All of the biggest technological inventions created by man - the airplane, the automobile, the computer - says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness. 


Mark Kennedy



Introduction and Concepts in Distance learning

What is distance learning

Explanation of Various Terms.

Glossary of Web Based learning


Practical self experience with Distance Learning?

Difference between Distance Education and Correspondence Courses

 Can skill oriented courses be covered by DE?

Technologies used in distant education

Instructional Qualities for Web Based Learning

Challenges of Web-based Learning

DE in providing medical education to non traditional students

Teacher and student qualities for distance education

Assignment - Preparation of Distance Learning Module

Evaluation of Distance Learning

Advantages and Disadvantages of e-Learning

Famous quotes

Discussion end- Compliments from Sir & Friends

Sumary - Distance Learning

Could someone please clarify my confusion with these terms:

1. Open learning vs Flexible Learning: are they separate terms or overlapping terms
2. Synchronous and asynchronous learning

Barathi Subramanian

.Not occurring at the same time. 2. (Of a computer or other electrical machine) having each operation started only after the preceding operation is completed. 3. Computers, Telecommunications. Of or pertaining to operation without the use of fixed time intervals. 4. (digital communication) pertaining to a transmission technique that does not require a common clock between the communicating devices; timing signals are derived from special characters in the data stream itself 5.not synchronous; not occurring or existing at the same time or having the same period or phase 6.Not synchronised by a shared signal such as clock or semaphore, proceeding independently. 7.A process in a multitasking system whose execution can proceed independently, "in the background". Other processes may be started before the asynchronous process has finished. 8.A communications system in which data transmission may start at any time and is indicated by a start bit, e.g. EIA-232. A data byte (or other element defined by the protocol) ends with a stop bit. A continuous marking condition (identical to stop bits but not quantized in time), is then maintained until data resumes.
happening, existing, or arising at precisely the same time 2: recurring or operating at exactly the same periods 3: involving or indicating synchronism 4 a: having the same period; also: having the same period and phase b: geostationary 5: of, used in, or being digital communication (as between computers) in which a common timing signal is established that dictates when individual bits can be transmitted and which allows for very high rates of data transfer
see the following link
for an article on "Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning"
Open learning is a teaching method that is, among others, founded on the work of Célestin Freinet and Maria Montessori. Open learning is supposed to allow pupils self-determined, independent and interest-guided learning. More recent work on open learning has been conducted by the pedagogues Hans Brügelmann, Falko Peschel, Jörg Ramseger and Wulf Wallrabenstein.(source:wikepedia)
Flexible Learning is a set of educational philosophies and systems, concerned with providing learners with increased choice, convenience, and personalisation to suit the learner. In particular, flexible learning provides learners with choices about where, when, and how learning occurs.
Flexible learning approaches are often designed using a full range of teaching and learning theories, philosophies and methods to provide students with opportunities to access information and expertise, contribute ideas and opinions, and correspond with other learners and mentors. This may occur through the use of internet-based tools such as Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) or Learning Management Systems (LMSes), discussion boards or chat rooms; and may be designed as a "blended" approach, with content available electronically and remotely, as well as "face-to-face" classroom tutorials and lectures.
While the majority of flexible learning programs to date have taken advantage of computer-based systems ("E-learning"), the rapidly increase in the processing power and popularity of mobile digital devices has recently caused considerable interest in mobile learning - the use of mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPods, and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to increase the mobility of learners and correspondingly enhance the flexibility of their learning.
Flexible learning is a term often used in New Zealand and Australia. Both countries have encouraged the uptake of flexible learning through schemes such as flexible learning leaders awards.
Can someone tell about plastic learning? Blended learning and M-learning?

Thanks Barathi. Interesting stuff. Maria Montessori is the woman we relate to kindergarten education, right? She played a role in open education too?

Kalyan Goswami
I was looking for plastic learning (?) but without result; would you please clarify?

