Designing a course is a bit like creating a recipe. The idea is to come up with the steps you need to end up with a desired outcome. You use a variety of tools and techniques, add in a collection of ingredients, and end up with a meal – sorta.
The problem with designing and developing distance courses is embodied in Equivalency Theory. According to Equivalency you need to account for everything in the classroom and make sure there’s some equivalent function in the distance course. The issue for me here is that I’m not willing to accept equivalence in outcomes — I want superior ones — and that’s an interesting ideal. That aside, we have to make sure that as a minimum we design into our distance courses all the functions and features of a classroom based experience which contribute to positive outcomes. We don’t need to design in parking tickets or flat tires. Those technological obstacles happen whether we like it or not. We do need to design in the social interactions that make all the difference between a class students find exemplary and one they find to be less than engaging. We need to design in the content area interactions that provide for the instructional components. And we need to design in the connectability that permits students to develop a feeling of affiliation with some part of the distance course. Some students will want to become affiliated with the teacher, others with other students. Some will be satisfied with connections to the content. Some will be satisfied with affiliation with the school or the program.
Equivalency doesn’t mean we have to do the same things in distance delivery that we do in the classroom — only that we find analogs for those things which can be encoded and delivered via some channel that’s available in our environment. That is where the tool selection comes into play because it is thru the use of the channels inherent in the tools that our equivalence is accomplished.