Distance learning is defined in the course text 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). It dates back to the early 1800’s in the form of correspondence studies, but with the rise of the internet and particularly that of web 2.0 tools, distance education has seen tremendous growth in recent years. As high-speed internet continues to grow in affordability and availability, as well as the development of new technology tools that provide a variety of options for communication and collaboration, the popularity and demand for distance education seems destined to continue to grow.
With regards to distance education, Siemens (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.) states that there is a “growing acceptance from society as a whole“. This acceptance seems to be largely due to the fact that new internet technologies have increasingly made student-student and student-instructor interactions much easier and more effective. The “notion of distance, or geographical separation, isn’t as significant a factor as we might have thought it was even five years ago” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.). New technologies have essentially removed these distances through the use of web 2.0 tools that allow real-time collaboration and communication among course instructors and students. It seems that the acceptance of distance education will only continue to grow in the coming years as its reputation as a valid educational option is confirmed.
As an instructional designer I think that it is important to develop courses that are based on established learning theories. As a result I believe that learning objectives will be met which will, in turn, continue to confirm the validity of distance education. Similarly, by developing courses that are proven to produce learning of the course objectives, I feel that it serves as a confirmation of the validity of distance education. As an instructional designer I believe that it is important to employ training that is as simple and intuitive as possible in an effort to make the user feel at ease using the technology tools. It is the ID’s duty to, as Siemens stated “bridge the gap of comfort” (Laureate Education, Inc., n.d.).
Distance education, in my opinion, will only continue to grow. It provides an excellent option for the adult learner that has commitments that do not allow them to attend a traditional school. It also provides an opportunity for the learner that simply appreciates the convenience and flexibility of learning from a remote location. As more and more people take online courses and as others become aware of their validity, I believe that it will encourage others to trust the method and give distance education a shot. As mentioned earlier, as new technologies emerge that continue to close the gap between learner and instructor, distance education seems destined to only gain further acceptance and grow.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). The Future of Distance Education. [Video webcast]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6493363&Survey=1&47=8879390&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.