Sunday, August 08, 2004

System Dynamics and Distance Learning

Fred Saba, of, gave a presentation at last week's 20th Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning, reflecting back on 20 years of research in the field. I was intrigued to find out that Dr. Saba uses a system dynamics framework in his own research, and that he sees the fundamental system dynamics concept of a negative feedback loop as central to much of distance learning research in the last 20 years.

As one example of these dichotomies, he pointed to the idea of "transactional distance," developed by Michael Moore, explaining the negative feedback relationship between structure and independence (as structure goes up, learning independence goes down). He also talked about some other dichotomies: between instructor centeredness and learner-centeredness, between asynchronous and synchronous communication, etc.

Dr. Saba explained that the field now needs an overarching philosophy that brings the dichotomy of ideas together. Fascinating idea.

And all that talk of system dynamics got me to thinking about my plans for a doctorate--gotta get those applications going! Maybe I'll think about how to apply system dynamics to my research...


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