Perceptions of Distance Learning
Laureate Education (n.d.) begins the timeline of distance education at 1833. Georgie Miller (2014) starts the timeline even earlier at 1728. The changes in distance education are striking even from a starting point of ten years ago. “Since the 1960s, online learning has dramatically changed affecting small and corporate business, private, and public education, the training sector, and the military in different ways” (Keengwe & Kidd, 2010). From correspondence courses to fully online, and blended learning environments, distance education has evolved as a result of emerging technologies and a continued need to provide quality learning experiences in a flexible manner that meets the needs of learners, and society.
According to George Siemens (n.d.) there is a growing acceptance of distance education because of the “increase in online communication, practical experience with new tools, growing comfort with online discourse, (and the) ability to communicate with a diverse population” (Laureate Education, n.d.). Distance education is already a widely accepted form of education by 75% of hiring managers according to Haynie (2013). As further evidence of the growth of distance learning, according to Bolkan (2013) “the number of college students taking at least one online course nearly doubled, from 23 percent to 45, over the last five years” (Bolkan, 2013).
Instructional designers have a responsibility to provide equivalent, or superior educational experiences in a distance learning format. The ability to diagnose the needs, and the best solution, as well as analyze the learners’ needs in order to create the optimal learning experience, is a key function of effective instructional designers. Learners in an online environment also have the responsibility to act ethically, and be prepared to meet the challenges of learning in a distance education environment which includes assuming a higher level of responsibility for learning. Quality programs will be separated from those with inferior standards, or experiences.
Instructional designers can establish clear ethical, academic guidelines and expectations for their courses, and communicate these expectations by embedding learning modules in the orientation, or introduction of distance learning classes which clearly communicate these standards and expectations. In this manner, instructional designers will be able to promote high standards and be a force for improvement in the field of distance education.
On a more personal note, as an instructional design student, I have found great value in communicating regularly with colleagues in the field, in reading the latest literature, reviews and studies in the field, and in building on the works and premises of those who have gone before in the field of instructional design. By researching, sharing, and reflecting on, learning experiences, and watching the current needs of universities and corporations, and through the effective, well planned, thoughtful use of technology, as well as effective evaluation of current distance learning experiences, I intend to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.
Make the experience a positive, meaningful one, so learners come back for more.
Bolkan, J. (2013). Report: Students taking online courses jumps 96 percent over 5 years. Retrieved from http://campustechnology.com/articles/2013/06/24/report-students-taking-online-courses-jumps-96-percent-over-5-years.aspx
Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1).
Haynie, D. (2013). What employers really think about your online Bachelor’s degree. Retrieved from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/employers-online-degrees-article-1.1372092
Keengwe, J., & Kidd, T., (2010). Towards best practices in online learning and teaching in higher education. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 6(2).
Laureate Education (n.d.). (Producer). Distance Learning Timeline Continuum. [Multimedia file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Miller, G. (2014). History of distance learning. Retrieved from http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/history-of-distance-learning.html
Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3).
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S., (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Boston, MA: Pearson.