What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?
Dr. George Siemens, in the video presentation titled ‘The Future of Distance Education’, spoke to the growing acceptance of distance learning (DL), which he attributes to factors such as increased online communication and persons’ experiences with new tools (Laureate Inc., n.d.). When considering that DL is also scalable and learning is accessible (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2012), the future looks bright. Bearing these points in mind, I envision that in the next 5 to 10 years, most, if not all, institutions of higher learning will offer DL programs. Many more primary and secondary learning institutions will begin to explore distance learning options and experiment with blended learning. In the corporate world, organisations would begin to turn to DL for personalised, ‘just-in-time’ training options for their staff. To take the vision further, in the next 10 – 20 years, distance learning can very well replace brick-and-mortar institutions and classroom-type training with virtual realities, gaming and simulations becoming an embedded part of the learning process.
Getting to this point though, would take a significant amount of resources as approaches and processes would have to change at many levels. The impact that is possible through Distance Learning is significant. I share Siemens’ view that such changes would require inputs from governments, contribution from subject matter experts (Laureate Inc., n.d.). I also think that DL will, or for that matter, will continue to ‘truffle feathers’ as it will be a great change factor for current learning methods.
How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
As a result of my pursuit of this degree with Walden University, I have changed from being a sceptic of DL to a believer that DL is here to stay. In my current employment, I have responsibilities for training. I have already been proposing that our department considers DL learning training options in the place of classroom-style training, where we bring in an SME to deliver instruction. My managers themselves are still sceptical and have not fully embraced the option, for reasons including fear of poor training quality resulting from technology failure and uncertainty as to the validity of DL programs. I plan to pursue this using knowledge gained for this course, to present a thorough proposal as to how we can maximise DL opportunities for the company’s benefit. I have already been talking to many of my co-workers about the benefits and value of DL; this I will continue to do. I will also consider stirring up media dialogue in my country on the value of DL.
How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?
According to Gambescia & Paolucci (2009), with the proliferation of DL, particularly at the college level, “major stakeholders were...quick to assess distance learning...for its quality” (p. 1). In my country, we currently have a few institutions that offer DL options, and some of our schools are experimenting with blended learning. I would seek dialogue with these institutions, particularly the private ones, on their methods for ensuring academic quality or fidelity of their programs and offer information to assist them if necessary. Also, I happen to have open access to a column in one of our weekly newspapers. As part of the media dialogue I mentioned above, I would pursue a series on Distance Learning, seeking to promote and highlight best practices in DL and how they can be applied to our local setting.
Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university
online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html
Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d). The future of distance education[DVD]. In EDUC 6135 Distance Learning. Baltimore, MD.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a
distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.