Reflection to Simonson’s emerging theory of distance education
and equivalence of learning experiences

According to Schlosser and Simonson (2009, p. 25), the equivalency theory states “that the more equivalent the learning experiences of distant students are to that of local students, the more equivalent will be the outcomes of the learning experience. The equivalency theory put more emphasis on equivalent than identical. That is, various instructional design and resources can be considered equivalent if they still have the same learning effects. The concept of equivalency can be broken down into two rules. (1) Local and distance learners have fundamentally different environments in which they learn and (2) a learning experience is anything that promotes learning, including what is observed, felt, heard, or done. In my opinion, the theory presents a compelling argument to define a framework for distance education. Although the authors’ position is attractive, there are a number of weaknesses in this concept. In no case the authors provide a solution to facilitate learning experiences. Furthermore, the concept of equivalency was defined in a way that authors’ pay little attention to the numerous factors which may affect the realization of this theory and thus, it is almost impossible or very hard to imagine it in the near future. The most salient factor is the digital divide.

One of the key concepts in equivalency theory is the use of telecommunication synchronously or asynchronously. The digital divide causes inequality in education. In today’s education, there is a huge gap in academic achievement in United State, let alone the situation in other parts of the globe. How the equivalency theory can be applied, when the rapid diffusion of information has added a new issue in education inequality. We are still not talking about the equivalency where the different instructions and resources may produce equivalent learning. In this regards, I think the equivalency theory is a nice theory but has no implication to resolve any instructional problem in distance education, not yet.

Simonson, M. R., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2000). Teaching and learning at a distance. Merrill Upper Saddle River, NJ. Retrieved from