Improving Traditional Teaching Using Findings from Distance Education


Introduce the topic of distance education in a faculty meeting and you tend to get a variety of responses. Some faculty feel pressure to "get on the distance education train or be left behind" while other faculty dismiss this method of education as "totally inappropriate" for their field. The concerns and issues faculty have about distance education must be given serious consideration but careful contemplation should also be given to elements in distance education that make this learning environment successful for some students. Frequently, distance education instruction tries to duplicate or mimic instruction occurring in traditional (face-to-face) classroom settings. Yet I noticed that as I studied and implemented instructional strategies for the distance environment, my teaching in traditional courses improved. Teaching strategies I used in my distance courses surfaced in my traditional courses. As I thought about my teaching in both environments, I realized I was placing more emphasis on some of the distance instructional strategies than on the traditional strategies with which I was well familiar. My traditional teaching was always good and I had positive student evaluations from large and small classes. But with the combination of instructional strategies, my traditional courses improved even more. This article looks at two theoretical frameworks utilized in distance education that provide opportunities for student success, and how these factors could transfer into traditional teaching environments. The purpose of this paper is to show areas where research from distance teaching can help educators involved in traditional teaching create more meaningful and engaging learning environments for students.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Effective Teaching, under a Creative Commons "Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs 2.0" license.


Journal of Effective Teaching

Date of publication




Persistent identifier

Document Type


Publisher Citation

Swain, C. (2002). Improving traditional teaching using findings from distance education. Effective Teaching, [Online series], 5(2),