Speed has an important place in the texts that describe our society. In the philosophy of Virilio for example, speed is born out of militarism, where the speed of movement and of reactions determine the success or failure of an attack.

We also find it in David Harvey’s «The Condition of Postmodernity» where speed is added by the economic system: distances shrink and the running time of processes shorten in the capitalists’ search for profits.

Nowadays, with the growing influence of the internet and ICT, new questions about time become visible. Here it is not so much about acceleration relative to a fixed scale on a clock, but also about a different way of experiencing time itself. Duncheon & Tierney, (2013) understand it as a kind of disorientation which is a little similar to the loss of spatial reference points and “deterritorialisation” (see my eariler post)

One of the things we value about distance learning is the possibility of studying wherever the student finds it convenient. The quality of mobility itself supposes that the time of study should be measured differently for various reasons: The quality of attention changes because the student is not in a classroom, but for example in a bus. She may not have to hand useful accessories like a pen or headphones, and there may be distractions. Time online can’t really be measured linearly – the student may be working on several tasks simultaneously and then the computer itself is also a source of distractions. These conditions are rather different from the conditions of the classroom where the teacher is constantly indicating what to look at. The latest messages and news from the net don’t reach into the school classroom.

For a traditional teacher probably the main skill is how to structure the time of a class so that each step is understandable and follows logically from the previous one. By contrast, one possible kind of learning using the internet would be simply to provide the student with some huge pile of resources (such as wikipedia) and say “spend 3 hours a day on your self-development” and with this my work as a teacher is over once and for all. For a certain (small) section of the population that might be quite reasonable – and that kind of autonomous student won’t be back for any more help. However, the typical student will experience the feelings of disorientation and meaninglessness which I have already described in previous posts.

Is it possible for the creators of online courses to define the order of steps in the study of students who are wandering who knows where, and who are free to decide for themselves when to visit the course web page? In future posts, I will describe in more detail how the Moodle system can help to achieve that.

Duncheon, J. C., & Tierney, W. G. (2013). Changing Conceptions of Time: Implications for Educational Research and Practice. Review of Educational Research, 83(2), 236–272.