Current and Future Perceptions of Distance Learning in our Society
As technology continues to become more pervasive in so many aspects of our lives, the growing acceptance of distance learning will likely follow. Dr. Siemens (Laureate Education, n.d.) described the rapid gains in the past five years due to our increased experience with communicating online using a variety of technology. Today there are 2.6 billion smartphone subscriptions globally and by 2020 it is projected there will be 6.1 billion smartphones in circulation. (Lunden, 2015). Mobile devices increase convenience and the convenience of "anytime, anyplace" learning that is attractive to many adult learners (Simonson, et. al., 2011).
When educational institutions offer the same curriculum, with the same learning outcomes and academic rigour as their traditional face-to-face courses, and the curriculum is taught (or facilitated) by the same faculty who teach in the classroom, the profile and academic fidelity increases. (Gambescia and Paolucci, 2009). As stated in the Equivalency theory, these learning experiences cannot be equal but they can be equivalent and can meet the same learning outcomes. (Simonson, et. al., 2011, p. 52).
As an instructional designer, and as someone who has experienced distance learning that is both well-designed and well-facilitated, I can be a strong advocate for improving perceptions and dispelling misconceptions, such as the following myths about online learning from a recent article in the Huffington Post (Murphy, 2016):
- Online learning denotes a single model
- It is impossible to connect in an online classroom
- Online courses are commoditized and lack rigour
- Online learning is all about the technology, not the learning
To provide students with an environment and resources where the learning outcomes will be maximized is the goal of all course development and is independent of delivery mode. (Schmidt and Gallegos, 2001). In my role as an instructional designer, I will work with subject matter experts and at my educational institution, they would be college instructors who also would teach the course being developed. Using a systematic instructional design process, such as ADDIE, will allow me to demonstrate the importance and need to understand who the learners are, define the learning outcomes, and identify instructional strategies suitable to the mode of delivery and the needs of the learners. Many of the misconceptions about distance learning can be addressed and dismissed by recommending effective instructional strategies along with the appropriate technologies to support their use. I will also ensure that facilitators and learners alike are well-prepared with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in a distance learning environment. This can be achieved through self-assessment and well-developed training/orientation to build competence and confidence. (Simonson et. al., 2011).
I hope to have opportunities for applied research in the field of distance education to maintain my currency and familiarity with best practices, emerging trends and technology. I also hope to use my scholarly voice and academic resources to promote distance learning and convince academic managers (decision-makers) to commit the time and resources that are needed for proper planning, development, delivery, evaluation, facilitation and overall support of distance learning initiatives.
It is an exciting time to be involved in education and training and having the combination of formal education and the distance learning experience will enhance my ability and effectiveness both inside and outside of the classroom.
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). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Lunden, I. (2015). 6.1B Smartphone Users Globally by 2020. TechCrunch Network. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2015/06/02/6-1b-smartphone-users-globally-by-2020-overtaking-basic-fixed-phone-subscriptions/
Murphy, E. (2016). Dispelling Myths about Online Learning. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-murphy/dispelling-myths-about-on_b_9577850.html
Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.atmae.org/resource/resmgr/JIT/schmidt041801.pdf
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S. E., Albright, M., Zvacek, S. (2011). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education, 5/e, 5th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9780133466584/