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Abstract

Our vision of distance learning—learning via virtually being there—challenges educators and technology designers to go beyond the dominant distance education vision of learning via structured isolation. Our vision builds on the best of the technology-enhanced classroom and distance education. Interactions among participants are not only asynchronous but also synchronous, not only one-to-one and one-to-many but also few-to-many and many-to-many, not only about academics but also about the person, and not only consisting of written words but also voice and video. Learning materials and activities are prepared in advance and spontaneously, scheduled and unscheduled, and text-based as well as based on sound and images. Our belief is that most learners benefit from “being there” in a class and that “virtually being there” should provide that same benefit. Important features of our vision that are currently challenging to realize are related to technology limits on sharing all participants’ video, audio, and screens. These and other limitations, which may be beyond our ability to recognize at the moment, will be overcome when visionary educators and technology designers collaborate to develop solutions that fully engage participants in learning and take us beyond what has been envisioned to date.

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