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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.).


Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The future of distance education. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from

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.


A Guide to Converting a Face-to-Face Class to a Blended Learning Environment

23 Feb

Imagine you want to convert an existing, face-to-face training program to an online or blended environment in order to improve communication among the trainees. What steps would you follow? What pre-planning strategies would you follow? Are parts of the class enhanced because of the online technologies available? How does your role as trainer change? How do you encourage communication? All these questions are answered in the attached guide. By following the ADDIE process, with some specific attention needed for the online environment, a trainer can adapt the material and methods of the class to a different platform. The overall goal remains the same no matter which layout you are using. “Keep it simple; make it better; and resist the temptation to do otherwise” (Center for Teaching Excellence, n.d., p. 23).

Converting to a Distance Learning Format


Center for Teaching Excellence. (n.d.) Online teaching and learning resource guide. Retrieved from

MIT Open Courseware Lacks Planning for the Online Learning Environment

8 Feb

When I went to undergraduate school for manufacturing engineering, I chose Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) for my education.  WPI is a fantastic school and I learned a lot while attending.  But the Mecca for all engineering students is Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  MIT has always been held up as an elite college and perhaps, the best of the best.  When the assignment for the Distance Learning class at Walden University asked me to chose a free online course and evaluate it for its pre-planning and focus on distance learning, I jumped at the chance to look at a course from MIT.  I looked through the course offerings on the MIT website and finally selected Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods, a class that would be applicable to my current occupation as a process engineer.

The most important document the instructional designer can create for an online class is a syllabus (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  The syllabus acts as the main communication form between the instructor and the student.  Without one, the student will not have enough information to know how to proceed with readings, requirements and assignments.  The syllabus also provides information on what to do if there is a problem or question related to any aspect of the class, including technology and contacting the instructor.  The syllabus for the Introduction to Lean Six Sigma Methods is basic, supplying the course meeting times, a general description, links to biographies of the instructors and the course schedule.  There is no contact information for the instructor as these are self taught lessons.  There is also very little detail as to what the topics entail.  No linking from the session topics means it is more difficult for the student to navigate.  A good instructor will reduce the cognitive load on the student and forcing them to hunt for topic information, does not create that optimized learning environment (Mayer, n.d.).  The missing communications framework shows a lack of planning on the part of MIT.

The course uses a combination of video lectures as well as lecture notes to deliver the content.  There is a download area for course materials, but it merely contains the HTML pages associated with the course as well as the necessary files.  It is the exact same content as the online version of the course, without the java applets, audio, video and other special content.  The videos included, all lasting approximately an hour, are captures of face-to-face lectures with any slides shown displayed on the screen in their original format.  The orientation lecture goes over the course learning objectives and the outline of the course.  A good course designer will examine the content and sequence it appropriately for the student (Simonson et al., 2012).  MIT does a nice job of providing not just the course objectives, but the objectives of each of the segments throughout the three day course.  Each video starts with an outline of the topics and objectives and sequencing is orderly and flows from concept to concept.

One of the flaws to this method is the lack of understanding that there are differences between face-to-face instruction and that of distance learning.  The course does not seem to be carefully pre-planned and designed for the distance learning environment.  “Courses previously taught in traditional classrooms may need to be retooled.  The focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentations of information” (Simonson et al., 2012, p 153).

Media selection is lacking and it does not seem to have much thought put into it. There is no interaction with the content leaving the student with a lack of engagement.  The learning environment is both place-shifted and time-shifted leading to a completely asynchronous environment (Simonson et al., 2012).  In fact, since there are no other students taking the class at the same time, there is interaction available.  The learner led, asynchronous environment is the least effective method of delivery (Piskurich, n.d.).  No course activities that enhance engagement between the student and the material are included.  There are no assignments or work required on the student’s part other than watching the videos.  The simulation that is part of three of the sessions in not included but there is a downloadable paper and presentation that describe the simulation conducted as well as various student reactions.

Overall, the MIT course layout will present the topics and concepts in an organized and logical manner to the student but does very little to foster engagement of the learner.  This lack of interactive communication with other students or the material is a key component that is lacking to make this a soundly designed class.


Mayer, R. E. (n.d.). Triarchic model of cognitive load: Parts 1 and 2. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved July 9, 2012, from

Murman, E., McManus, H., Weigel, A., and Haggerty, A. (2008, January). 16.660 Introduction to lean six sigma methods. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA. Retrieved February 4, 2013 from

Piskurich, G., and Chaucer, J. (n.d.) Planning and designing online courses.  Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc.  Retrieved February 5, 2013, from

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

Asynchronous Training Technologies – Example 3

26 Jan

Asynchronous Training Technologies – Example 3

Let’s say a company needs a series of safety training videos to illustrate best practices for equipment usage and a method to demonstrate trainee learning after completion of the online course.  As an instructional designer, which technology tools would be best used to solve the issue?

