Sunday, September 7, 2014

Defining Distance Learning

Before the start of this course, I thought I had a good grasp of what distance learning was, but I was thrilled to expand my vocabulary to describe distance learning as a form of e-learning, virtual learning, correspondence study, distance learning, and distance teaching. The biggest realization is that this concept has grown since the 1800s and is evident in areas of training in organizations, higher education and perhaps K-12 education. It requires professionals known as instructional designers to apply their expertise to help build and develop a successful online learning experience. They are a key element to the building, structuring and assessment of the success of an online environment for any type of distance learning. They are able to help faculty with creating, "a clear framework, outlining the goals, delivery and structure of the e-learning program with clear benchmarks for success" (Moller, Foshay & Huett, pg. 68, 2008b).

An interesting tidbit I learned, was that the concept of distance learning has existed as early as the 1800s, where they used mail correspondence to deliver information. The amazing part is that we still use postage time to get responsive communication for our correspondence courses, such as I get with my knitting classes through The Knitting Guild Association. The biggest shift is the use of Internet technology and the introduction of email communication, where we can communicate more efficiently and receive on demand learning.

I can now see distance learning taking on a larger role in the training and learning communities. Previously, I was limited in my knowledge of even the types of jobs I could do, but now I can see that my skill set can be applied to many areas in different industries. After this first week in the distance learning course, I can say that when I see or hear the word distance learning, I think about the learner, teacher and instructional design team working together to help achieve a successful learning experience. Distance learning brings to mind the ability to learn from the comfort of your home, as long as you have an internet connection.

The biggest evolution has been that online programs are being accredited and being taught at a similar level as traditional educational institutions, if not more. A lot of the benefits are being recognized, which leads to many organizations adapting to the distance learning mindset. As Moller, Foshay and Huett mention, "distance learning is rapidly becoming a popular choice for continuing professional education, mid-career degree programs, and lifelong learning of all kinds" (pg. 66, 2008b), it is becoming truly contagious. Everywhere I go, I hear people talking about upgrading their education to pursue higher career opportunities.

My vision for the future of distance learning is that it will only grow and get bigger from here. With having the proper building blocks in place, such as the instructional designers and dedicated faculty and learners, I see it going on a successful route. Dr Simonson brings up a wonderful statement about the current state, and that is "distance education is widely adopted and approaching critical mass society" (Laureate Education, n.d.). I feel that has been the biggest battle in some ways, as institutions are becoming more accepting and welcoming to the distance learning concept.

Overall, I feel that with the awareness and support from the Instructional Design community to keep pushing their professional practices into play, as they keep educating the team that there is value in doing this the right way, success is sure to follow. It is also important to note that online learning may not be able to replace every form of education, but can definitely be a part of the curriculum, such as using blended learning for practical programs with the culinary arts. Dr Simonson puts it nicely as he talks about how "distance education will grow significantly, but will not replace traditional schools" (Laureate Education, n.d.). The integration will introduce a lot of flexibility and value in ones time as they get the freedom to pursue their educational journey when and where they wish to do so.


Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher Education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70.

Laureate Education. (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation. Retrieved from

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