Happy Holden's Essential Skills: Online Instruction and Distance Learning

Reading time ( words)

To finish writing this section, I enrolled in this free course. I completed the course in 20 days, even though the live seminars are spaced over a 10-week span. Only two of the live seminars were conducted after I enrolled, but the series cycles again, and I can join them any time I wish. I can also go back to any part of the lectures and courses to review materials in the future. What I found interesting were the textbooks and other materials I received even though the course was free! Like any college course, there was a lot of reading, assignments, discussions, and quizzes involved. 

The courses ended with a project assignment. If I elected to pay a fee, I could get university credits for the course. I encourage you to sign up for one of the many free courses to get a better idea of how distance learning works. It is clear that a distance-learning course has a lot more up-front time for the instructor than a normal face-to-face course, but once accomplished, it becomes available to anyone around the world. 

Figure 5: Distance learning has existed with face-to-face learning and open education programs. MOOCs have recently come along and continue to evolve [5].

Distributed Open Collaborative Courses (DOCCs)

DOCCs recognize that the pursuit of knowledge may be better achieved by not using a centralized singular syllabus. Expertise is distributed throughout all the participants and does not reside with just one or two instructors. 

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

A massive open online course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the internet. In addition to traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, quizzes, and problem sets, many MOOCs provide interactive user forums to support community interactions among students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs were first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning by 2012 (Figure 5). MOOCs are still evolving (Figure 6), and Table 2 shows a number of early MOOC providers out of the nearly 76 institutions today. 

Figure 6: MOOC is an evolving open-access method of distance learning. Every letter is negotiable. It has two variants—x-MOOC and c-MOOC [5].


Table 2: Partial List of Providers for Distance Learning with University/Industry Participation [5].

E-learning (another name for distance learning) has become so pervasive at universities and colleges that many now offer full graduate engineering degrees. If you want to develop your own e-learning course, most of the commercial sites in Table 2 have an affiliate program” that will help you to create the course and market it for you. For example, Udemy has 20,000 instructors supplying 11 million students in 190 countries. The instructors average $8,000 in income for their classes. If you want to learn more, check out some of the free materials listed in the references [2, 6, & 7].


The generations currently in high school and college have grown up with digital devices, video games, mobile phones, and social networking. This has affected them and changed the nature of how they learn. To continue their education in electronics manufacturing (and specifically, printed circuit fabrication and surface mounted assembly), training and education need to be adjusted to this new generation of learners. For someone as old as me, the challenge is to adapt my style of teaching to these new digital learners.


  1. Flores, J.G. “Distance Learning: Enabling the Race to the Top.” USDLA, November 16, 2009.
  2. Siemens, G., & Tittenberger, P. “Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning.” March 2009, University of Manitoba Press.
  3. Lwin, T. “Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs),” The Global New Light of Myanmar, March 8, 2017.
  4. Open College at Kaplan University. “HE547: Effective Online Instruction–Principle and Practice.” (Now Purdue University Global)
  5. Massive open online course (MOOC), MOOC.org
  6. Veletsianos, G., Emerging Technologies in Distance Education, AU Press, July 2010.
  7. Anderson, T., Theory and Practice of Online Learning, AU Press, May 2008.


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