Thursday, August 2, 2012

Project Scope Creep

I am the director of customer service for a software company in North Carolina. Although I typically do not act as a project manager for our software projects, I do function in an account management role. This means that I manage the customers that are undergoing software projects with us. This gives me an indirect window into our project process. From my perspective, scope creep happens after the project scope and deliverables are defined and commitments in resources, schedule and funds have already been allocated. As our project team works to complete the project deliverables, the customer’s expectations often increase above what was originally defined.
This happens unusually often within our software projects especially with respect to timelines and work statements. For example, the original software development project was projected to take 500 hours to complete. Half way into the 500 hours, the customer realizes that the functionality originally scoped does not “do” exactly what they want it to “do.” The project manager is looking at another 200 hours of work to complete the software design based on the customer’s expectations. Now, the project manager is faced with either delivering less than expected, or the project will be completed much later than planned. Software project managers often call this type of scope creep “feature creep”.
Internally, we often discuss “who is to blame” for certain projects going off track. Sometimes, the customer is blamed because they were not clear on what they wanted. That could be the case I guess, but I see it as an issue with our software development team. (Ok—hear me out). Our programmers and analysts are top notch. They are smart and conscientious about their work. All of them want to do a stellar job for the customer. As they start working on a project, they are constantly thinking about ways to make the design better or more efficient. These are small tweaks, here and there, but creative ideas to help the customer achieve their result in the best way possible. Well, these little tweaks and features add up, and before you know it, the project design exceeds the project scope. It becomes a snowball effect because the customer gets excited about what they are seeing in their new software design. This sparks new discussions about other areas that can be made better and so on. This snowball makes the project run longer and eventually cost more than originally planned. The hardest part for the project manager is that these “feature” conversations can happen outside of standard project communication. When the PM finally hears about the new ideas, it is too late to stop the giant snowball.
Everyone on the team needs to be responsible for scope creep. The project manager certainly does not want to stifle creativity, but the creative ideas need to be brought to the project manger first. Dr. Stolovich (n.d.) advises that when new ideas come up, the team members should fill out a Change of Scope document. By following this communication protocol, the submitter understands that the feature will not added until it is approved. The PM can discuss the changes with the customer and together they can make a collective decision on whether the idea is worth adjusting the scope of the project. This communication protocol makes managing the customer's expectations much easier for the project manager.
Stolovich, H. (n.d.). Project Management Concerns: ‘Scope Creep’. [Video]. Retrieved from

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Estimating Costs and Allocating Resources

There is a certain amount of anxiety on projects (more on larger projects) to be “within budget”, depending on the commitment levels and where you are in the scope definition and price assessment process. The repercussions of being "off", or "over-budget" can range from mildly unpleasant to severe; hence, the anxiety. Estimating costs and allocating resources is a skill that project professionals diligently strive to hone because it is the back bone of a successful project run. Others, like me, that are relatively inexperienced with this skill rely on experience or mentors to share their knowledge. I found some resources that provide perspective and tips on how to professionally and successfully estimate project costs and resources.

It is useful to think of “budget” as what you have to spend, and an “Estimate" as what the specific scope of work should cost. It has been my experience that these terms are used interchangeably, but the distinction is an important one. Before you can provide any reasonable estimate, you must clarify the scope first (Stener, 2010). Common sense right? Maybe, but budget-and-scope or estimate-and-scope mismatches happen all the time. I would expect that more change orders, disputes and claims on projects come from "missed scope", or "misunderstanding of what was included", than any other recurring project problem (Stener, 2010).

Big Dog, Little Dog: Performance Juxtaposition: Don Clark

I found Don Clark’s blog early in my Instructional Design program and have been following the feed for some time now. I relate to his writing style because it is straightforward and he tells me clearly what I need to know. (The “skinny”) He provides a detailed write up about estimating costs that can provide the instructional designer with several “at a glance” estimates for individual instructional design tasks. These figures are useful for putting together some preliminary estimates.

SEER software by Galorath

My instructional design background is rooted in Information technology, and I naturally gravitate to software that can help with difficult tasks. SEER is a project management software tool that is a little different than many that are on the market today. Rather than allowing you to simply document and chart your project, it can help you with project cost, effort and duration estimates. There is a great deal of information on this site, including white papers and case studies. It appears that you have to go through a sales representative to get a pricing schedule. I would love to know if anyone has experience with this tool.

Articulate Message Board

Lastly, I found a general discussion on the Articulate forum about the time it takes to create a course. Granted, this is referencing Articulate as the tool of choice but still contains some useful input from many different professionals. It is a virtual melting pot of “experience speak”. 

