A Reflection on Distance Learning

2 Mar

As technology advances and there are more and more capabilities, so will distance education. Where students once participated in correspondence courses through the mail where weeks can go by between letters, now they can communicate on discussion boards where virtually instant responses are possible. Gone are the days where a student was required to watch a television program at a certain time to see the professor’s lecture. This requirement has been replaced with video that can be watched at any time from any place through the use of streaming media on the internet. As technology has been incorporated into lesson plans of teachers, professors and corporate trainers around the world, the positive perception of distance learning is increasing. Siemens (n.d.) states that the rising acceptance of online education is “fueled by an increase in online communication, practical experience with new tools, growing comfort with online discourse, and the ability to communicate with diverse and global groups” (n.p.). As technology becomes more commonplace in daily activities, distance learning will continue to gain recognition as an acceptable educational method.
In the next five to 10 years, distance learning will continue to become a more prevalent and accepted method for obtaining a higher education. Where it was once thought that the only satisfactory method to engage the student to promote proper learning for certain courses was in the classroom, the increased capabilities of technology are now proving that it is possible to teach these classes in a blended environment. With more and more people experiencing distance learning, the perceptions will change. According to the study by Schmidt and Gallegos (2001), “respondents who had experience with distance education had more concrete suggestions and comments directly related to deliver of a course via distance delivery than those who had none” (p. 5). Instead of making generalizations about something a person has never experienced, people will become more and more knowledgeable about distance learning and its benefits. Common misconceptions of society can be eliminated through participation in the activity. Any misconceptions in the quality that can be achieved through distance education should be eliminated in the next 10 to 20 years.
Instructional designers must become proponents for improving society’s opinion of what distance learning is. The first way to do this is to prove that solid lessons can be delivered in the online environment. Increased contributions by experts around the world will add credibility to the notion that distance learning can be equivalent, and in some cases more effective, than traditional face-to-face education (Siemens, n.d.). The field of distance education is extremely diverse and continually changing. “New technologies and new ideas about student learning challenge the traditional techniques for the practice of distance education” (Simonson, 1999, p. 5). It is up to us to endorse the idea that the education received during online instruction is not necessarily the same, but equivalent to the face-to-face environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The other way to change the societal view of lower standing distance education has when academic integrity is concerned. We must work together with administrators to leverage the high reputations of our institutions to prove that the academic standard of the online course is equivalent to the campus program.
It is our responsibility as instructional designers to help continue this growth and acceptance. IDs must remain a positive force for continuous improvement in the incorporation of distance learning in all settings. Corporate trainers should embrace the use of the internet to deliver content to their learners. Teachers from elementary school classes through graduate coursework must continue to demonstrate that the flexibility and student-centered learning environment offered by distance learning is a way to promote individuality of the student (Simonson et al., 2012). Skeptics will offer that the lack of face-to-face communication and interaction between the students and the teacher is a detriment to the learning process. To counteract this opinion, we must make use of technologies such as Skype and FaceTime that allow students to make video calls from computers or Smartphones. The more experience people have with online communication in normal daily life, the more apt they will to be accepting of its practical use in education (Siemens, n.d.).

References

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The future of distance education. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2095296_1%26url%3D

Simonson, M. (1999). Equivalency theory and distance education. TechTrends, 43(5).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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