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Distance learning through the decades: from Rilke to your rec room

Writing is, by nature, a solitary activity. Yet to become better writers, most of us want more than just endless hours of solitary practice. We also want some form of communion with other writers: classes, workshops, conferences, writers’ groups, mentoring, and so on.

Today, technology enables us to commune in more ways than ever before. We can speak to each other voice-to-voice, keyboard-to-keyboard, and now face-to-face via live video streaming, even though we’re many miles apart. Educational theorists tell us that this has created a revolution in learning, and that we’re entering a brave and wondrous new world.

I respectfully disagree. Distance learning can certainly be brave and wondrous, just as any learning can be. But is it new? Hardly. We writers have been using distance learning very effectively for hundreds of years.

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