Teach Beyond Your Reach: An Instructor’s Guide to Developing and Running Successful Distance Learning Classes, Workshops, Training Sessions, and More by Robin Neidorf
Distance education exists in a wide variety of options, including correspondence classes, Web-based versions of credit classes, massive open online courses, webinars, virtual teams, and self-paced activities or training modules. Sometimes these options are stand-alone and sometimes they are included as components of on-site classes to create blended learning. The range of possibilities is bewildering, and too often instructors attempt to translate face-to-face classes or [End Page R2] workshops into a distance-delivery model without sufficient attention to Marshall McLuhan’s admonition that “each medium, independent of the content it mediates, has its own intrinsic effects which are its unique message” (Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, 1964). Robin Neidorf’s Teach Beyond Your Reach describes itself as “an instructor’s guide to developing and running successful distance learning classes, workshops, training sessions, and more,” and it fulfills its promise. This is a practical and accessible guide, particularly helpful for the instructor who is fairly new to the world of distance education (though there is plentiful helpful advice for more seasoned instructors as well).
Neidorf’s mantra is that interaction is at the heart of the educational experience, regardless of the spatial or temporal disconnect. This thesis is integrated into every chapter, as Neidorf, a communications consultant and director of research for FreePint Ltd., provides a clear and sensible introduction to the use of distance learning tools to create learning through the interaction of content, peer learners, and instructor. The book begins with an overview of the current tools available for online learning and suggested strategies for using these tools. This is followed by a discussion of the characteristics of the distance learner and the role of generational differences and differences in learning styles and educational expectations. The next two chapters provide helpful advice for delivering content in a distance learning environment through effective course design and through the development and delivery of course content that encourages interaction while satisfying learning objectives. The final section of the book covers strategies for managing the distance classroom, techniques for getting to know students as individual learners, and the role of collaboration in designing effective distance classes.
Each chapter is clearly organized and engagingly written, offering numerous examples to demonstrate best practices and useful worksheets and to help the reader apply the strategies and techniques discussed to his or her particular teaching situation. Since Neidorf’s focus is on effective curriculum design rather than on particular learning platforms or tools, Teach Beyond Your Reach should maintain its currency and usefulness despite continual changes and developments in technology and learning platforms. This book is recommended for anyone starting out in distance education or seeking to make their existing distance education classes more interactive, engaging, and successful.