Distance learning and early childhood education: Retrospectives and future directions

Volume 1, Number1 - November 2006


New Zealand Tertiary College has in recent years re-positioned within the tertiary sector to report on its legal and statutory requirements for government. An integral part of this development has been vision of the institution to actively engage in the provision of research informed early childhood education academic credentials at local, national and international levels. He Kupu has emerged as a contribution to the academic research community by New Zealand Tertiary College. The value of this first publication of He Kupu heralds the unique nature that distance learning in its many forms has given to the field of early childhood education. The exacting nature of this initiative provides further opportunity for people to share research informed contributions in early childhood education.



James D. Marshall is Emeritus Professor at the University of Auckland. He has published extensively on a wide range of issues associated with education. His contribution to the philosophy of education is highly regarded nationally and internationally. A comprehensive celebration of James D. Marshall’s contribution to education scholarship is published in Educational Philosophy and Theory, Volume 37, Number 3, 2005.


Peer-reviewed Papers

There is a pressing need for early childhood educators to upskill. Distance education approaches are the obvious solution, as they permit scalable and flexible education for isolated learners. E- learning provides many teaching and learning possibilities, particularly using Nipper’s (1989) third generation of distance education. This third generation is characterised by communications between instructor and students and between students themselves. However a fourth generation is now possible, one that places the student at the very heart of the education experience. This paper considers the potential for third and fourth- generation distance education in the context of early childhood education.


Based on years of experience teaching online, leading eTeaching faculty development institutes, and developing an online learning management system for early childhood teacher education, the authors share lessons learned about effective practices for teaching and learning online. Their work is done in the context of early childhood teacher education and they have created eTeaching and eLearning solutions that are specific and responsive to who the learners are, how they learn, and the requirements of the early childhood content. Fox and Donohue identify and describe six trends and eight effective practices, and make the case that it is the focus on early childhood learners and content connected with established adult learning principles, proven distance learning methods, informed instructional design, and enabling technologies that lead to innovative and effective online teaching and learning.

This paper describes how early childhood teachers can support the development of young children’s love for learning through play and technology. All children need an opportunity to experience and to explore technology at an early age in order to prepare for life in a modern society and to deepen their problem-solving skills. Technology is a big part of young children’s lives, and early childhood educators need to know how to implement play and technology in their programs, yet, overexposure can present a problem. Finding the appropriate balance is critically important. For this reason, suggestions for implementing an appropriate program that blends technology and play are provided along with reviews of educational software and websites that can be beneficial for both children and teachers.

Student's Voice

I have worked in the early childhood field on and off since 1999 when my current boss set up her own centre. Prior to that I helped in the office and played mother helper at my oldest daughter's preschool. I have now been in the early childhood field so long and like it so much that I really can't see myself do anything else.


Teacher's Voice

Jenny is a distance learning student following an online teaching diploma. She is intelligent, resourceful and works well with people and especially with children. She was motivated to further her studies and obtain the necessary qualification for her teacher registration. A few months into her studies, however, she started to struggle. She did not like reading articles and her essays tended to be unstructured and lacked depth. The feedback on her assignments reflected this difficulty, and she started to feel demoralised. Despite the personal support and encouragement provided by her distance learning lecturer, she was seriously thinking about giving up.



Mark Nicols, Claire McLachlan, Selena Fox, Chip Donohue, Simon Testa, Satomi Izumi-Taylor, Dorothy J. Sluss, F. Ann Lovelace