, etc.): access to the brightest minds, colleagues worldwide: teachers teach each other
  • 1994-95: In-class lists: student empowerment within classroom setting – power slips into the hands of the learner
  • 1994-present: MOO – virtual worlds for language learning: love triangles, hackers and crackers, wedding bells, and native speaker strings embedded in student essays
  • 1996: Web boards: same as classroom lists only easier to handle.  See Dave Sperling’s ESL Café, go to “Forums”
  • 1998: PuebloLindo: multimedia virtual world for language learning – the first
  • 2000- present: Frontierra, still in development.  Multimedia virtual world distance education platform. First product is an immersion environment for language learning.

A visit to a MOO (Multiple-user-domain, Object-Oriented):

schMOOze UniversityGreg Younger, and anyone else we can findWhat you can do in a MOO:

  • Describe yourself and set your gender
  • Look at a room and the objects in it
  • Play with objects
  • Create objects (things, containers, notes)
  • Talk to people
  • Walk from room to room
  • REAL practice with native speakers (as opposed to “realistic” practice)

Now you try it.  Do one or two of the following:

1. Tell how such an environment might help teachers reach the five ACTFL standards: Communication, Cultures, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities.

2. Tell what three things you would create for any students in the MOO to use, and why. Tell what one thing you would create just for the fun of it.

Paradigm shift in pedagogy – how online learning forces it

A synopsis writer at Suite101 came to a conclusion about my essay that I didn’t have in mind at all.  Did this reader of my essay get it all wrong? Or did he create meaning from our asynchronous interaction? How do you get good grades in English class? a) by creating meaning, or b) by figuring out how the teacher creates meaning?

Are you prepared to facilitate the creation of knowledge and meaning, both by you and your students?

Ten years ago, H. Douglas Brown, Director of the American Language Institute at San Francisco University and past president of International Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), stated the following (1991):

Language education is moving from: and shifting toward:
a focus only on productauthoritarian structurespreplanned, rigid curriculameasuring only performance

praising only “correct” answers

championing analysis

a focus on processegalitarian structuresflexible, open-ended curriculagauging competence and potential

encouraging calculated guessing

valuing synthesis and intuition

The three phases of CALL

Warschauer (1996) identified three phases of computer-assisted language learning (CALL) that can be applied to other forms of Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) such as Distance Education:

1) Behavioristic CALL
Based on behaviorist theories of learning
“Drill and practice” CAI

2) Communicative CALL
Based on the communicative approach
Emphasis on authentic language
Negotiation for meaning is critical
Teacher becomes a facilitator
Collaborative learning and peer interaction

3) Integrative CALL
1990’s – present
Multimedia: CD-ROM – variety of media including hypermedia. Learners can navigate their own path, but content is static. Interaction is with content, not people.
The Internet: “Computer-mediated communication (CMC)…is probably the single computer application to date with the greatest impact on language teaching.”
asynchronous or synchronous communication
one-to-one and one-to-many communication
text-only or multimedia
diversity of applications for diversity of users

“Computer networking attempts to build on earlier collaborative learning models, including cooperative and task-based learning, peer editing/review, and cross-cultural exchanges.  While no technology can guarantee behavior “simply by its nature”…, computer networks, when appropriately used, do show potential to promote student autonomy, increase classroom equality, and help students develop a critical learning perspective.” (Warschauer et al, 1996)

What do you want your  platform to do?

“Look! You can upload your syllabus, and your students can access this interactive calendar with the assignments on it! Massive record-keeping functions! Post your lecture notes! Generate multi-choice AND T/F quizzes!” (Younger, 2001)

Is that what’s selling you on a platform?

The platform is the application (or set of applications) through which content is delivered. Some applications more easily deliver certain types of content than others.

Still largely missing from current DE content offerings:

  • fully communicative / interactive coursework
  • intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation
  • cooperative and student-centered teaching / learning
  • focus on fluency as well as on accuracy
  • an understanding of learning as social behavior
  • top-down as well as bottom-up processing
  • the integration of form-focused exercises with meaning-focused experience

platform that includes good networked communication makes all of the neglected elements above possible in a distance education course, provided the following are true of the course content:

  • learning and learner objectives and goals are clear
  • tasked-based and problem-solving exercises are incorporated
  • peer-to-peer communication is included
  • the social construction of knowledge is allowed, encouraged

What’s up next in distance education?

