Week 1: The Continuum of Education: From Place-Based to Distance – Winter 2023


As recently as twenty years ago, it was reasonable to make a strong differentiation between place-based, face-to-face education, and distance education. Distance education happened either through paper-based correspondence courses or, less frequently, online through email or web-based courses. Face-to-face courses generally occurred entirely on campuses or in schools. That sharp differentiation is not really as relevant now.

In Bates’s discussion of the continuum of education from campus-based to fully online, he notes that increasing numbers of students take some classes online and some face-to-face on campus. This leads to a kind of blurring of categories: students no longer see themselves as on-campus or online students exclusively. Students in college, undergraduate, and graduate programs may also take courses outside of their home institution, finding electives and even core courses that may be unavailable to them at a time that fits their schedule.

The same continuum exists in the K–12 system in British Columbia. While most elementary school students attend school in face-to-face settings, there are options for online learning in most provinces. For example, the Vancouver School Board offers the Vancouver Learning Network Elementary program, which provides online learning opportunities for students in K–7. In the case of elementary education, parents/guardians are expected to be actively involved, meeting with the teacher who will oversee the program and presumably also providing support for students as they complete course work.

At the high school level, online courses are more common, and many school districts offer them. Students sign up for individual courses just as they would at college or university. In the case of courses offered via school districts, there is often no charge for local students to study online.

Students and their families have various reasons for choosing online learning:

  • They may be following a homeschooling curriculum and using online courses to supplement studies.
  • They may be seeking an elective not offered in their local school.
  • They may be participating in intensive arts or sports programs and need the flexibility that online learning affords.
  • They may be living internationally with their family and want to remain in their original Canadian provincial school system.

Students taking some classes online and some face-to-face can be described as participating in a blended program. More commonly, blended learning is used to describe courses where some activities take place face-to-face without the use of technology and some take place mediated by technology—either in the classroom or outside the classroom. There are many approaches to blended learning within individual courses at all levels:

  • Flipped classrooms: In a flipped classroom, the teacher/instructor may record a lecture that they expect the students to listen to prior to class time. Class time, rather than spent listening to a lecture, is spent doing learning activities. The term “flipped” is used since this is the opposite of the once-standard in-class lecture approach. You can think of the flipped classroom as one where homework is done in class, with the teacher there to provide support and frequently to encourage collaboration among students.
  • Technology used for practice: There are many examples of computer programs used for practice. A quick browse will show dozens of math programs designed to help young math students master basic functions. Popular apps, such as Duolingo, help people of any age learn languages. There are many other examples.
  • Technology used for presentation of ideas: One form is the recorded lecture, often used for flipped classrooms and ubiquitous in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
  • Technology used for evaluations: Most learning management systems (e.g., Moodle, Blackboard, etc.) have built-in quiz software. Technology can be used in other ways for evaluation, too. For example, scenarios may be presented by video for student response.

Anytime an instructor uses technology along with a face-to-face course component, it can be defined as blended learning.

As you will find in the Bates reading for this section, any of these modes of delivery can be effective. Bates concludes Section 9.5 with four factors to consider when choosing a mode of delivery:

  • Student characteristics and needs
  • Your preferred teaching strategy, in terms of methods and learning outcomes
  • The pedagogical and presentational requirements of the subject matter, in terms of (a) content and (b) skills
  • The resources available to an instructor (including the instructor’s time)

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the week, you will be able to:

  • Describe the continuum of education, from place-based to distance.
  • Analyze the mode of delivery of a unit of instruction
  • Analyze a past educational experience from the perspective of an instructional designer, focusing on the mode of delivery

Learning Activities

Activity 1: Setting up your ePortfolio

Your first activity is to set up and try out your ePortfolio site. You can find your ePortfolio site by following the link from the Course Home page.

Your ePortfolio space on the EDDL 5111 site is like a traditional WordPress site. Once on your ePortfolio page, you will see lots of media and file examples. If you go to the Dashboard (go to your ePortfolio name in the upper middle and select ‘Dashboard’ from the drop-down menu), you will be able to do many of the typical tasks like adding posts or changing your theme.

This WordPress tutorial will help you set up your ePortfolio. You can find it at:


Activity 2: Introduction: Discussion 1

Let’s begin our time together with an introduction.

If you are teaching at a distance, an introduction gives you a chance to show your students what you look like and a little more about your workplace, background, or anything else you choose to share.

You may also prefer to introduce yourself with a video and share it through a video sharing platform such as YouTube, Vimeo, or others. Video is ubiquitous today, and these platforms are not only convenient, but they also give you the option of providing your students with a link. This means you do not necessarily have to find a place to host the video yourself, and device compatibility is not an issue.

