Friday, March 30, 2012

The Impact of Open Source

The Open Course Site that I reviewed came from the MIT Open Course website ( entitled SCUBA. While I browsed through several other courses, after discovering this course I was very interested and watched much of it since my son and I have recently registered to become certified in SCUBA. The course is very informative and extremely thorough and, while it is effective for supplying the content for which it is intended to teach, the course itself certainly was not pre-planned for a distance learning environment. The course lacks most aspects that combine to make up an effective distance education course.

The MIT SCUBA course does not follow any recommendations for online instruction as it is comprised solely of a series of video recordings of lectures and demonstrations. This echoes exactly what Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek describe as “the model of teaching employed during the instructional television era of distance education” (2012, p.123) in which the instructor simply mimicked the conventional classroom. When planning for instruction at a distance, Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) states that previously delivered classroom instruction often needs to be retooled, with a shift toward “visual presentations, engaged learners, and careful timing of presentation of information” (p.153). This, however, is not the case in regards to Taylor’s (Spring 2007) SCUBA course. Another key aspect related to distance instruction is that of learner interaction or group work and, in this case, this it simply is not an option since the course was delivered in the past.

While Teaching and Learning at a Distance (Simonson et al., 2012) concedes that there is no one best way to teach a distance education course, it does note that the lecture “has been repeatedly demonstrated through research” (p.159) to be the least effective means of delivering online instruction. The SCUBA course fails in nearly every facet of characteristics that make up an effective distance learning environment. There is no variety in the delivery of the course or the media selection. There is no availability for learner interaction so there is no option for reflection or feedback and the course readings and resources are listed but not available.

As mentioned before, the SCUBA course is extremely thorough in the content that it delivers and seems to be completely effective for the scenario in which it was delivered; a conventional classroom with hands-on activities. It is not, however, the most effective method for delivering instruction from a distance. While I greatly enjoyed the content of the course, the SCUBA course seems better suited for a face-to-face environment, especially considering that there is a tremendous amount of content and knowledge that can only truly be acquired through hands-on participation.  


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

Taylor, H. (Spring 2007). PE.210 SCUBA. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA Retrieved March 31, 2012 from

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek "In distance education, it is imperative that educators think about how communication will occur and how to apply experiences that will promote effective and efficient learning" (2012, p.94). When implementing a training workshop for individuals separated by distance and time, the methods of communication must certainly be strongly considered. There are a number of tools that could provide successful communication solutions, along with the ability to share information and collaborate on a variety of projects and documents.

One of the simplest solutions that could be used to solve this corporation’s training needs would be in the form of a wiki. A wiki “is usually thought to be a space designed to be created and edited by groups of persons” (Simonson et al., 2012, p.129). In an article on CNN Money, Nussenbaum (2008) writes of the success of Raleigh-based Rosen Law, whose owner and chief executive decided to transition his entire operation to a wiki. With many employees hesitant to make the change, Rosen put up a $1000 prize incentive. This led to a great deal of effort from his employees to get acquainted with the wiki. While Rosen expected that there would be much collaboration on the site, one benefit that he did not foresee was that it caused employees to learn more about one another job duties. The contest was a success and the transition to a wiki allowed Rosen to discontinue using Lotus Notes for email, calendars, contacts, and case files resulting in a huge savings. The initial transition wasn’t even financially driven but simply was an effort to move to a wiki for it ease of use.

While a wiki seems to provide a simple solution for the organization’s needs, there are a number of more robust web 2.0 tools that could also be used to foster collaboration and share information and documents. Wiggio is one such tool. Wiggio is a free, cloud-based product that includes a number of features such as virtual meetings and conference calls, shared calendars, email, text and voice messaging, file-sharing, polling, and the ability to create to-do lists and assign tasks. Simonson et al. state “Increasingly, the Internet will be used to connect learners for sharing of videos, in addition to data (text and graphics)” (2012, p.111). With the ability to communicate via two-way audio and video, Wiggio seems to provide everything needed to implement training and aide in future collaboration within the organization. In a blog post, Kimberly Martin (Case Study: AmeriCorps VISTA Using Wiggio to Collaborate) of AmeriCorps VISTA details her success story with Wiggio. Her project required collaboration between three geographically separated groups. After trying a number of different communication methods without success, Martin and others decided to give Wiggio a try at the suggestion of colleague. They were set up and organized in one day. Martin continues to praise Wiggio for its ease of use, value, and the fact that all of the organization’s correspondence is kept in one place, making for a very organized team.


Martin, K. ().Case Study: AmeriCorps VISTA Using Wiggio to Collaborate. Retrieved on April 8, 2012 from

Nussenbaum, E. (2008, February 12). Boosting teamwork with wikis. CNN Money. Retrieved on April 8, 2012 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 Education, Inc.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Distance Learning MindMap

Distance Learning

Distance Learning Experiences
Prior to pursuing my M.S. in Instructional Design with Walden University, my experience with distance education has been as an instructional designer developing online training courses for the Division of Family & Children Services. Through my professional experience, the concept of distance education is a familiar subject. Training courses are designed for both new and veteran workers to meet particular training requirements or simply as a refresher on specific policy. The training is interactive and contains policy information with accompanying exercises, assessments, and feedback. Learners also have the ability to contact an online instructor with comments or questions at any time which I believe is an important characteristic of distance learning. 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” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p.32). The separation between learner and instructor is primarily thought of in terms of geography but also can be in relation to time as well. While the term distance education is often synonymously referred to as distance learning, virtual learning, or e-learning, Dr. Simonson (Laureate Education, Inc.) points out that distance education is distinctly different from self-study e-learning where no teacher is present, emphasizing the importance of instructor/teacher interaction in the process.

History of Distance Education
Distance education has a history dating back to the early 1800s with its roots in correspondence studies offering composition, language, and civil service examination courses (Distance Learning Timeline Continuum). The availability and accessibility of distance education grew with increasing advancements in technology. In the early 1900s, through the use of radio and television, learning courses could be offered to a great number of people simultaneously. This availability has skyrocketed in recent decades with the advent of high speed internet, thus making distance education a convenient and credible means of continuing education for a great portion of the population of developed nations.

New Understandings of Distance Education
While I had a sound understanding of distance learning prior to starting the course, I have come to realize that my knowledge was rather general in nature with an emphasis more on current trends. I never considered the history of distance education and how it began. Much like those of us pursuing higher education today, Simonson et al. state “the original target groups of distance education efforts were adults with occupational, social and family commitments” (2011, p.39). I believe that I also took for granted the necessity of a teacher in the distance learning environment and probably would have incorrectly considered some self-study courses as distance education.

Future of Distance Education
As mentioned earlier, technological advancements have made distance education more accessible than ever. Simonson et al. state “opportunities are quickly growing through the use of computer-mediated communications and the Internet” (2011, p.40). With the rise of web 2.0 technologies, interaction and collaboration over great distances is conveniently possible simply by having access to the internet and having access to the internet can be as simple as having access to a smart phone. As technologies continue to improve, distance education becomes a viable option for a wide range of learning scenarios such as K-12, higher education, corporate training, and more and as distance education becomes even more prominent, it is also important to keep proven learning strategies at the forefront of design, ensuring “that the products of sound professional design practice lead the e-learning enterprise” (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008, p.70). I look forward to discovering new innovations that will make distance education even more accessible in the future. However, it doesn’t matter how easily accessible the material is if it is poor quality instruction.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer) Distance education: The next generation. [Video file].Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70–75.

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

WaldenUniversity. (n.d.).  Distance Learning Timeline Continuum [Multimedia Program]. Retrieved March 2, 2012 from