EDUC 6135 Reflections – Distance Learning

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This week, I have been asked to utilize what I have learned in EDUC 6135-Distance Learning along with my powers of prognostication in an attempt to predict the future of distance learning, and while I am not confident that I have yet achieved the competence with which to peer into my crystal ball and foretell this future, I do have some distinct impressions that I can share related to the following proposed questions:

  • What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?
  • How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
  • How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

In formulating my responses to these questions, I have been asked to also consider my readiness to perform the duties as outlined by a university job posting for an instructional designer, so I will attempt to intersperse comments regarding my perceived readiness to take on this role where they seem most applicable.

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

Presently, acceptance of distance learning is growing as people gain experience with digital tools and increasing use of online communications (Siemens, n. d.).  Over the next 5-10 years, I think we will likely see this acceptance continue to grow with increasing rapidity as more universities incorporate online programs and as the approach to the marketing of distance learning improves (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009).  Gambescia and Paolucci examined how universities are marketing their online programs and were surprised to find approaches that were less than effective, suggesting perhaps that those responsible for marketing were making mistakes in their approach by focusing on less important attributes of the program (convenience, flexibility) instead of major attributes (quality faculty and curricula), or that some universities may not yet have enough confidence in the fidelity and integrity of their distance programs to risk associating them with the standing reputation of the university.

Unfortunately, it seems that the acceptance of distance learning is not only an issue with the public and prospective students.  Allen and Seaman (2013) reported the findings from their results of a decade-long survey of online education in the U.S. that suggest that a significant obstacle to the widespread acceptance of distance learning is presented by the failure of faculty to “accept the value and legitimacy of online education” (p. 6), as evidenced by the limited change in the rate of acceptance noted across the observation period and punctuated by an actual decrease in faculty acceptance over the last year of observation.  For this final year of observation, researchers reported that “only 30.2% of chief academic officers believe their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education” (p. 6).  Researchers reported additional barriers to widespread acceptance including the need for students to be more disciplined, the perception of the majority of academic officers that online courses have a higher attrition rate than traditional courses, and the perception of academic leaders that degrees earned via distance learning are frowned upon by potential employers.

A personal observation of mine is that once I began to research programs for my own educational pursuit, I was surprised at how many people I knew who were already involved in distance learning programs.  I had the impression that distance learning was still not very common.  In addition, I had the impression that many distance programs lacked credibility.  This made me very nervous as I was fearful of selecting a diploma mill program or at least one that might make future employers scoff, so accreditation and rigor became the foci of my search.  Through my research, I learned that there are many accredited programs, a fact which helped me recognize and accept that distance learning was reputable.  Over the next 10-20 years, I suspect that we will see enrollment in distance learning programs begin to exceed that of traditional programs as universities improve their marketing approach and as distance learning programs continue to demonstrate their worth through their adherence to high standards of quality education.  In addition, we must give a nod to the impact that technology will have as distance learning “…will undoubtedly be shaped to a great extent by technological advancements and refinements” (Tracey & Richey, 2005).  This is an advantageous time to work as an instructional designer as distance learning is just beginning to blossom.

With regard to my readiness to work as an instructional designer as outlined by the university job description provided by my instructor for this course, I would have to say that although I have learned a tremendous amount in the last year, as a novice I feel that I am far from prepared for such an undertaking.  Unfortunately, the totality of my experience in ID is limited to my coursework at Walden University, so I feel that I will need a practicum of some sort where I can work closely with a mentor.  Fortunately, according to Recruiter.com (2013), the demand for instructional designers is expected to increase annually over the next few years by approximately 3.5 percent which may give me plenty of opportunities for a practicum, side work, volunteer work, or apprenticeship hours as ways for gaining the necessary experience.

How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?

This is an interesting question.  What can I do?  I believe that I will have the most impact as a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning by effectively and efficiently creating quality work.  As long as I apply the principles of sound learning theory (Simonson et al., 2012) and ID that I have learned through my courses, the quality of my product and the results of its implementation and continuous improvement will speak for itself.  As a part of that work, I will be involved with networks of people to whom I will always be selling the value of sound instructional design, the results of which will repeatedly justify the approach.  I intend to hold myself, my team members, and my learners to a high standard.  Wherever I am able to provide input into the marketing of distance learning programs, I will consider the findings of Allen and Seaman as discussed in the previous section.

How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

            I think there are a few ways to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.  One way is to stay abreast of the current research related to the field and implement this information as applicable.  The second way is to consistently provide ample peer-reviewed evidence to support my work at every phase.  Lastly, I think that being able to demonstrate how improvements will benefit stakeholders and academic leaders/institutions/corporations will play a key role in obtaining the necessary approval and resources for improvement efforts.

Final thoughts:

I would like to say just a few words about my experience in EDUC 6135 Distance Learning.  As I said earlier, I learned a tremendous amount in this class…a TREMENDOUS amount.  This class also kicked my arse.  Admittedly, life threw me a couple curve balls over the last few weeks which interfered with my studies but even without these problems/stresses I still would have had a difficult time.  I was ill-prepared for the pace and demands of the coursework. The only experience I have that relates to this course is through my prior Walden courses and my 18-year career is neither in the field of education, nor technology.  There were moments of legitimate doubt as to whether I would be able to complete the course.  Yet, as challenging as this course was for me, it was also amazing and I believe that I have Dr. Ron Paige to thank for this.  Your generous efforts, sir, are considerable and appreciated.

 

References

Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2013). Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. Sloan Consortium. PO Box 1238, Newburyport, MA 01950.

Career outlook for instructional designers and technologists. (2013). [Web page]. Retrieved from http://www.recruiter.com/careers/instructional-designers-and-technologists/outlook/

 Siemens, G. (n. d.). The future of distance learning. [Video presentation]. Laureate Education Inc. [Producer].

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

Tracey, M. W., & Richey, R. C. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21

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