My web research kept turning up references to an article that Dr. Karl Kapp and Robyn Defelice wrote for the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) , but all of the links noted are pointing to an invalid location. Apparently the article was revised and moved. If anyone has the new link, do let me know because it clearly contained some invaluable information regarding estimating the cost of one hour of training development.


Stener. (2010, June 18). [Web log message].  Retrieved from

Friday, July 13, 2012

Communicating Effectively

To prepare for this blog post, I was asked to view the multimedia program called “The Art of Effective Communication.” It allowed me to view one message delivered in three different ways: written text (email), audio (voice mail) and face to face (video). The email example of the message is to the left.

My first impression of the email message was that Jane was rambling. One of the most important parts of effective communication is …the communication part (“5 tips for,” 2012). I was frustrated before I got to the end of the email because I felt like she was almost apologizing before she asked Mark for what she needed. Granted, I do not understand the relationship between Mark and Jane, so perhaps Jane has reason to be apologetic. I would have simply said: “Mark, when you get a chance, please send over your report data so that I can finalize my report. The deadline is coming up soon , and I need your part by the end of the week. Thanks and appreciate your help.” That is my effort to be clear about what I needed and when I needed it.
Jane’s voice mail message sounded upbeat and genuine without negative emotion. I value that because no one wants to listen to an unenthusiastic robot when picking up voicemails. This can also go a long way in helping others learn to feel comfortable around you (“5 tips for,” 2012). I still felt like she should could have been more direct in specifying what she needed, when she needed it and gave a sense of urgency. Mark likely will put her request at the bottom of the pile after hearing this voicemail.
The most effective communication medium is not to have one at all (Taylor, n.d.). Face to face conversations may not always be the most practical, but it is the most effective. The person receiving the message has the opportunity to pick up on non-verbal cues like eye movement or body language. Also, they have the opportunity to respond or ask questions directly. For me, the video or face to face communication conveyed the real meaning and intent of the message. Somehow, when I saw Jane face to face, I was could see her genuine concern for me and not wanting to interrupt me, but did get the intent that she was worried about her report and needed my help. I did not feel annoyed or frustrated by her apologetic tone and felt more willing to assist her.
This exercise showed me that face to face communication is best whenever possible. It brings a personal nature to the message intent and depending on how the message is delivered, can go a long way in getting the information or results that you need. Email and voicemail can be tools to aid in communication for important updates , but if the message is complex or urgent, then it is best delivered in person.   

5 tips for effective communciation [Web log message]. (2012, April 6). Retrieved from


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Learning from a Project "Post-mortem"

It is important for a project team to review the project as a whole at the end of the project regardless of project success or failure.  This review can lead to a list of lessons learned so mistakes are not continually repeated going forward (Greer, 2010).  I was involved in a proposed project at a software company where the Vice President of Knowledge Management wanted to create an online community for our customers to share ideas, challenges and success stories. It would be an alternative to their usual technical support channels. I knew, in talking with our customers on a regular basis, that many asked for a tool to collaborate with other customers as part of their annual support subscription. I thought the project proposal was excellent and would help sustain our existing support contracts and get people talking about our product. I joined the team as a customer representative and subject matter expert. The concept was excellent, the need was there, and the final design was impressive, but the project was shot down before it ever had a chance to test with customers.

The concept was initiated by the VP, and he also elected to manage the project. This was the first issue that contributed to the project's failure because ultimately, his intentions were not in the best interest of the company. By this, I mean that he believed that the success of this project was going to set him above the rest of the executive staff, thus bolstering his career in the eyes of the company. This set the tone for the whole project plan because he kept the project details on a ‘need to know’ basis.  He wanted to keep as much of the project details secret so that he could stage a big company reveal. In doing this, his focus was purely on the design, and he did not consider any risks, constraints or assumptions. Project managers give themselves the greatest chance for success if they prepare at the outset for how to minimize any associated negative consequences (Portny et al., 2009). The VP set himself up for failure by ignoring potentially negative consequences and focusing only on his personal gain.  His narrow focus proved to be disastrous when he demonstrated his online community prototype to the entire company. His big reveal turned out to be a colossal flop.

Photo credit

During the demonstration, the VP was pelted with questions about site security, maintaining site exclusivity for our customers, product information leakage, and resources for discussion moderation. The company was so put off because these critical factors were not considered that no-one wanted to back the project. Despite the excellent concept and proven customer need, the narrow, selfish focus of the project sponsor, poor project management and restricted communication left the online community idea on the table. To this day, no one has wanted to attempt to conduct a project post-mortem or revive this project, despite the fact that the VP has moved on to another company. 