Not related much to topic, but since this term was asked in between-
In theories of evolution, plastic learning is that type of learning which is not incorporated directly into germ line  but serves as an in-life crutch that allows animals to learn tricks to outcompete others.

  Sitalakshmi Subramanian
 Plastic learning is a term, I am yet to understand.
Blended Learning is the combination of multiple approaches to learning.
Blended learning can be accomplished through the use of 'blended' virtual and physical resources.
A typical example of this would be a combination of technology-based materials and face-to-face sessions used together to deliver instruction.
In the strictest sense, blended learning is when an instructor combines two methods of delivery of instruction. However, this term most often applies to the use of technology on instruction.
A good example of blended learning would be to give a well-structured introductory lesson in the classroom, and then to provide follow-up materials online.
M-learning, or "mobile learning”Is related to e- learning  and distance education it is distinct in its focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices.
Learning that happens across locations, or that takes advantage of learning opportunities offered by portable technologies. In other words, mobile learning decreases limitation of learning location with the mobility of general portable devices.


I was rather intrigued by this term 'plastic learning' and tried to dig up some references.

As Anupama mentioned, one of the origins of the term is probably from the theories of evolution.
Lamarck believed in direct inheritance of characteristics acquired by individuals during their lifetime. Darwin proposed that natural selection coupled with diversity could largely explain evolution. Weismann argued that higher organisms have two types of cells, germ cells that pass genetic information to offspring and somatic cells that have no direct role in reproduction. He argued that there is no way for information acquired by somatic cells to be transmitted to germ cells.

In the context of this debate, James Baldwin proposed "a new factor in evolution", whereby acquired characteristics could be indirectly inherited.  The "new factor" was phenotypic plasticity: the ability of an organism to adapt to its environment during its lifetime. The ability to learn is the most obvious example of phenotypic plasticity, but other examples are the ability to tan with exposure to sun, to form a callus with exposure to abrasion, or to increase muscle strength with exercise. 

The Baldwin effect works in two steps. First, phenotypic plasticity allows an individual to adapt to a partially successful mutation, which might otherwise be useless to the individual. If this mutation increases inclusive fitness, it will tend to proliferate in the population. However, phenotypic plasticity is typically costly for an individual. For example, learning requires energy and time, and it sometimes involves dangerous mistakes. Therefore there is a second step: given sufficient time, evolution may find a rigid mechanism that can replace the plastic mechanism. Thus a behaviour that was once learned (the first step) may eventually become instinctive (the second step).

The Baldwin effect came to the attention of computer scientists with the work of Hinton and Lowlan.  In computational terms, in the first step of the Baldwin effect, local search smooths the fitness landscape, which can facilitate evolutionary search. In the second step, as more optimal genotypes arise in the population, there is selective pressure for reduction in local search, driven by the intrinsic costs associated with the search.

The cost of local search may be expressed in various ways. For example, learning may only probabilistically increase fitness; even if what is learned increases fitness with high probability, there may still be a selective advantage for evolving an instinctual response. This assumes, of course, that the instinctual trait more reliably increases individual fitness than learned behaviors and that the environment favoring a particular behavior is stable. In a rapidly changing environment, learning can have obvious advantages over instinctual responses.

Read more details at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/4155/edit.html

More on plasticity from a paper on ubiquitous learning environments:

In ubiquitous  web based education a digital learning space can be utilized in different contexts without losing its most important property, the property of supporting learning processes. This capacity is described by the term "plasticity", which includes
different facets of context and adaptation.

