Technology, Teaching, and the Many Distances of Distance Learning




distance learning, technology, technique, teaching, technological distance, distributed cognition


The “distance” in “distance learning”, however it is defined, normally refers to a gap between a learner and their teacher(s), typically in a formal context. In this paper I take a slightly different view. The paper begins with an argument that teaching is fundamentally a technological process. It is, though, a vastly complex, massively distributed technology in which the most important parts are enacted idiosyncratically by vast numbers of people, both present and distant in time and space, who not only use technologies but also participate creatively in their enactment. Through the techniques we use we are co-participants in not just technologies but the learning of ourselves and others, and hence in the collective intelligence of those around us and, ultimately, that of our species. We are all teachers. There is therefore not one distance between learner and teacher in any act of deliberate learning— but many. I go on to speculate on alternative ways of understanding distance in terms of the physical, temporal, structural, agency, social, emotional, cognitive, cultural, pedagogical, and technological gaps that may exist between learners and their many teachers. And I conclude with some broad suggestions about ways to reduce these many distances

Author Biography

Jon Dron, Athabasca University

Professor Jon Dron is the Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Athabasca University, Canada, and a British National Teaching Fellow. His latest book, How Education Works: Teaching, Technology, and Technique is scheduled for publication by AU Press in Spring 2023. Website:

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