Naming for online programs confusing? : Fizzics Education


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Naming for online programs confusing?

Naming for online programs confusing?

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For years the distance education community has struggled with the naming of ‘online programs’. The reason for this is that there are so many types of online programs! When you think about what an ‘online program’ is, it could encompass many things;

  • Classroom documents being shared
  • Website repositories and reference notes
  • Virtual tours of real buildings
  • Augmented reality
  • Virtual reality
  • Video conferencing
  • Web conferencing
  • Blended learning of online and offline programming
  • Web polls
  • Collaboration tools for ideas on a document
  • Asynchronous video sharing sites
  • Live streaming and more….

It’s confusing, yet I’ve worked in distance education for years! Now that the world is coming to grips with using this technology, there really isn’t a unified approach for what to call things that everyone can agree upon. This issue was identifed as such a problem that in early 2019 it was raised as a research item and submitted to the Journal of Museum Education by Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski & Lynda O’Leary;

Kasey Gaylord-Opalewski & Lynda O’Leary (2019) Defining Interactive Virtual
Learning in Museum Education: A Shared Perspective, Journal of Museum Education, 44:3,
229-241, DOI: 10.1080/10598650.2019.1621634

Please read the journal article for the full findings!

Within their research, they surveyed members of their own distance learning communities as well as members of the Pinnacle Education Collaborative, a group which I co-founded along with 30 or so awesome distance educators from across some of North America’s best-known museums, zoos, aquariums, galleries, science centres and more. We discussed our perspectives and the confusion we had seen across thousands of school districts globally.

We ended up settling on the term Interactive Virtual Learning after the research, as it best describes nearly all of the things that occur during a live, interactive, online program for remote learners. Of course, this has not been picked up as people naturally have not all read the journal article and the different terms are now flying around the world due to social media. Whilst there is not much we can do about that, at least being aware of what it means allows us to slowly bring together the main names for ‘online learning’ or ‘distance learning’ over time and work out a new name yet again (!).

A television screen showing a distance educator running science experiment with a bell jar, vacuum pump and a cup of water. There is an inset of a remote class on the screen and a video conference camera on top of the television.

Presenting a weather & pressure video conference to students in New York

Why bother with this? Well, these online programs are being advertised globally by all manner of organisations. As the torrent of information gets poured towards parents, schools, libraries and more, the barrage of information is only going to cause confusion and eventually the same frustration that the distance learning community has always felt.

Moral of the story? Don’t chop and change names! If your district uses a particular name, please stick with it – at least until the powers that be meet and agree on unified nomenclature that fits everyone. If you’re wondering about how out of hand it had become by 2019, have a look at the list of names for simple lessons using video conferencing I’ve seen below. Imagine what this will be like by the end of 2020! Perhaps I’ll be wrong, maybe the social media sharing will produce a unified naming that makes sense for everyone and we can finally put to bed the classification issue in distance education that has hung around for years.

A man with a glove above a liquid nitrogen vapour cloud

No matter what, if you were able to download this article to read this, the conferencing technology is available to you now. Just make sure that you follow decent child protection protocols to avoid kids being exposed to the dark side of the internet and you’ll be fine. Hopefully, after this COVID-19 crisis is over, we can at least look forward to more learners which a high degree of digital literacy and perhaps that is the silver lining that we can all cling to as educators.

Happy teaching,

Ben Newsome

Ben Newsome smiling

PS… Here’s some names I’ve heard over the years for lessons using video conferencing!

No wonder it’s confusing. Honestly these all mean the same thing in many ways.. just a camera and microphone for people to talk to each other and to show things:

  1. Virtual excursions
  2. Virtual incursions
  3. Virtual learning
  4. Virtual classes
  5. Virtual conferencing or conferences
  6. Virtual enrichment programs
  7. Virtual programs
  8. Online classes
  9. Online incursions
  10. Online learning
  11. Online enrichment programs
  12. Online excursions
  13. Online video conferencing
  14. Online conferencing
  15. Online schooling
  16. Online teaching
  17. Distance learning
  18. Remote classes
  19. Remote excursions
  20. Remote incursions
  21. Remote conferencing
  22. Remote enrichment programs
  23. Remote learning programs
  24. Video excursions
  25. Video incursions
  26. Video conferencing
  27. Interactive video conferencing
  28. Interactive Virtual Learning
  29. IVC
  30. VC programs
  31. Web conferencing
  32. Web excursions
  33. Web incursions
  34. Live web remote visits
  35. Live online classes
  36. Live interactive conferencing
  37. Live web conferencing
  38. Live virtual programs
  39. Live online incursions
  40. Live learning online……brain hurting! The above is not even making stuff up. Can you list any more you’ve heard?
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