“Distance education and training result from the technological separation of teacher and learner which frees the student from the necessity of traveling to “a fixed place, at a fixed time, to meet a fixed person, in order to be trained” (Valentine, 2002). The advantages of distance learning are plentiful including: flexibility, saving time and money for both student and administration, studying at your own pace, convenience and access to fellow students and administration (Abraham, 2012). While the advantages are plentiful, there is one aspect of distance education that is a concern for distance learners which is the lack of interaction between students and instructors. Research shows one of the leading reasons for why students fail to complete online courses is “isolation-a feeling or belief that they are working alone without the help of their instructor or classmates” (Freeman, 2001). This is the area where I see improvement in distance education in the future. Image

The beginning of this Distance Learning course taught students how distance education has evolved from its earliest days up to the present where it was noted in 2010 that “77% of universities already offer online courses” (LaMartina, 2012). I’m sure that number is even greater today and will continue to grow in the future. Dr. George Siemens noted one reason for growing acceptance of distance education is the “growing acceptance of technology and practical experience with new tools” (Laureate Education, 2009). Technology such as course management systems offering online discussions, blogs, chats and web conferencing give students more opportunity to interact with fellow classmates and their instructor to develop a greater sense of understanding and community. Some of the first distance education concepts were that of correspondence courses where students were allowed to complete coursework from anywhere, anytime, however the student was solely responsible for their progress and often it would take weeks to receive feedback of their work. Today, students can receive much quicker feedback of their views through discussion forums and their grades through an online gradebook. Instructors can hold online lectures through the use of web conferencing and can be available for one-on-one and group meetings through Skype. These technological tools will continue to develop and new ones will be created to make the world a smaller place. This advance in technology will grow in the corporate environment as well allowing businesses to interact globally. The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center conducted a study in which experts and stakeholders were asked how they see instruction in 2020. 60% of the respondents agreed that “There will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources” (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012). Charlie Firestone, executive director of the Communications and Society program at the Aspen Institute stated his views on changing technology that “will allow for more individualized, passion-based learning by the student, greater access to master teaching, and more opportunities for students to connect to others—mentors, peers, sources—for enhanced learning experiences” (Anderson, Boyles, & Rainie, 2012). As technology advances so will the need for more future online courses. The difference between today’s courses and those in 10-20 years will be the tools that will be provided to improve interactivity amongst students and professionals increasing the global community.

As I reflect on what I have learned through this Distance Education course, I think of the title of the degree program Instructional Design and Technology. Our goals are to learn and apply the concepts of good Instructional Design along with learning current technology to display these concepts. “The swift, unforeseen, unexpected and unbelievable achievements of information and communication technologies will require the design of new formats of learning and teaching and [will cause] powerful and far-reaching structural changes of the learning-teaching process” (Peters, 2002, p. 20). It is the responsibility of the instructional designer to incorporate both design concepts and technology in order to meet job requirements such as “The Specialist will apply and modify various instructional design models and components to develop high quality teaching and learning environments” (Walden University, 2013). When we learn and are able to display these concepts in a “quality teaching and learning environment”, we will then be able to change social perceptions that may still see online education as inadequate to face-to-face training. My ambition is to work diligently to improve distance education so that it will fit into the equivalency theory providing the same learning outcomes from distance education as of the brick and mortar classroom.

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Some of us are K-12 educators, some work in the corporate aspect; some of us are teachers and trainers active in the classroom or training department, while others may focus more on development. Whatever our primary role, I can assure you that we all wear many hats. We are responsible for knowing our audience, designing materials to engage the audience, and developing and delivering training to meet desired objectives In order to accomplish my own goals, I strive to learn current trends in order to make myself appealing to the job market. However, my desire to work in the instructional design field goes much deeper than a job itself. My desire is to do something that I thoroughly enjoy and share my work with others to make a positive change. This is how I will be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education

References:

Abraham, N. (2012, June 26). Advantages & disadvantages of distance learning. Retrieved April 1, 2013, from htcampus.com: http://www.htcampus.com/article/advantages-disadvantages-distance-learning-612/

Anderson, J. Q., Boyles, J. L., & Rainie, L. (2012, July 27). The future impact of the Internet on higher education:. Elon University School of Communication, Pew Research Center.

Freeman, J. (2001). Using Discussions in Online Courses: The Importance of Interactivity.

LaMartina, D. (2012, August 10). The Future of Distance Learning: Why 77% of Universities Already Offer Online Courses. Retrieved April 25, 2013, from http://www.edcetera.com: http://edcetera.rafter.com/the-future-of-distance-learning-why-77-of-universities-already-offer-online-courses/

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2009). The Future of Distance Education. [DVD]. Baltimore, MD.

Peters, O. (2002). Distance education in transition: New trends and challenges. Bibliotheks and Information system der Universitat Oldenburg, 20.

Valentine, D. (2002). Distance learning: promises, problems and possibilities. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 5(3).

Walden University. (2013, April 23). Week 8 Reflection: Food for Thought.

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