Greer, M. (2010).  The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Kramer, B. E., & Sutton, M. M. (2009). Project management. John Wiley.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Project Management in Education and Training

I am starting a new class at Walden- Project Management in Education and Training. 
According to the syllabus, I will learn more about systematic approaches to project management. I will use various project management tools, procedures, and methodologies, and apply them to projects in a real-world education or training environment. I will analyze the interrelated nature of the triple constraints of time, cost, and scope, and their impact on the overall quality of the project. I will post my class assignments here as well.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Reflection- Distance Learning

Photo Credit
Distance learning, not unlike any new concept or technology, has taken a bit of time to gain momentum and acceptance. Dr. Siemens (n.d.) offers a glimpse of the timeline when he discusses the adoption of live video calls using Skype ( Five years ago, no one would have believed the claim that one would be able to talk to anyone, anywhere in the world, and see them as one talks. Skype now offers that technology and people are using it to keep in touch with friends and family regularly. In the next five years, I would expect to see distance learning emerge as an accepted way to learn.  As the years progress, technology will continue to advance which will only propel distance learning further into the mainstream. As people become more comfortable with technology use such as mobile phones, tablets and video chat, they will see distance learning as a more viable option.

Clearly many misconceptions about distance learning still exist especially around the quality of education and the lack of face-to-face interaction between student and teacher. There is also a distinction in appropriate audiences for distance learning, which centers on age. Distance learning is main stream currently for adult learners because of the ability to learn and manage other life commitments. Adults are also more mature and can navigate learning with little direction; however, distance learning is slower to be adopted with younger students for these reasons. Some states have student populations growing faster than they can build facilities; thus distance education will become more attractive in the coming years (Huett et al., 2008). Public schools and K-12 education should see the biggest change in distance learning practices over the next twenty years but not without some effort to overcome concerns and misconceptions.

As an instructional designer, I can educate people about distance learning and address concerns or misconceptions. The best way that I know how to do this is through example, research, and employing best practice strategies. Research and best practices can show the audience an accurate picture which enables them to make the most sensible choice for themselves (Simonson et al., 2011). I have to stay connected with instructional design trends and continually strive to improve my knowledge and designs that I deliver. Most importantly, I can give back to our field by contributing to blogs and writing articles to share my discoveries.


Huett J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). Tech Trends, 52(4), 63-67.

Siemens, G., (n.d.). Video: The Future of Distance Education. Walden University, EDU-6135.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2011). Teaching and learning at a distance, foundations of distance education. (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn &  Bacon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Converting a face to face class to a distance learning format can be a success if one follows certain pre-planning strategies such as determining the best design that will appropriately convey the learning outcomes, determining the role of the instructor, and devise strategies to encourage students to communicate, delivery method, learning environment, and needed technology. One also must be clear on what distance learning is before beginning the conversion. Distance education is defined as “institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunication systems are used to connect the learners, resources and instructors” (Simonson, et al., 2012, p32). With this definition in mind, it is also necessary to avoid dumping all of the face to face course content into the online resources or distance learning plan. The two courses should be similar in that they can have the same learning objectives, but how these objectives are achieved must be re-evaluated for distance education.

Technical and Environment Planning
There are several areas of pre-planning that should be address for truly getting started with the conversion. The first critical area to focus on is determining how you want to accomplish your blended learning plan. 
Photo Credit
What sections and content of the class will be maintained and delivered online versus using synchronous or live activities. An efficient way to accomplish this is to create a course storyboard that outlines the flow and segments of the course. After you have a clear idea on the storyboard of the course, create a site map that will help you build and link your online course together. With these two guidelines, you have enough information to choose your course hosting tool (Learning management system-LMS) that you will use to create your course shell.

From here, the next area to review is the course content. The instructor has less of an idea of how or what their learners are doing in an online format; thus it is essential that content is decidedly concise and clear, and that methods are in place for students to connect with instructors or other students (Piskurich, n.d.). Activities and applications are also more effective in conveying content in an online environment so considerable planning should allowed for designing these around the learning objectives (Simonson, et al., 2012).  If the content has not been evaluated against an instructional design model, such as ADDIE, then it is a good practice to step through the model phases while reviewing content. Incorporating distance learning also provides an opportunity to enhance the existing content with available technology. Videos, podcasts, interactive content, discussion boards, blogs and wikis are a few areas to be explored. Lastly, a redesigned syllabus should be created to include links and instructions for any new technology, new content and valuable tips on how to use and succeed in your online course. This can include a site orientation and valuable online learning tips such as time management or online discussion strategies. The role of the instructor and the responsibilities must also be clearly defined. Once the content has been defined, then it can be added to the online course shell.

