Distance education is defined as learning that takes place with some kind of separation between the learner and the instructor. In most instances, the separation is one of space (a geographical separation), but the concept may also refer to a separation of time, based on location or simply schedules, or intellectual ability (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015). The concept of distance education is one that has been in play for at least 175 years! As far back as 1840, England offered a course in shorthand via correspondence (Tracey & Richey, 2005). Since that time, learning has been offered via correspondence, radio, television, video tape, and almost any means of communication that could get the information from instructor to student and back again, despite their separate locations (Tracey & Richey, 2005).
In the last ten years, and even more in the last five, perceptions of distance learning have shifted significantly with more and more people accepting distance education and becoming comfortable with the benefits it can provide (Laureate, Future). Based on the information presented by George Siemens in the Week 8 Learning Resource Video, this shift is occurring based on individuals’ becoming more comfortable with the use of online tools and the increase in online communication. Mr. Siemens also pointed out that the contributions of corporations, and their uses of distance education technologies, are bringing it more to the mainstream. I believe that as the Millennial generation progresses further into the workforce, and the children of Generations X’ers begin to explore their educational options, distance learning will take on an even greater role. Those who have grown up with the Internet and use online communication as comfortably as face-to-face methods, will have no compunction when it comes to choosing distance learning as an alternative if it best suits their needs.
Instructional designers can be proponents for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by faithfully following the ADDIE model of design. When conducting a delivery analysis for an upcoming course, an instructional designer may or may not determine that a distance delivery model is the optimal solution (Laureate, Planning). By acknowledging that some content may be best suited for a face to face delivery, while other content could be ideally delivered in an online or hybrid fashion, instructional designers are creating the best possible product. This, in turn, creates quality course content and delivery that enhances and improves the image projected that society will perceive. Continuing to produce the best quality learning product, implementing it with fidelity, evaluating the outcomes, and making corrections where necessary will only work to improve the perceptions that distance learners and those associated with them will have regarding their experiences.
I believe that I am already a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education. I work daily to educate K-12 teachers across the country regarding best practices for reaching their students in an online format, as compared to their traditional bricks and mortar roots. I will continue to work for improvement in the field by completing my Masters in Instructional Design with Walden University. I will use what I learn to make sure I am delivering quality content to the teachers I work with, who can in turn make a positive impact on their students.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.).
Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.