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Much has changed in distance learning since its nascence, rooted in correspondence courses, in the 1800s. Early courses were highly structured, with minimal dialogue between teacher and taught, and consequently the distance between them – Moore’s psychological and communications gap – was great. Subsequent developments in communications technology narrowed this distance, but the objectivist philosophy underpinning the exchange remained essentially the same. Whilst it has been recognised for a number of years that constructivist approaches may improve the quality of teaching and learning in our classrooms, it has only been in recent times, with the widespread use of broadband and the development of tools which take advantage of its capabilities, that constructivist ideals have been fully capable of integration into DL programmes. The new capabilities afforded by social software technologies and the ongoing development of online synchronous communications enable innovative scaffolding and engender social learning. However, distance educators should not be tempted to use the advantages that technology offers to attempt to recreate the traditional classroom virtually, or to create situations which pre-determine learning. This risks limiting the application of constructivism, and fails to acknowledge that distance learning occurs in a distinctive socio-interactive context which requires a unique approach to teaching and learning.


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