Creating Equivalent Learning for Distance Learners

How do different environments affect learners?

According to the equivalency theory, it is the responsibility of the educator to design learning events that provide experiences with equal value for learners no matter what environment the learners are coming from. The theory states that in order for distance education to be successful, there should be equivalency for distance and local learners. Equivalent experiences = equivalent learning outcomes.

The theory puts great importance on the concept of the learning experience, stating that it is likely that different students in various locations, learning at different times, may require a different mix of learning experiences.

How can instructors achieve equivalence?

In order to achieve equivalence, appropriate application needs to be met. In other words, the learning experience needs to be suitable to the needs of the individual learner, the learning situation should be readily available, and the availability of learning experiences needs to be proper and timely.

In order for this to occur, the following needs to be incorporated:

  • Resources should be available to all students (for example, library resources: should be readily available to the distance learner as well as the local learner)
    • Students should have access to available technology.
    • An easy level of abstraction for the most efficient learning (videos, graphics, easy messaging) needs to be created.
    • The learning experience should be identified and matched to appropriate technologies.
    • Activities need to be sophisticated and fully engaging.

Courses should be designed to:

  • Be organized around themes or concepts that are tailored to student activities.
  • Have progression be determined by performance on self-tests.
  • Include content that is organized in blocks/chucks so that students can progress through chunks in order.
  • Give students the ability to set their own pace through content.
  • Have content organized into modules.
  • Give learners the ability to provide structure, outcomes, and sequence of their learning activities.

Overall, students should be defined by their enrollment in a course, not by their location. Creating equivalence for students no matter their location helps promote distance education, ensuring distance education is providing equal learning outcomes no matter the distance.