The learner’s role changes slightly in a distance learning environment and these changes should be reviewed. As mentioned before, learners and instructors are physically separated so the student must have access to the course content at anytime, and the course outline, objectives and instructions should be clearly explained. A support system should be established for the learners so they can contact someone for technical or content support. In an online environment, learners are more responsible for their learning. They must be motivated to continue to study and learn on their own. Some ways to ensure that the learner stays motivated is to establish learner-to-learner and learner-to-instructor communication mediums, such as threaded discussions, where they can post comments and ask questions. Additionally, thought design to the application and assignments to ensure that they are challenging and interactive can go a long way.

The instructor’s role changes the most in this conversion. You will no longer be delivering the course content, but rather becoming more of a guide or facilitator. Your job will be to redirect, clarify, correct and guide (Simonson, et al. 2012). Feedback and communication becomes extremely beneficial and should be done in a timely manner to keep the course on pace. Insure that you have provided guidelines on how you can be contacted and establish an open line of communication for student support.

Once the course is built, it is necessary to have an initial click through or alpha test with some of your colleagues or students. You will not be able to make a perfect conversion the first time through; thus feedback is essential at this phase. Find out what the strong points and the poor points are and expand and improve on those. Learning objectives and outcomes should be effectively evaluated as well, to determine if the scope, sequence and activities conveyed them appropriately. Adopt the strategy of improvement and include feedback opportunities for your students during each course to have input available.
Photo credit

Checklist for Converting to Distance Learning Format This guide has highlighted the most notable aspects of pre-planning and included valuable tips and considerations. Included is a checklist that will help you plan and succeed with your course conversion.   Please see the attached PDF for a copy of this information and the aforementioned checklist.

PDF for Download

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education (5th Ed.). Boston , MA: Pearson.

Piskurich, G., & Chauser, J. (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses. (Video Program). Laureate Education, Inc.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Impact of Open Course

Photo credit

Over the last few years, the availability of open education has changed dramatically. MIT’s *Opencourseware (OCW) was once the only institution providing free educational materials, however, users can now access thousands of courses from hundreds of organizations in many different languages. The Opencourseware Consortium alone has more than 250 member institutions dedicated to open education and continues to make their course materials available for free. I selected an **OCW Scholar course from MIT to evaluate so that I could better understand the purpose of the course, and discover how it compares to defined requirements for distance learning. 

I chose the Introduction to Computer Science and Programming course taught by Professor John Guttag (2012).  The course description suggests that the course is aimed at students with no computer programming experience, and should provide students with an understanding of the function computation can play in solving problems. The course uses Python programming language and states that students should feel confident, after completing the course, to write small programs in this language (Guttag, 2012).

Photo Credit

As I reviewed the course, I was particularly impressed with the breadth of information and explanation about the class itself, the objective, and the thoughtful flow of the course. The syllabus was complete with links to lesson requirements, optional textbooks, and technical requirements for taking the course. The course included a technology overview of the software required for the course and a full page of additional resources. This information, especially the syllabus, provides the student with a scope, a course completion sequence, and clarification on what is required for successfully class completion. By most standards, all of these elements are consistent with the requirements for any distance learning program (Simonson et al., 2012).

Photo Credit

The course is divided up into three manageable units, each containing complete lectures by Professor Guttag (2012), resources such as handouts or slides, homework problems, and narrative videos to aide in problem solving techniques. Piskurich (n.d.) agrees that distance learning activities need to be related to the course objectives, and I found that each unit activity allows students to improve upon their computing skills with Python. Additionally, each unit includes self-assessment tools, including quizzes with solutions to allow learners to evaluate themselves on their progress. The course demonstrates thoughtful and considerate planning with regards to design, content inclusion, and organization. It includes appropriate activities and assessment tools to help the learner develop their knowledge of computer programming through this course. These elements are also vital in comparing this course with distance learning standards (Simonson et al., 2012).

