I interviewed our Dean, Prof. James Fleck a couple of weeks ago (soon to appear on the Association of MBAs website as it was featured at their 2011 Conference).
Here he tells a story of what he calls 'distance' learning (used negatively); it is exactly what we saw in this Kansas University video; they were 'distant' said Prof. Fleck, because he couldn't make out the colour of the person's top in the back row. He compared this to what he said the Faculty of Business and Law achieves through 'nearness' or 'closeness' learning, using platforms such as this, web-conferences too, to support learning. The 'd' word has been banned because of its negative connotations, which include the idea that students have little contact with tutors or fellow students, which in most cases is never the situation as there are regular tutor meetings and other get-togethers. I had to be put right on this score (there are 330 regional centres globally).
In its blended form using a laptop or ipad during a lecture, to Twitter on topic to colleagues, or to see fullscreen or closeups of what the lecturer is delivering live, may enhance the experience, even bring people closer? JISC 2011 this year was attended by nearly 400 on Twitter watching and listening online with under 150 in the lecture hall.
The technology should enable, enhance and support, never to the exclusion of people how don't have the kit or reliable access. Talking of which, I interviewed an Visiting International Fellow from Ghana for the Faculty and couldn't help but ask a question relating to our MAODE; he gave permission to use this so I ought to offer it somewhere. This was on technolgy and the way mobile phones have 70% penetration in Ghana and are therefore crucial to overcome a list of other problems offering a real way forward to be able to exploit learning content, in this case Open Resources for training Civil Servants to MBA level.
And what I take from this?
The best lessons I ever had were from my grandfather; sitting with him learning about his experiences as a machine-gunner and then a fighter pilot in the RFC then taking him to the Imperial War Museum where they welcomed him like Royalty and even had a machine gun out for him! In a moment this 95 year old was crouched behind the thing ... anyway, the point it, one-to-one and face-to-face, an expert passing on knowledge to someone who is motivated is the ideal; how technology can facilitate a component of this is what appeals to me, playing on what we do best as humans in the anthropological sense.