Thursday, October 23, 2014

Reflections on Distance Learning

My personal perceptions of distance learning as well as those of society have evolved over the  years and will continue to evolve as time goes on.   While still not universally accepted, distance learning is making headway as an acceptable method for the delivery of instruction.   Main factors in this paradigm shift include technology and communication.
The education industry is leveraging improvements in technology to expand distance learning interaction and distribution (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).  As technology improves the connectivity between global locations it is improving the connectivity between people.  The enclaves of “secluded like-minded people” described by Dr. Siemens ( (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.) are being replaced with globally diverse groups.  Distance learning is no longer constrained  to only print and delivery by post, but can now be delivered as feature-rich packages direct to the learner.  However, as Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012) have pointed out, it is important to remain mindful of the digital divide, or the socio-economic distance that limits access to computers and Internet services.
Another factor in the shift of perception is the normalization of online communication (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).  People have become accustomed to being able to have meaningful discourse through social media as well as online forums.  Corporations frequently use online meetings to connect globally distributed teams  (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).   As new methods of interaction are researched and develop, I think that distance learning will become even more acceptable.  Currently, there are restrictions to interaction in distance learning due to technological and economic reasons, but as those barriers continue to fall, global interconnectivity will continue to expand.
For the future, I think that education with some level of distance learning will become normalized.  Continued advances in technology, the globalization of communication, and the perception of online communication as normal will improve experiences.  Looking forward to my part in the continuous improvement of distance education, I feel it is imperative that greater emphasis be placed on inclusive instructional environments.  Globalization does not mean homogenization in my opinion, and the need for a skilled global workforce will require large scale multinational distributed learning that is mindful of multicultural and diversity issues (Germain-Rutherford & Kerr, 2008).  At this juncture, I can help improve the perception of distance learning by designing effective instruction that leverages technology while also meeting the needs of the learners.  To that end, I will continue to listen to my learners and treat their input as a valuable part of the design process.
References 
Germain-Rutherford, A., & Kerr, B. (2008). An inclusive approach to online learning environments: Models and resources. Turkish Onkine Journal of Distance Education, 9(2), 64 - 85.
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education[Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Attributions
World Classroom By ManosHacker (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

1 comment:

  1. Rebecca, I am following your blog! I am looking forward to more discussions in Walden Project Management. --Preston Wright

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