1. Learner diversity
Demographics + Internet access = Learner diversity in virtual classroom

The diversity comes in many forms: Some of the diverse options now available via the Internet:
  • First language (L1)
  • Culture background
  • Educational background
  • Purpose for learning language
  • Personality style
  • Learner’s strongest intelligence (Gardner, 1998).
  • Learning styles (Kolb, 1976)
  • Learning disabilities
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Familiarity with / willingness to use computers
  • Familiarity with target language culture(s)
  • Simple multimedia games
  • “Drill ‘n practice” (adored by many!)
  • Static information: text files, audio files, access to web sites
  • Asynchronous text: mail function, notes, objects
  • Asynchronous multimedia: web, images, stored video
  • Synchronous text environment – written to provide complete experience to learner who has  text-only access
  • Synchronous multimedia
  • Streamed audio and video
  • Multi-user / multi-level online games
  • Internet telephony-based one-on-one tutoring or classes
  • Lessons and technical features geared to all the learning styles

2. Attention to learning styles, intelligences

Please see above linked page for details.
3. Learner empowerment

What it isn’t:
  • a zero-sum game “A situation in which a gain by one person or side must be matched by a loss by another person or side”The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
  • the impoverishment of teachers
  • gaining power, mastery, control over someone else
What it is, entails, requires:
  • relationships of competence, ability, choice and control
  • collaborative action
  • reciprocity of knowing, helping, linking and caring
  • psychological sense of community
  • social skills

See more about individualizing instruction for adults:
Individualizing Instruction: Making Learning Personal, Empowering, and Successful (Hiemstra and Sisco, 1990)

4. Power over learning
A review of distance education applications:

Power in hands of trainer/teacher Power in hands of learner
Teaching/learning style
  • Trainer/teacher is the “sage on the stage,” the source of knowledge, has most of the power
  • Learner brain is empty receptacle to be filled with knowledge or information
  • Learner responds to teacher-based, extrinsic rewards system.
  • Trainer/teacher is the “guide on the side,” facilitator, librarian; this is his/her power
  • Learner has power to seek, interact, make decisions, create, use own knowledge to gain more
  • Learner responds to intrinsic rewards system, the inner drive to learn something or get needs met
  • Traditional classrooms
  • Web-based classes
  • Teleconferences
  • PowerPoint
  • Desktop news
  • Moderated LAN chats, listservs, web boards and chat rooms
  • Moderated NetMeeting, FireTalk, The Palace
  • Efficient, focus way to get information from point A to point B (as long as B retains it)
  • Prevents learners from wasting time wandering into areas not covered by training materials
  • User-friendly to the risk-averse
  • Pre-set goals achieved with less deviation from path to those goals
  • Learner motivation usually much higher
  • Retention better, lasts longer
  • Creativity encouraged, necessary
  • Higher order thinking skills needed
  • Ideas arise from social construction of knowledge
  • More fun, engaging
  • Learner has greater ownership of own learning
  • Easier for new ideas to arise
  • Short-term or insufficient retention of material
  • Creativity difficult
  • Little opportunity for immediate application that reinforces retention
  • Interaction limited by presence of moderator or pre-set goals
  • Motivation low
  • Can be disorienting to administrators, learners and teachers accustomed to more traditional methods
  • Requires greater learner responsibility for what is learned
  • Allows for more chaos
  • Because this is not a traditional method, requires good teacher/administrator training, then good (not necessarily lengthy) learner training

Now you try it

Example:  Learner A

42-year-old female, corporate employee in Japan with a degree in economics, learned some English in a course based on the grammar-translation method. Introvert, visual learner, relatively new user of computers, strong in logical-mathematical and intrapersonal intelligences.

Suggested methods and applications, in order:
1. Start with web-based material emphasizing grammar, syntax and vocabulary language structure, but include engaging texts and some audio to illustrate. Include downloadable reference materials and short texts.
2. Include puzzles, mysteries, ethical conundrums posed in the target language.
3. Add web board she might read and eventually post to.
4. Invite her to join in on a lively email listserv whose topic is current issues in mathematics.
5. Accompany her online long enough to teach her how to use a multimedia virtual community that makes heavy use of text chat. Make sure she has a virtual room of her own design that she can lock.
6. Invite her to a FireTalk meeting at an economics website that was created by another learner she’s met through the email listserv. Pose questions through the telephony function, encourage audio responses, but accept text chat responses.
7. Provide assessment that includes grammar, vocabulary, and essay writing.

What methods and applications would you suggest for for Learner B?

22-year-old male, freelance web designer in Mexico with an Associate’s degree in design, learned some spoken English when he was a waiter in a tourist resort.  Extrovert, aural/oral learner, very comfortable with computers, strong in spatial and interpersonal intelligences.