There are many options to choose that would help solve this problem.  If you break the question apart, there are two distinct issues at hand.  Distributing step-by-step process instructions for a complex piece of machinery to different shifts will require streaming video to be most effective.  Streaming video has many benefits.  According to Greenberg and Zanetis (2012), the three key concepts that streaming videos impact are interactivity with content, engagement, and knowledge transfer and memory.  Engagement and the student’s apparent value placed on the course are thought to be essential to a student’s retention of material and their positive learning experience (Harrington & Floyd, 2012).  Interactivity occurs when the student is able to relate the video content seen to when they apply the concept.  Video combines multiple input methods in combination to promote learning and knowledge transfer.  By merging pictures, movement, text, animation, graphics and sound together, the student has more control of the learning (Greenberg & Zanetis, 2012).  For example, the Darla Moore School at the University of South Carolina incorporated various video technologies into the organization design class to allow students to interact with experts from NBC facilities in New York. (Greenberg & Zantis, 2012).  Students were able to present their projects to professionals and ask for recommendations for improvement.  Streaming video eliminated the physical distance between the students and the subject matter experts located hundreds of miles away.

The second question involves supervisors ensuring that the employees are both engaged and can demonstrate their learning.  Creating an online assessment or survey can be easily developed to determine the effectiveness of the training.  According to Pellegrino (2009), assessment, in a transformative perspective, can break down the obstacles between competency and proficiency, similar to the role played by educational technology (as cited in Learner Assessment, n.d.).  Websites like SurveyMonkey and KwikSurveys allow anyone to easily create online assessments that can be customized to a particular course or training session ( and Assessments results are automatically collected and tabulated for analysis.  For example, Kaplan University used post-class assessments to get an idea on how their students enjoyed the class as well as their knowledge retention. Surveys showed that many felt bored through the class as they already knew much of the material.  Kaplan instituted a credit for work or life experience, military training and other certifications where undergraduates can create and submit a portfolio for credit considerations (Kaplan University, n.d.).

Streaming video can hold the attention of the student, fit various learning styles and can act as reinforcement to learning (Cofield, 2002).  Greenberg & Zanetis (2012) echoed this reinforcement principle: “Students today are increasingly visual-spatial learners, able to multitask and interact with multimedia” (p. 35).  Online assessments take this interaction capability and allow a way not just to monitor student learning but to improve the quality of the student learning experience (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).


Cofield, J. L. (2002). An assessment of streaming video in web-based instruction. Presented at the annual meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association, Chattanooga, TN. Retrieved from

Greenberg, A. D. and Zanetis, J. (2012, March). The impact of broadcast and streaming video in education. Retrieved from

Harrington, S. J., and Floyd, K. S. (2012). Enhancing engagement and the value of the course to the student through course organization and active learning. In M. Bart (Ed.). Online student engagement tools and strategies (pp. 16-18). Reprinted from Online Classroom, 2009.  Retrieved from

Kaplan University. (n.d.). Credit for prior learning. Retrieved January 30, 2013 from

Learner Assessment. (n.d.). In Edutech Wiki. Retrieved from

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

Stiggins, R, and Chappuis, J. ().Using student-involved classroom assessment to close achievement gaps.  Theory into Practice, 44(1), 11-18.  Retrieved from


Distance Learning Definitions are a Changin’

13 Jan

Prior to starting EDUC-6135, I viewed distance learning as a method of studying where class content was provided over the Internet in a combination of synchronous and asynchronous methods.  Though this definition is technically accurate, it is not precise enough to be completely correct.  Even after only one week of research, I realized that there were many facets of my definition that were omitted.

A true definition of distance education must include four characteristics.  First, distance education must be institutionally based.  It is not a self-study class but must be formalized through either a school or other organization like a business or company (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  Second, there needs to be some separation between a learner and the instructor as well as between the various learners.  This separation could be due to geographical differences and possibly time.  Students do not have to be in the same location and could be separated by great distances and time zones.  The asynchronous nature of the learning allows anyone from any location access to the same materials and resources at any time.

The acquisition of these materials and resources leads to the third criteria, interactive communications, which may be electronic or otherwise.  Communications are not limited to the internet but can still include standard postal mail.  Though the internet has improved the ability to interact, it is not the sole method.  Lastly, distance education is comprised of learning groups composed of students, teachers and the resources required.

A revised definition of distance learning would be formal instruction from an institution (school or business) that uses interactive communication to bridge the distance and time that separates the learning group, instructor and class resources.

The definition of distance learning is constantly changing due to the ever-increasing technological capabilities available (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b).  Not so far in the past, podcasts were the latest way to improve on the written blog.  Anyone who had a simple microphone and some free software could post an audio file that someone could listen to at their leisure.  As bandwidth and transfer speeds have increased, video-casts are more and more prevalent.  Social media has exploded in recent years, evolving from simple blogs to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and many others.  Smartphones have the capacity to connect to the internet and post updates to all of these social media sites, providing for a method of real-time updates of news and events worldwide (Cohen, 2012).

The future of distance learning is very bright and will continue to grow as technology grows.  Brick and mortar schools will never disappear completely.  There will always be a need for face to face instruction and communication.  However, instructional designers must find a way to transition distance learning from a method of supplying information to that of a true effective learning model (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008a).  Instructional designers are trained in the various learning styles of students but they must establish how they best interact with the e-learning models available and figure out which one works best.  Instruction that is based on-line holds the ability to increase learner to learner communication (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008a).  Distance learning, though, should be viewed as a tool in an educator’s bag.  Steven Cohen (2012) states “the specific tool used should be the one best matched to the educational objective.  Just because you have a tool and you know how it works, doesn’t mean you have to use it.”  The ease of obtaining information and the power that the digital world has does mean that a good educator will find a way to incorporate it into their lesson.

Distance Learning Mind Map2


Cohen, S. (2012, October 1). Distance Learning and the Future of Education. Retrieved from The Huffington Post:

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

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