Friday, October 29, 2010

Week 8 - A Reflection of Distance Learning

It is hard to believe that another course is coming to a close, just a few more to go, and my master’s program will be complete. As this course draws to a conclusion, I have been asked to reflect on the future of distance learning. As with any advances in society, there are skeptics, people who may not believe change is necessary or that change can bring about improvements. They plead their case, and often they have valid arguments, yet change is inevitable if we humans want to continue to grow. I believe distance learning is an important advancement for our society and that it will not only survive the voice of the skeptics, but it will thrive.

Dr. George Siemens pointed out in the video The Future of Distance Learning, there is a growing acceptance of distance learning. People are seeing that with all of the advances in online communication, for example the ability to talk “live” via video conferencing on the web, distance becomes a relative term. These technologies will continue to advance. More and more people will become comfortable with these tools, and will continue to find ways to take advantage of these advanced technologies. Distance learning is just one way to use these communication technologies to benefit the advancement of self.

I think that as people begin to explore the advantages of distance learning, for example the sheer convenience of learning in one’s own home, and for the most part on their own schedule, more people will gravitate to this form of learning. The skeptics will voice their concerns; the education is not as good, not everyone can learn effectively this way, how do we know that it is the registered learner who is doing the work, etc. Albeit these concerns are valid, they will not stop the growth of distance learning. Much research has been done to explore the effectiveness of distance learning, and the research literature shows that distance education works (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Zvacek, 2009). As Simonson, et al., (2009) states “the keys to successful distance education are in the design, development, and delivery of instruction” (pg. 9).

Educational professionals and instructional designers are instrumental to the growth of distance education. The technological advances will continue, people will continue to become more comfortable using the advanced technologies, and the benefits of distance learning will become more appealing. It will be paramount that the educational experiences of the distance learner are equivalent to the experiences of the traditional learner. Instructional designers and educational professionals must continue to design and facilitate extraordinary learning experiences. These experiences must be designed with all of the best practices for design and delivery utilized. There must be a foundation of integrity and professionalism at the foundation of each educational program.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (4th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

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