 The Meaning of Plasticity
The term plasticity of digital learning spaces (Bomsdorf 2005) is motivated by that of plastic user interfaces (Thevenin & Coutaz 1999). Both definitions make use of the similarity of the desired properties of the learning space and user interface, respectively, with that of a shapeable material. Applied to e-learning, plasticity describes the ability of a digital learning space to retain suitability for learning in different, changing contexts (context of learning). This definition is beyond plasticity of user interfaces, which denotes the capacity of a user interface to withstand different contexts of use while preserving usability. In addition to UI adaptation, plasticity of digital learning
spaces takes into account selection and/or adaptation of learning material (content), functionalities, services and tools. Furthermore, the notion of plastic digital learning spaces exceeds the measurement criteria by considering not only usability but also usefulness. Key terms of the definition 'plasticity of digital learning spaces' are 'space', 'context of' and 'suitability for learning':

I understand there is a lot of computer jargon there, so if you are interested in more the link to the pdf is http://drops.dagstuhl.de/opus/volltexte/2005/371/pdf/05181.BomsdorfBirgit.Paper.371.pdf

I liked the definitions of ubiquitous learning in this paper


  Suman Singh

Indeed very interesting phenomenon going around all the time. In short can we say plasticity means adaptability as per the need, may be of learning and thinking mind or body or both? In case it is different than how? Please enlighten.
  Stewart Mennin

Plasticity, the quality of adaptive change, is a concept in neuroscience and embryology.  I first learned of it in discussions of the embryology and the nervous system.  Questions like, how neurons grow and find their way to ultimate destinations; then over time how they change with experience.  The essential concept for me is co-evolution.  This means that during an interaction between two agents, both are modified making the exchange meaningful or significant.  The quality of the exchange is everything.

It's easy for us to classify objects.  Harder to classify and describe processes. 
1.       ".  Why our processes so hard to classify?  In earlier times, we could usually judge machines and processes by how they transformed raw materials into finished products.  But it makes no sense to speak of brains as though they manufacture thoughts the way factories make cars. The difference is that brains use processes that changed themselves-and this means we cannot separate such processes from the products they produce in particular, brains make memories, which changed the ways we'll subsequently think.  The principal activities of brains are making changes in themselves because that whole idea of self-modifying processes is new to our experience, we cannot yet trust our commonsense judgments about such matters (Minsky-- the society of mind pp 288 quoted in Varela, Thompson, and Rosch The emodied mind: cognitive science and human experience.  pp 139.)

Fascinating indeed! Co-evolution for me means the way we all are subtly modifying each other, nourishing our brains with new thoughts through this daily interaction. Hopefully our progeny will be born ingrained with the essentials of medical education, after all the intensive manufacturing our brains have been doing!

What came up was an extensive discussion on plastic learning ultimately bringing out the concept of co evaluation for mind and body.


 Sajjad Sheikh
Here is an interesting article on the impact of new technologies on distant learning students.  This is a European Commission Leonardo da Vinci Reference Material project on the impact of new technology on distance learning students. It is known that all the Ministries of Education of the 27 European Union countries pay millions of Euros annually in the provision of educational technology for their schools, colleges and universities. A review of the literature of the impact of technology, however, showed that the research in this field was unacceptably fragile. What research there was focused on the impact of technology on children in American schools. The project set out, therefore, to measure the impact of technology on adult education, lifelong learning and distance education, with a particular focus on adult distance learning.

Peer reviewing e-learning


  Dr. Sanjay Bedi


Peer review is the foundation of academic publication and a necessary step in the scrutiny of any scholarly work. Simply defined, peer review is the attentive, unbiased assessment of any scholarly work that is submitted for formal scrutiny.
Although medical school faculty increasingly use technology in clinical teaching, e-learning materials are often not subjected to a rigorous peer review process. The authors contrast peer review of e-learning materials with that of print materials, describe peer review issues regarding e-learning materials, propose approaches to address the challenges of peer review of e-learning materials, and outline directions for refinement of the e-learning peer review process. At its core, the peer review of e-learning materials should not differ substantially from that of traditional manuscripts. However, e-learning introduces new demands that impel reviewers to consider aspects that are unique to educational technology, including pedagogy, format, usability, navigation, interactivity, delivery, ease of updating, distribution, and access. Four approaches are offered to ease the burden and improve the quality of e-learning peer review: develop peer review training, embrace multidisciplinary peer review, develop guidelines, and provide incentives and compensation. The authors conclude with suggestions about peer review research.