Suggested methods and applications, in order:


(possible solution)

What’s in it for the teacher?

“A Paradigm Shift in Staff Development”

“(T)eachers must have opportunities to discuss, think about, try out, and hone new practices” by taking new roles (e.g., teacher researcher), creating new structures (e.g., problem-solving groups), working on new tasks (e.g., creating standards), and creating a culture of inquiry. (Sparks and Hirsh, 1997, p. 3)

Three Powerful Ideas1. Results-driven education

  • “Results are inevitable.”
  • We typically begin the planning process by listing activities rather than defining objectives.
  • “Seat-time” view of education leads to similar staff development.
  • Will on-the-job behavior change as a result of this presentation?

2. Systems thinking

  • “To touch a flower is to stir a star.”
  • Changes in any part of the system will affect other parts over time
  • Identify points of high leverage to produce big results (systemic change)
  • High leverage points are not where the stress is visible

3. Constructivism

  • Knowledge is not transmitted from teacher to learner, but is constructed in the mind of the learner (so the synopsis writer was “right.”)
  • Learners create meaning not necessarily intended by the teacher
  • Teacher becomes model for appropriate behavior as a co-learner, guide on the side, librarian, researcher

“Constructivist classrooms cannot be created through transmittal forms of staff development. … Rather than receiving “knowledge” from “experts” in training sessions, teachers and administrators will collaborate with peers, researchers and their own students to make sense of the teaching/learning process in their own contexts.” (Sparks and Hirsh, 1997, p. 11)


  • Your work environment
  • Who you work with
  • Who your students are
  • How you accomplish personal and professional goals


  • Increased responsibility at personal and organizational levels
  • New ways to work with colleagues (interagency cooperation!)
  • Power over own learning
  • New ways to advance career
  • New ways to effect change in lives of students

Chaos –> Change

  • Information overload –> access to information
  • Upheaval  –> choice/creativity in teaching/learning methods
  • Employment instability –> new ways to earn a living (for you and your students)
  • Role confusion –> new choices (leader, facilitator, researcher, change agent, etc.)
  • Having it all –> simplification

Lifelong learning

  • Job-embedded learning
  • Learning from students, peers
  • Professional development where you can get it

BUT… it takes so much time!

  • Simplicity: decide what’s right for you
  • Try just a little at a time
  • Teams of DE teachers can do various aspects of the work
  • Insist that you get paid for your time

Your own path into distance education

Administrators, teachers will need the following:

  • relationships of competence, ability, choice and control
  • collaborative action
  • reciprocity of knowing, helping, linking and caring
  • psychological sense of community
  • social skills

(Look familiar?)Choose one or two as the first step on your path:

  • Platforms (applications)
  • Content (pedagogy)
  • Learner diversity
  • Learning styles (teacher as learner)
  • Empowerment
  • Results-driven education
  • Systems thinking
  • Constructivism

What would you like to play with along the way?

  • Join a professional email forum
  • Find someone to chat with
  • Visit a MOO
  • Make your own shameless vanity page
  • Have a student teach you something
  • Post to a web board (

What concrete steps will you start with? (list three)Where would you like to end up?

Find a colleague online who will help you fill out the middle.


Brown, H. Douglas.  (1991). TESOL at twenty-five: What are the issues? TESOL Quarterly, 25(2), 249Hiemstra, Roger and Sisco, Burt. (1990). Individualizing Instruction: Making Learning Personal, Empowering, and Successful. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Adapted version available: [6/5/01].

Sparks, Dennis and Hirsh, Stephanie. (1997). A new vision for staff development. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Oxford, Ohio. Some chapters available: [5/29/01].

Turbee, L. (1998). MOO, WOO and more: language learning in virtual environments. In Egbert, J. and Hanson-Smith, E., (Eds.), CALL Environments: Research, practice, and critical issues. TESOL Publications, Alexandria, VA.

Turbee, L. and Younger, G. 1999. Integrating virtual communities into the language class. TESOL ’99. Pre-Conference Institute #9. Available: [6/5/01]

Warschauer, M., Turbee, L., & Roberts, B. (1996). Computer learning networks and student empowerment. SYSTEM, 24(1), 1-14. (EJ 527 752)

Warschauer, M. (1996). Computer-assisted language learning: An introduction. In S. Fotos (Ed.), Multimedia language teaching (pp. 3-20). Tokyo: Logos International. Available: [5/29/01].

Younger, G. (2001). ICQ message describing how DE platforms are sold. (June 4, 2001)


Lonnie Chu, MA         last updated 7/26/01