I was recently asked the question, "How does distance learning, social networking, and other new media enrich your life … your career?" and here was my reply:
I define distance learning as any method of teaching and learning that is not dependent on a geographic location. Therefore, most of our world is falling into this category and enriching our lives in one way or another. Online banking, shopping, music, education, etc...The distance technologies enable us to prioritize our lives around the things that matter most to us, such as our families, friends, community, and organizations we are passionate about. Distance technologies facilitate a brand new form of asynchronous communication that enables us to prioritize and schedule our lives more effectively. This is a major reason why distance learning in higher education has spread like wildfire and continues to grow. It's not that online learning is easier or of lower quality (see research), it is that formal education can now revolve around a person's life rather than the other way around. It's only the next natural step. I have seen the growth and increased demand of distance education at BGSU first hand and am very excited about BGSU being chosen by the Ohio Board of Regents as a Center of Excellence for E-learning in the State of Ohio. E-learning doesn't replace face to face universities but enhances them by meeting the new needs of a new generation of students, both young and old.
Let's change gears and look at facebook and twitter as two distance technologies that are changing the world around us. Twitter allows me to get news and information from the people and organizations that interest me the most. Therefore, by subscribing to various twitter feeds, I can get the latest deals from amazon, stay on top of the latest technologies from apple, google, and other tech companies, and get words of inspiration from my pastor or other pastors I listen to online throughout the day. This is awesome. I am also able to re-tweet those to my community of followers, and they, their followers. You see how information is exploding there? With facebook, I am able to "keep in touch" with hundreds of friends at a distance. For example, this enables me to see pictures of my niece and nephews right after they were taken, which prompts me to comment on them or call them. You see how this technology interrupts our lives, but can do so in a positive way. Ever wonder what happened to your old high school buddies? With facebook, you can stay in touch with them on a surface level so that if your relationship with them ever re-surfaces when you run into them in person, you will have much to talk about and build on. The technology is not meant to replace relationships, but if used with wisdom, enhance them. RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, Wikipedia, YouTube has greatly impacted my career in that I am able to subscribe to content all over the internet and have it directly imported to my email inbox or RSS reader. This enables me to stay on top of the latest in the field of distance learning as well as contribute to the conversation with my own blog posts or tweets.