Distance Learning Defined

distance learning2

Wikipedia defines distance learning as:
“Distance education is a generic term used to define the field of distance learning. Distance learning is a mode of delivering education and instruction, often on an individual basis, to students who are not physically present in a traditional setting such as a classroom. Distance learning provides “access to learning when the source of information and the learners are separated by time and distance, or both.” Distance education courses that require a physical on-site presence for any reason (excluding taking examinations) may be referred to as hybrid or blended courses of study. Massive open online courses (MOOCs), aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via the web or other network technologies, are recent developments in distance education. A number of other terms (distributed learning, e-learning, online learning, etc.) are used roughly synonymously with distance education. However distance is the oldest and mostly commonly used term globally. It is also the broadest term and has the largest collection of related research articles.”


Distance Learning In My Lifetime

Prior to beginning this course I thought of distance learning as online courses or Instructor-Lead Virtual Courses. I never considered other options prior to this course. In reading our course text I realize now the Army Correspondence coursework my ex did was a form of distance learning. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek p 36) As the course text says advances in distance learning have gone hand in hand with the development of new electronic communication. Where will we go in the future is anyone’s guess.

As for my lifetime, I have seen the changes in technology affect distance learning. In our Strategic Planning Session this past June the topic of discussion was preparing for Workforce 2025 and the changes our organization will need to undergo as the Baby Boomers exit the workforce and the Millennials be a larger part of the workforce. One video we reviewed showed just what the course text was talking about with regards to technology actually changing the meaning of distance learning. You can review it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU2iTUeCfkI

Online learning in the past along with degrees acquired from those universities was not considered equal to those traditional classroom based university degree programs. As the demand for online learning and the flexibility it provides has grown, so to has the legitimacy of online programs in realizing that structured online courses can be as effective as classroom based courses.
I have witnessed the changes in opinion regarding distance learning (or eLearning) over the years and I would now define distance learning as: Learning utilizing formalized teaching and learning systems with the ability to be carried out remotely through technological advances.

If I had to speculate on the future and distance learning, I think the challenges we now face will be addressed. We already use simulations in the gaming world. I can see using these to build online “classrooms” with students having Avatars and the ability to control your Avatar from your watch, mobile device, glasses, etc. We already have the Apple watch which is allowing for connectivity to a wide array of technology such as messaging, purchasing through Apple iPay, etc. Instead of a virtual “classroom” you could actually put the student’s Avatar in the middle of a situation such as a doctor removing a gallbladder, a mechanic working on a virtual engine, a clothing designer creating his design on a virtual dummy and being able to make changes instantaneously rather than the time consuming “cut and sew”. The possibilities are endless.

As Moller, Forshay, and Coleman affirmed is that we in the middle of an evolution between current education and distance education along with the technologies that support it. This reorganization is one of the most important aspects of how to engage learners since bringing them together in a classroom. Schools will now have to make a commitment to ensure that education is delivered in the prescribed format. This may not seem like much for those who have grown up in the digital age but it will require a complete restructuring in how they do business.

I am sure you have seen those list floating around with “kids in this generation” and then will list things such as: 1) Never had to get up to turn the TV on/off. 2) Do not know what a party-line is. 3) Have never used a rotary dial telephone. 4) Play with friends outside in the neighborhood until dark and so on. The same can be said for distance learning. A certain skill set is required for developing lessons for online learning and if you do not have that skill set, training is doomed to fail.

During our Strategic Planning Session one of our IT staff created a video that showed the “Workforce of 2025” texting the Academy telling us about their connectivity and short attention spans then asking if we were ready for them. This holds true for all distance learning courses. Not only do they have to consider the curriculum standards but also the need to engage the Millennials to keep them interested in the topic at hand.

Cell Text

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–6 7.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education (6h edition). Information Age Publishing, Inc. Charlotte, North Carolina

Wikipedia (September 3, 2015. Distance Education. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distance_education