Learning can be very frightening for learners and instructors.
It takes time to get acquainted with the many possibilities
involved in the process. In relation to time and pace,
instruction may take place in real time (synchronous
learning) or on a time-delayed basis (asynchronous
learning), so that learners can progress through the
course at their own speed with some amount of flexibility.
Synchronous learning provides immediate communication
and feedback, although it might not give enough time
for learners to absorb and process the information
being dealt with. Asynchronous learning comprises a
combination of self-study with substantial and rapid
interaction amongst participants and teachers, without
the requirement to be on-line at the same time. Although
the learners and the instructor are separated by time
and space, they are linked by common interest and electronic
As for place,
one has to keep in mind the possibility of working
at satellite campuses, at work or at home,
providing room for traditional and non-traditional
learners to progress in education. In relation to path,
different alternatives are available, including audio
technologies – telephone conference calls or
radio; video technologies – videotape, compressed
digital video, cable, satellite delivered programming;
computer-based learning technologies – CD-ROM,
internet, desk-top video conferencing, and support
technologies – e-mail, fax, phone and the world-wide
web. The possibility of combination of different technologies
brings great benefits to distance learning education.
education aspects are being put into practice in
a project called “Prática
de Ensino On-Line”, a site opening in August
2002 under the address: www.uniandrade.br/praticadeensino
is being developed for the “Teaching
Practice” subject at the English/Portuguese major
of “Centro Universitário Campos de Andrade”.
That is a private university which currently has more
than 8,000 students and operates in the city of Curitiba,
The English/Portuguese major is a short-length course
(3 years) that qualifies teaching professionals to
be acting as teachers in the primary and secondary
school sectors. The working field for these professionals
is in state schools mainly in Curitiba and the metropolitan
area around it.
As the site is directed to trainees graduating in
English as well as in Portuguese, many of the contents
are in Portuguese, although as the site progresses
and develops there are plans to make it entirely bilingual.
“Teaching Practice” is
a subject that is offered in the last year of the
course. Its objectives
are to scaffold the transition between the theoretical
content (all the linguistic and methodological subjects)
and practice (when students begin to perform as trainees
in primary and secondary schools).
One of the main points to justify the creation of
the site is that about 90% of the work in the Teaching
Practice Subject is done outside college under the
supervision of a small team of professors.
Each supervisor has under her care about 50 trainees
and as a consequence, trainees and supervisors often
face problems in scheduling personal meetings. Although
supervisors always make themselves available at the
university at certain pre-arranged times and make
their telephone numbers known, trainees do not always
have the flexibility of time or feel at ease to call
the supervisors at home. Consequently there have
been some reports of feelings of demotivation and
Another difficulty is that the training program encompasses
schools scattered all over the city of Curitiba (2
million inhabitants) and the metropolitan area. There
are few opportunities to exchange impressions and to
reflect about the work being done in loco. Additionally,
supervisors have to make a great deal of effort to
keep track of the work being done by individual trainees.
Some of them deliberately evade supervision.
The main objectives of the site are twofold. As for
the pages of the site that are restricted to the
university students, the objectives are to facilitate
the trainee’s access to the materials related
to the subject and mainly to facilitate communication
between supervisors and trainees.
As for the pages that are open to the public in general,
the aims are to integrate the trainee, the university
and the schools where the training program is happening.
Secondary objectives are to provide trainees and teachers
in general with an opportunity to display their ideas
and the work they have been doing and to provide the
opportunity for trainees to meet people with the same
interests and concerns virtually in their spare time
and in the comfort of their own homes or at the computer
labs of their institutions.
Finally, due to the
fact that people from two universities are involved
in the creation of the site, another objective
is to integrate trainees from different universities.