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Distance Education and Technology-enhanced Learning

Technology-enhanced learning has its roots in correspondence Education, an instructional practice in which teacher and students who were separated by distance used various modes of technology to supplement print-based materials and enhance communication and learning outcomes. This approach later came to be known as distance education, and remains an important method of extending access to learning opportunities. Today, technology-enhanced learning encompasses a variety of information and communication technologies to support learning at a distance and in traditional instructional settings.

A range of technological enhancements has been used to augment print-based materials, from radio broadcasts during the 1930s to audiocassette and videocassette tapes in the 1970s. Rapid advances in telecommunications technology during the 1980s facilitated real-time communication among teachers and learners through audio and video. Audioconferences and slow scan video used the telephone system to transmit voice and video images, while fibre optic and cable networks added televised instruction and videoconferences to the technologies available to educators and their learners.

During the early 1980s, the Saskatchewan Tele-learning Association Inc. (STELLA) pioneered a network of thirty-five receiving sites across the province, where students gathered to participate in live televised instruction delivered by satellite. This led to the creation of the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) in 1989, a provincial educational broadcasting authority which continues to operate a network of over 200 receiving sites across the province. Students view their instructors on the receiving site's monitor and communicate by telephone, facsimile, or e-mail. Today, SCN's network also provides Internet access via satellite to small rural and remote facilities.

The 1990s witnessed an explosion in digital technology. Computers and the Internet have revolutionized the use of technology in learning and created flexible and enriched opportunities for learners. In 2001, Saskatchewan launched a second major provincial initiative called CommunityNet, which established a high-speed digital network across the province, providing access to the Internet and a network of electronic educational resources and services.

With the variety of communication tools now available, educators are integrating technologies with traditional instructional methods to enhance interaction and course content in ways that best meet the needs of their learners. Learners in the classroom, in their homes, at work, and across the globe are able to participate in on-line courses and take advantage of a rich array of learning resources via the Internet.

Lynn Oliver

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provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan.
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Diversification de l'économie de l'Ouest Canada et le gouvernement de la Saskatchewan.