In her significantly updated and expanded edition of Teach Beyond Your Reach, Robin Neidorf provides new and experienced distance educators with best practices and examples, an overview of tools and platforms, and strategies for dealing with key issues.
Whether you call it distance learning, virtual classrooms, or by some other term, the use of technology to deliver instruction to people who are not physically present in a classroom continues to grow in popularity with organizations and with individuals.
In nine chapters, Neidorf provides basics, philosophy, design principles, and development tips, and delivers key tips for supporting learners during and after your distance learning event. If you are among those who are moving from classroom instruction to online, this book gets high recommendation as a guide.
Strengths of the book
There are worksheets and checklists throughout the book that will be very helpful as guides to your development work. Distance learning does require some additional considerations that you would not have to be concerned about when designing a classroom course. These job aids alone are worth the price of the book.
Here is a typical example of Neidorf’s insights and helpful comments throughout the book: She sketches “learner profiles” in the chapter on “Individual Learners.” I find such sketches very useful in designing instruction. As she says, “If it seems to take an immense amount of time and effort to focus on individuals and their needs, you are reading this chapter correctly. Because effective distance learning is learner-centered, an instructor can have a solid idea of how to instruct only by having a detailed understanding of the learners.”
Neidorf includes some content that has no support from research: In other words, she presents as doctrine what many experts consider to be myths. In the chapter “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Students,” she uses up 10 pages to present “learning styles” and “generational differences.” The best research results suggest that these styles and generational characteristics do not exist. However, she is right to discuss audience analysis before she discusses instructional design.
My other quibble is with the coverage of social media and mobile learning—it is very sparse. I wouldn’t expect an in-depth treatment of these topics in a book like this one, but there definitely should have been discussion of ways to incorporate them into a blended design, and tips on how they can support collaborative learning, informal learning, and creating a community of learners.
This book should be on your shelf
When you are further along, you will want to find out more about how to incorporate social media, informal learning, collaboration, and mobile technology, but what you get in Teach Beyond Your Reach is still a great resource.
Neidorf, Robin (2012). Teach Beyond Your Reach: An Instructor’s Guide to Developing and Running Successful Distance Learning Classes, Workshops, Training Sessions, and More (Second Edition). Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc. 214 pages. ISBN 978-1-937290-01-6.
Paperback: $29.95 list, $18.46 at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. There are no eBook versions.