The Future of Distance Learning

              As our class draws to a close, it is time to look back and reflect upon what we have learned over the past eight weeks.  We started off the class by comparing our previous perceptions of distance learning to our current knowledge taken from the class so far.  As our final assignment, we are now going to consider perceptions of distance learning in the future, and how we can be its proponents.

What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?

The face of distance learning just five years ago is vastly different from that of today’s environment.  Improvements in design, development, and delivery software,  increased Internet connectivity in most developed areas, and more devices that link up to the Web are rapidly re-shaping the landscape.  However, the improvements made in distance learning are separate from the perceptions of online learning.  These perceptions can only be changed for the positive by increased experience of this learning medium.  Dr. Siemen’s commented that society is beginning to trust online learning more due to the increased use of social media and communication (Laureate Inc., 2010).  I believe the next five years will continue in this trend, especially as instructional designers strive to incorporate popular technology into their courses.  I compare society’s perception of online learning to Tuckman’s stages of group dynamics: forming, storming, norming, and performing (1984).  I compare the forming stage to the 1990s when online courses made their mark as a new training solution (Philips, 2009).  I believe we are at the storming phase of the continuum since we have a better understanding of the needs of the learner, but are still trying to wrap our arms around all the possibilities offered by this medium.  I predict that about five years from now, we will be in the storming phase where we get the chance to find a balance with F2F, synchronous, and asynchronous interaction. We will now be at the phase where we can “bridge the comfort gap” (Laureate Inc., 2010) of technology. I base this assumption on the fact that we IDs will have been systematically making online learning “more friendly” by incorporating much of the current technology trends into our courses. This will, in turn, encourage others to participate in online learning with less trepidation.  During this time, Web 2.0 tools will drive collaboration in the workplace (NMC, 2011)and will be one of the most promising models of co-operation to adopt. 

          As online learning morphs from an unknown to a more familiar entity, I predict another change of perception will occur in the next ten years.  This change will occur because an advanced degree is becoming more important in securing a job or promotion.  Most of those wishing a promotion will already have a job.  Distance learning will be recognized as a good solution to obtaining an advanced degree without having to take time off or out of busy schedules.   Businesses will also start to recognize the cost and time effectiveness of online learning.  During this time, the perception of online learning will be that it is convenient and cost effective.  Along the continuum of the next five to ten years, we will continue to adapt existing technology into the framework of our courses to enhance their functionality and improve their stickiness.  Towards the end of the ten year span, many more millenials, those born between 1997 and 1995 (Tilin, 2008), will be ready to start college or get a job. Since millenials cannot envision a world without technology, distance learning will get improved credibility by default.  In 20 years from now, the millenials will be in charge and technology will be of utmost importance.  At this point, the perception of distance learning will be so commonplace that it will be like any other traditional class. 

How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning and how will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

          As an instructional designer, I can showcase my designs in an engaging way each time I make a course.  This would show the online content in a good light, improving societal perception of distance learning. I can also include activities and events that keep the learners’ interest so that they don’t consider online learning to be simply watching a PowerPoint presentation.   I can work harder to define my audience and their situations and environments so that when I design an online course, each student will have an optimum learning experience that is appropriate for them (Laureate, 2010).  This will improve the perception because students will find the course fits their needs and so addresses any concerns that the material may not be relevant.  I can also watch the trends of popular technology to absorb into my courses to increase the comfort level of students.

 

References

Laureate Inc. (2010). [Video]. The future of distance education. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=5693697&Survey=1&47=7229053&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Philips, V. (2009).  What is distance learning and why has it become so popular?  Retrieved from http://knol.google.com/k/what-is-distance-learning-and-why-has-it-become-so-popular#Distance_Learning_History_(2D)_Nothing_So_New

Tilin, A. (2008, May).  What is a millenial? Retrieved from http://www.bnet.com/article/what-is-a-millennial/201716

Tuckman, B. (1965).  Developmental sequence in small groups .  Psychological Bulletin 63 (6): 384–99. doi:10.1037/h0022100

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