Friday, March 30, 2012

The Impact of Open Source

The Open Course Site that I reviewed came from the MIT Open Course website ( entitled SCUBA. While I browsed through several other courses, after discovering this course I was very interested and watched much of it since my son and I have recently registered to become certified in SCUBA. The course is very informative and extremely thorough and, while it is effective for supplying the content for which it is intended to teach, the course itself certainly was not pre-planned for a distance learning environment. The course lacks most aspects that combine to make up an effective distance education course.

The MIT SCUBA course does not follow any recommendations for online instruction as it is comprised solely of a series of video recordings of lectures and demonstrations. This echoes exactly what Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek describe as “the model of teaching employed during the instructional television era of distance education” (2012, p.123) in which the instructor simply mimicked the conventional classroom. When planning for instruction at a distance, Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) states that previously delivered classroom instruction often needs to be retooled, with a shift toward “visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentation of information” (p.153). This, however, is not the case in regards to Taylor’s (Spring 2007) SCUBA course. Another key aspect related to distance instruction is that of learner interaction or group work and, in this case, this it simply is not an option since the course was delivered in the past.

While Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) concedes that there is no one best way to teach a distance education course, it does note that the lecture “has been repeatedly demonstrated through research” (p.159) to be the least effective means of delivering online instruction. The SCUBA course fails in nearly every facet of characteristics that make up an effective distance learning environment. There is no variety in the delivery of the course or the media selection. There is no availability for learner interaction so there is no option for reflection or feedback and the course readings and resources are listed but not available.

As mentioned before, the SCUBA course is extremely thorough in the content that it delivers and seems to be completely effective for the scenario in which it was delivered; a conventional classroom with hands-on activities. It is not, however, the most effective method for delivering instruction from a distance. While I greatly enjoyed the content of the course, the SCUBA course seems better suited for a face-to-face environment, especially considering that there is a tremendous amount of content and knowledge that can only truly be acquired through hands-on participation.  


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Taylor, H. (Spring 2007). PE.210 SCUBA. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Retrieved March 31, 2012 from

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