The Distributed Classroom

From Learning in Large-Scale Environments

The Distributed Classroom

By David A. Joyner and Charles Isbell

A vision of the future of education in which the classroom experience is distributed across space and time without compromising learning.





A vision of the future of education in which the classroom experience is distributed across space and time without compromising learning.

What if there were a model for learning in which the classroom experience was distributed across space and time—and students could still have the benefits of the traditional classroom, even if they can't be present physically or learn synchronously? In this book, two experts in online learning envision a future in which education from kindergarten through graduate school need not be tethered to a single physical classroom. The distributed classroom would neither sacrifice students' social learning experience nor require massive development resources. It goes beyond hybrid learning, so ubiquitous during the COVID-19 pandemic, and MOOCs, so trendy a few years ago, to reimagine the classroom itself.

David Joyner and Charles Isbell, both of Georgia Tech, explain how recent developments, including distance learning and learning management systems, have paved the way for the distributed classroom. They propose that we dispense with the dichotomy between online and traditional education, and the assumption that online learning is necessarily inferior. They describe the distributed classroom's various delivery modes for in-person students, remote synchronous students, and remote asynchronous students; the goal would be a symmetry of experiences, with both students and teachers able to move from one mode to another. With The Distributed Classroom, Joyner and Isbell offer an optimistic, learner-centric view of the future of education, in which every person on earth can be a potential learner as barriers of cost, geography, and synchronicity disappear.


$29.95 T ISBN: 9780262046053 360 pp. | 5.25 in x 8 in 2 b&w illus.


  • “Given global turbulence and disruption, we must learn lifelong and life-wide. This valuable book describes how the personal presence provided by 'distributed classrooms' provides the continuous motivational and social support necessary to sustain this.”

    Chris Dede

    Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies, Harvard University; coeditor of The 60-Year Curriculum: New Models for Lifelong Learning in the Digital Economy

  • “Joyner and Isbell offer innovative solutions to problems that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed in our adoption of new learning modalities. Working from experience, they show how the benefits of the classroom experience can be brought to a variety of course concepts and to categories of learners that have not been adequately served by existing methods of delivery.”

    Michael M. Crow

    President, Arizona State University

  • The Distributed Classroom is a masterpiece by leading practitioners of online learning. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how education will unfold through the twenty-first century.”

    Barbara Oakley

    Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Oakland University; creator of the popular MOOC Learning How to Learn; Coursera's Inaugural Innovation Instructor