Curing the Art House Blues

My current assignment for my Distance Learning course involves selecting a scenario for distance learning education. I’ve selected Guercino's Eminia and the Shepherdsthe following scenario for my assignment:

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a “tour” of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

I can relate to this scenario. I’ve seen some amazing examples of distance learning art classes and interactive learning experiences. There are several excellent sites that explore the restoration process. Check out this site as an example:

But, I digress. What learning technologies would I suggest for this project? This class could be an interesting and challenging course with the use of several technologies:

CMS – There are several different aspects to this class: a visual tour of the museum, an opportunity to interact with curators, and an opportunity to see art work on display. Each of these learning opportunities can be achieved with a different learning technology, but ultimately, the class requires some tool to manage all these different components. A CMS, or Course Management Software, provides the foundation to pull these tools together. CMSs allow teachers to “manage their classes, assignments, activities, quizzes and tests, resources and more in an accessible online environment” (Simonson et al, 2012).

Video Teleconferencing – Utilizing video teleconferencing to connect with museum curators and view the contents of a museum or gallery would provide an opportunity to engage these students. In a video conference, students could engage in a question/answer discussion with the curator or possibly view sections of the museum that are not commonly seen by museum visitors, such as the restoration departments.

Wikis – While the content of this course is certainly visual, viewing the art does not require a video connection. Much of the content could be viewed as a wiki page, with a links to photos or videos of the art work and written descriptions of the history of the art piece and the artist.

Blogs – Interaction is an important part of this class. Learner blogs help “foster social interaction for the purpose of knowledge construction” (Beldarrain, 2006). Allowing a place for the learners to express their opinion of the art work provides an opportunity for the learners to engage with one another as well as share their own views.

Ultimately, the challenge of the class is the instructor managing the different technologies within online learning. The instructor’s role is now shifting to be a resource manager and a “partner in learning.” (Beldarrain, 2006). Just think how much more interesting this class would be in comparison to reading an art history textbook!


Baldarrain, Y. (2006), Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration,Distance Education, 27(2) 139-153

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


Distance learning through the haze.


When I was young the only distance learning program was correspondence courses. These classes were looked upon with a certain amount of derision. In fact, the ads like the one on the left were the butt of frequent comic acts.

In the ’90s, I started working as an Instructional Designer. The company I worked for implemented a huge training program with self-directed learning materials. We thought we were cutting edge, simply mailing out materials (workbooks) and end-of-course quizzes, and receiving them back from the learner to grade by hand.

In the late ’90s I took a class on developing computer-based instruction at the local, highly respected university. This class was a graduate level class with many education grad students. These students were skeptical of computer-based instruction. In fact, we student suggested that computer-based instruction was best used in preparing an individual for a career at McDonalds.

We’ve come a long way from those days. Even ten years ago, distance learning was not regarded as mainstream learning methodology for most credible universities. It’s the institutions like Walden University and DeVry that forced local universities to build a distance learning as a credible option.

My definition of distance learning is changing as I review my course readings. I’ve always focused on the “distance” part of the process, and assumed any program that is offered over a distance qualifies. My definition from this week has shifted as I focus on the engagement between the learner and instructor. I think this is the biggest challenge to overcome in distance learning.

I find distance learning to be essential in the organization I’m working with, World Vision. As stated in our course text “Well-designed programs could also bridge intellectual, cultural and social differences between students” (Schlosser & Simonson, 2009). Distance learning allows us to reach an audience of learners in over 60 countries scattered all over the world. Our biggest challenge is to develop distance learning that is conscious of cultural, social and language differences. Of course, technology (specifically internet connectivity) remains an on-going issue.

I’m looking forward to learning more about distance learning. I think that there’s more to the use of this learning methodology than merely adapting our previous classroom based materials to a WebEx. It will be a fascinating journey.

Please see the attached mind map.





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