Why do you feel the definition of distance learning is always changing and what factors drive that change? Do you think these changes are based on a person’s profession or by how much technical knowledge he/she has?
Before starting this course, and before I was involved in instructional design, my definition of distance learning was very basic. It was the ability to learn and take courses outside of the classroom. My experience throughout my graduate degrees included four years of distance learning, however the distance learning I participated in included discussion groups with other classmates, skype calls, and email communication with the instructors. These courses allowed students to take classes outside of the classroom, while continually incorporating collaboration with classmates.
According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek (2012) distance education is defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors. Distance education is a method in education in which the learner is physically separate from the teacher.” Based on my personal experience this definition is an accurate description of distance education. In addition students have to be self-motivated and have good time management to complete course work in a remote setting.
As an educator, I personally believe that the human interaction in the classroom, collaboration, and face to face instruction are extremely beneficial. Even though distance learning allows students to continue education in a more convenient manner, I believe that there needs to be a careful balance to include personal interaction in the class. As a student of distance learning and an instructional designer I do see the benefit, but I believe at heart I will always favor face to face instruction. As for distance learning in the corporate world, this is the most cost efficient way to train employees. I work for a global company that utilizes virtual training on a daily basis. This is cost efficient and gives the company the ability to reach their employees all over the world. However, what I have experienced with this approach is the need for continuous follow up training because they do not pay attention.
After reading the new information from this week, and having a few years of experience in instructional design, I have additional thoughts on distance learning. When I first started in instructional design, the term e-learning was new to me. In additional to creating curriculums, and assessments, I have learned the difference between e-learning and distance education. I have also had to learn about the difference in education and corporate training. These have been hard concepts for me to accept as an educator, but I do see the benefit to corporate training e-lessons that can reach everyone all over the world. Unfortunately there still seems to be a need for repeated training, and the audience is at the mercy of the internet and connection speeds can be frustrating.
The article by Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) reminds us of how critical it is for instructional designers to become the individuals responsible for the course material development and not the instructors. While traditional classrooms can benefit from using electronic delivery methods, for example PowerPoint presentations, new programs can be used.
The definition of distant learning is always changing because the needs of our students are changing. We will see how the definition for distance learning will continue to change over the years to come. It is important to try and standardize virtual learning with consistent material and evaluations. The quality of the work needs to be consistent to provide the training that is being requested.
Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends , 70-76.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance foundations of distance education (Vol. 5th Edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.