EDUC 6135 – The Future of Distance Learning – Reflection

Statistics from the Sloan Consortium offer a clear look at the advancement of distance learning and the inevitable pool of graduates coming from the distance education arena.

Sixty-five percent of schools offering graduate face-to-face courses also offer graduate courses online; sixty-three percent of schools offering undergraduate face-to-face courses also offer undergraduate courses online; among all schools offering face-to-face Master’s degree programs, 44% also offer Master’s programs online; among all schools offering face-to-face Business degree programs, 43% also offer online Business programs.  The number of students who study online has been increasing at a rate far in excess of the rate of growth in the overall higher education student population. (Allen & Seaman, 2005)

With distance learning advancing at these rates, over the next 5-10 years the current day perceptions toward distance learning which are guarded at best will naturally and necessarily shift to broader acceptance. In 10-20 years, the viability and quality of the online degree will be unquestionable. While bias toward campus-bound degrees over online degrees from the same institution is very much alive and well in Corporate America today, it is only a matter of time before this bias is resolved; either through pre-screening rules that protect candidates with online degrees, or through the inevitable advancement of distance education and the pool of candidates it produces.

“The belief that online instruction takes more effort continues to be strong. Many leaders reported that they felt that it takes more effort to teach online, that it is harder for students, and that it is more difficult to evaluate the quality of online courses” (Simonson, 2006).  That these perceptions persist despite rapid, major advances in technology is testimony to their legitimacy. As instructional designers, we are uniquely positioned to influence societal perceptions of distance learning and the continuous improvement in the field of distance education by consistently and faithfully employing strategies rooted in best practices, contemporary research in learning theory and utilizing bleeding edge technologies in the design of learning solutions. In this way, we can address the challenges that lead to these perceptions.

References:
Simonson, M., (2006). Growing by degrees. Quarterly Review of Distance Education;
Summer 2006, Vol. 7 Issue 2, p. 1. Retrieved August 21, 2011 from http://web.ebscohost.com.ezp.waldenulibrary.org/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=50029a70-2221-4cad-850c-e5d2b4797788%40sessionmgr112&vid=4&hid=110

Allen, I., & Seaman, J. (2005). Growing by degrees: Online education in the United States,
2005.  Wellesley, MA: Sloan Consortium. Retrieved August 21, 2011 from http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/growing_by_degrees_2005

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About Darlene Loebel
Software consultant with 20 years experience in Software Engineering and graduate student in Instructional Design & Technology at Walden University.

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