Conversely there are the instructors who see in-class sessions as essential for the teaching of the most abstract, complex concepts. Bridging these two polarizing perspectives on how to successfully teach the most challenging material in a course is the need for defining scaffolding performance objectives by student to measure the effectiveness of distance learning personalized instruction (Halttunen, 2003). The intermediating of these two extremes shows that for the most complex concepts in a statistics course were more effectively taught through scaffolding as distance learning tools allowed the students to continually review concepts they were not familiar with. Scaffolding allowed for students to actively learn, fulfilling their need for autonomy in the learning process, in addition to giving them mastery over the presentation of concepts online as well (Kartha, 2006). Combining autonomy, mastery and purpose (Wilhelm, Sherrod, Walters, 2008) significantly increased long-term retention of statistical concepts as a result (Kartha, 2006).
Student Satisfaction, Attitudes and Purpose in Distance Education
The use of scaffolding as a means to create tailored, highly unique learning experiences online has also led to an accelerated adoption of more interactive, communication-based technologies online over more unidirectional ones (Zhao, Alexander, Perreault, Waldman, Truell, 2009). Student satisfaction has been positively correlated to the extent to which they have mastery of the online learning experience (Najjar, 2008) a finding which has led to scaffolding becoming predominant in math, science, statistics and advanced calculus courses globally. Scaffolding in effect becomes the online lab that students have the opportunity to work within on a 24/7 basis and continually refine and augment their knowledge of the more abstract, complex and often difficult to understand topics that are often only covered on whiteboard discussions otherwise. It is this iterative aspect of teaching the abstract concepts that give students mastery over them. This approach to providing a means for students to continually go over the most challenging concepts and lessons is increasingly being included in the design of courseware as well (Yang, Yu, Chen, Tsai, et al., 2005) often with multiple paths or learning objectives supported throughout the teaching materials. Drawing from the example given at the beginning of this paper, instructors can create customized learning tracks for students and then selectively use them through the semester as students either accelerate or lag behind the class on specific concepts and lessons. The effectiveness of scaffolding within the context of courseware development has also been proven in the context of statistical courses at the beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of courses to be effective in driving up student satisfaction as well (Kartha, 2006).
Distance education's contributions to long-term learning effectiveness center on the personalization of learning strategies and the use of scaffolding to tailor specific aspects of a course to the unique needs of a student. The role of the instructor changes form purely a didactic one to more participative and developmental, guiding students through abstract concepts through the use of scaffolding and teaching materials specifically designed for agility and flexibility of the learning process. Distance education then has made the three most critical attitudinal aspects of learning, which including autonomy, mastery and purpose, all attainable by each student through the use of online applications that allow for them to set their own pace of learning.
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Jin Tan David Yang, Pao Ta Yu, Nian Shing Chen, Chun Yen Tsai, & et al. (2005). Using Ontology as Scaffolding for Authoring Teaching Materials. International Journal…