However, you should be aware that all video sharing platforms reside on servers outside of Canada and therefore are not compliant with privacy laws for public institutions within BC. Therefore, we cannot require you to use these platforms as part of a course. If you choose to use a video platform, you do so of your own volition.

If you prefer to do a text-based introduction, that is fine. You can write one in the discussion forum. You can leave your introduction on the platform where you created it, or embed it on a post in your ePortfolio. Either way, make sure it’s public and share the link on the class forum.

Your introduction should answer these three questions:

Who are you?

What kind of work do you do in education, or, if you do not currently work in the field, what you would like to do?

Where would you place your work on the continuum from distance to face-to-face education?

Go to the class forum to make your post.

Activity 3: Reading and Blog Post (Part of Assignment 1)

Read Chapters 9–12 from Teaching in a Digital Age (Bates).

In Chapter 9, Bates discusses what he calls the continuum of education, from the fully in-person classroom where no technology is used to the entirely online course with no face-to-face interaction.

In Chapter 10, Bates discusses open education. Since open educational resources are often developed and delivered online, like the Bates open textbook we are using for this course, this approach to education is often considered at the same time as education at a distance. Just as being able to study at a distance from an educational institution has made education more accessible for some learners, the provision of open educational resources that make materials available at no cost to the student also increases accessibility. However, there is more to the concept of open education than just freely-available resources and more for you as an educator to think about than the institutional questions of making education open to all. As you read Chapter 10, think particularly about Creative Commons licensing, which is discussed in Section 10.2, and especially how you would like your own work to be made available to others for their use or adaptation. Just as there is a distance face-to-face continuum, there is a range of openness, from not open at all to freely adaptable.

In Chapter 11, Bates addresses the issue of quality teaching. As he notes, there is a lot of debate about what constitutes quality in teaching. For our purposes, the most interesting part of this chapter is the multi-step process he lays out to develop a quality framework for teaching. Essentially, Bates asks us to be deliberate and reflective in our approaches to teaching. In Section 11.2, he identifies nine steps:

  1. Decide how you want to teach.
  2. Decide on a mode of delivery.
  3. Work in a team.
  4. Build on existing resources.
  5. Master the technology.
  6. Set appropriate learning goals.
  7. Design course structure and learning goals.
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  9. Evaluate and innovate.

You will find that our focus in this course is consistent with Bates’s suggestion for a quality framework. Reading this section of the text will help you put the work you do, and the course module or unit you are planning, into a context of quality education using technology.


Blog Post #1: Reflection on design of an existing unit of instruction


As part of your formal assessment (Blog and Discussion Assignment, 20%) you will be asked to participate in weekly blogging and online discussion activities. These activities are designed to provide you with the opportunity to apply the key concepts and ideas from the content and readings, to obtain formative feedback from your peers, and to gain hands‐on experience with a

wide variety of educational technologies. Go to the Assignment Overview for links to the weekly blog and discussion schedule and for the evaluation rubric.


At the end of Section 9.5 from Teaching in a Digital Age, Tony Bates writes:

In the absence of good theory, I have suggested four factors to consider when deciding on mode of delivery, and in particular the different uses of face-to-face and online learning in blended courses:

    • Student characteristics and needs
    • Your preferred teaching strategy, in terms of methods and learning outcomes
    • The pedagogical and presentational requirements of the subject matter, in terms of (a) content and (b) skills
    • The resources available to an instructor (including the instructor’s time). (2015, p. 334)

Use these factors as the basis for your first blog post. You might find it helpful to refer to the instructor’s blog post as an example: EDDL 5111 Developer’s Blog Post #1

Consider a technology-enhanced course, or perhaps a briefer learning experience like a module or unit, that you have taught, designed, or one that you have participated in. Reflect on Bates’s questions as you think about the course. In your blog post:

  • Briefly describe the course or unit of instruction.
  • Situate it on the continuum of the location of learning, from entirely online, entirely face-to-face, or somewhere in between.
  • Consider:
    • To what extent did the course design seem to consider student needs and characteristics?
    • How well did the course delivery mode match the subject matter? Was the mode selected the most effective? Would the learning have been more effective if a different mode (online, blended or face-to-face) had been available? As a learner, did you get an opportunity to practice the things you needed to practice? Was the presentation of material well suited to the content? If you were the teacher, did you struggle to use the technology to get the main points across?
    • If you were the course instructor, comment on the resources that were available to you. Were they sufficient? What was missing?
    • If you were the instructor, did the technology selected make it possible for you to use your preferred approaches?

Read the blog posts of others as well. Comment on them. We can all learn from each other’s experiences.


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