Building the Future

A Theoretical Perspective

Authored by: Farhad Saba

Handbook of Distance Education

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415897648
eBook ISBN: 9780203803738
Adobe ISBN: 9781136635571

10.4324/9780203803738.ch4

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Abstract

While the practice of distance education is rapidly growing, its theoretical base is not, and is in need of further articulation. Questions to be addressed in this regard include:

In a field that is growing rapidly in the number of institutions, practitioners, and students, what is the most appropriate approach for theory building?

In a discipline that has spawned several subfields, how can we understand the relationships between different—and at times seemingly unrelated—ideas, research results, and practices?

As complex and colorful as distance education is, and may become in the future, how can we cast a net wide enough to capture its key attributes in parsimonious theoretical principles?

The task is daunting. The literature in the field is immense and increasing in volume rapidly. In this volume, Black has documented how scholarship in distance education has exploded since 1995, with increasing numbers of researchers in professional organizations and graduate programs contributing to the knowledge-base in journal articles, books, monographs, master's theses, and doctoral dissertations. Online databases have also been established by organizations such as the World Bank, each of which includes thousands of documents and resources. Although this surge in publishing is a welcome development, it has created some challenges for the theoretician.

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