In this final week of EDUC-6135 we were asked to think about the perception of distance learning, how the perception has changed in the last few years, and what that perception will be in the near future. I feel that George Siemens (Laureate Education) is spot on when he states that “One of the very unique aspects of distance education over the last few years is really its growing acceptance in society”. Distance education with the help of new technology, new rules and regulations and instructional designers who know how to weave them into a course, will become more positively perceived in the future.
If you were to ask me ten years ago my thoughts and feelings on distance education I would have done what many people in this country did, I would have said it was a bad idea and that brick and mortar schools were the only way to go. My views and that of many have changed since then as Kolowich, S. (2011) states “online enrollments have grown by 348 percent over that time (10 years)”and Lederman, D. (2013) points out “But on all but one of the factors — “providing a degree that will be viewed positively by employers” — a majority of respondents rated online courses as the same or better (than traditional courses)”. The perception of distance learning is changing for the better and I feel that in the next 10 to 20 years we will see distance education perceived as the same or possibly better than traditional courses. I feel that the use of new technologies mixed with new regulations and rules will allow for instructional designers to create better course that promote quality learning.
As an instructional designer I can improve the perceptions of distance learning by making course that not only capture a student’s attention and keep them engaged, but by making courses that have the same perceived quality and interaction as a traditional course. George Siemens (Laureate Education) states “the motion of distance… isn’t as significant a factor as we might have thought it was even five years ago and I think that’s directly tied to the new tools”. The invention of wikis and VOIP communication has really broken down many of the negatively perceived barriers of distance education. In a student conducted in 2001 Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A., (2001) found that “An issue identified was interaction with an instructor. Respondent responses showed this to be very important for learning. A similar issue was interaction with classmates. “(p. 5) and “When developing a distance delivery course, course designers must provide a way for students and instructor to interact.”(p. 5). The understanding pf this need to interact is now known and taught to upcoming IDs such as myself, Simonson, M., et al. (2012) states “engaged learning involves collaboration among the members of the learning community” (p. 201). Making course that offer these new technology’s to aid in interaction and promote effective engaged learning is a way I can make the perception of distance learning improve.
New technology is only one half of the solution to improve distance learning’s perception. Just like a train needs a track or cars need wheels, the use of new technology in a course needs a structure or design to make it used effectively and not just placed in a course for visual delights. Technology is constantly improving and evolving and as an ID, I will need to learn these technologies and more so understand how to effectively use them in courses. To do this I will need a baseline for what is needed in a quality distance education course, one such baseline I use is the Quality Matters Rubric. The Quality Matters Rubric is a “faculty-centered, peer review process that is designed to certify the quality of online and blended course” (Quality Matters Rubric Workbook for Higher Education, 2011, p. 1). It is through these constantly updating rules and regulation that will allow me to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.
Distance education with the help of new technology, new rules and regulations and instructional designers who know how to weave them into a course, will become more positively perceived in the future. To make sure that this future becomes a reality I will need to constantly learn new technology that could help provide increased student interaction and collaborative projects. I will also need to stay up to date with the new rules and regulations for using those technologies in a way that promotes quality online learning, by doing this I will help to improve the perception of distance learning and continuously improve the field of distance education.
Kolowich, S. (2011, November 9). Online Grows, Doubts Persist. Inside Higher ED.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Lederman, D. (2013, October 15). Americans’ Views of Online Courses. Inside Higher ED.
Quality Matters Rubric Workbook for Higher Education (2011-2013 ed., pp. 1 – 28). (2011). MarylandOnline.
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 (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.