The only limitation that I could find was the lack of communication options between the student and instructor or institution. Distance learning should include asynchronous and synchronous components (Piskurich, n.d.; Simonson et al., 2012). This course falls in line with a distance self study course because it does not utilize any components, such as chat, email or discussion wiki’s that allow for feedback from the instructor. I think that MIT understood this to be a limiting factor because they sponsor a secondary component to OCW Scholar called OpenStudy.  Users of OCW scholar courses can interact with each other, work together on assignments, and collaborate on questions. Study groups are also available. While this does not meet the criteria of interaction between student and instructor, it does add an element of collaboration that increases student motivation and the overall value of the course.

OCW has a valuable role in distance education, and is particularly significant for those learners that do not have learning opportunities readily available to them. Additionally, teachers around the world can use the information found in OCW resources to improve their teaching content, thus perpetuating the spirit of open sharing.


Guttag, John. 6.00SC Introduction to Computer Science and Programming, Spring 2011. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 30 May, 2012). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Piskurich, G., & Chauser, J. (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses. (Video Program). Laureate Education, Inc.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education (5th Ed.). Boston , MA: Pearson.


*Opencourseware (OCW) is a web based publication of MIT courses.  It is not a degree bearing or credit granting initiative, but serves as a content library that anyone can access for free.

** OpenCourseWare (OCW) Scholar courses are substantially more complete than typical OCW courses and include custom-created content and materials repurposed from previously published courses. The materials are arranged in logical sequences and often include enhanced multimedia.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

A high school history teacher, located on the west coast of the United States, wants to showcase to her students new exhibits being held at two prominent New York City museums. The teacher wants her students to take a "tour" of the museums and be able to interact with the museum curators, as well as see the art work on display. Afterward, the teacher would like to choose two pieces of artwork from each exhibit and have the students participate in a group critique of the individual work of art. As a novice of distance learning and distance learning technologies, the teacher turned to the school district’s instructional designer for assistance. In the role of the instructional designer, what distance learning technologies would you suggest the teacher use to provide the best learning experience for her students?

When I first considered this scenario, I got excited about the highly technical prospects of creating a virtual museum in Second Life or commissioning some virtual tour software to create a custom museum tour matched by no other. Seriously, Second Life has a virtual underwater Jules Verne museum that is rumored to be amazing. Also, take a look at this interactive museum tour that was built using Virtual Tour Engine:

Click here for interactive version
I have these technically robust ideas as a knee jerk reaction, and it is probably because I have been in the corporate software business for many years. There is nothing wrong with an elaborate technical imagination, but solution ideas such as Second Life or Virtual Tour Engine may not be well suited for a high school class project. There would be too many “what ifs”, a steep learning and design curve, and high costs associated with something of this magnitude.

The first logical step would be to make sure that the New York museums did not already a virtual tour available to structure a possible solution around. For discussion sake, let’s assume that there is no museum provided solution. Continuing my search for an affordable, easy to implement, yet still exciting solution for this scenario, I stumbled upon something quite amazing in its own right. Dr. Christy Keeler is a pedagogy scholar and educational consultant. Her recent publications are in the fields of educational technology, instructional design, and social studies education. Dr. Keeler is also a PowerPoint genius that introduced the concept of virtual museums built entirely in PowerPoint. She offers examples and templates of virtual museums, and instructions (including videos) that demonstrate how to create virtual museums from scratch or using a template (Keeler). Take a look at this to get an idea of what I am talking about: 

Photo Credit

More examples here

Dr. Keeler’s virtual museum tool would be the basic foundation of my suggested solution. Obviously we would have to seek assistance from the museum in getting digital images of the artifacts within each exhibit. There may be the singular expense of a trip to New York to meet with the curator, take some digital images and, maybe, video footage to collect the content for the project. If video footage of the curator could not be obtained, one could arrange several video Skype sessions with the curator over the course of the project. An alternative method of interaction with the curator would be to set up a discussion Wiki that the curator would moderate. The next part of the solution would be to host the virtual museum PowerPoint files on a school intranet, so that students could review and study at their own pace. This type of self study places emphasis on independence (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).  This would be ideal for high school age students.  If this option is not available, then we could use a free document hosting site like Google Docs. Many schools and faculty have to deal with outdated computers, minimal software options, and little funding (Simonson, et al. 2012). All of these proposed solutions are free, with a lower learning curve and require minimal software to build and host.

The proposed solution may not be as impressive as an underwater virtual museum, but with a lot of thoughtful planning and creativity, it can be just as exciting.

Keeler, C. [Web log message]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance, foundations of distance education. (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Defining Distance Learning

Photo Credit
I completed my bachelor’s degree without computer technology, so my exposure to distance learning through online resources has been mainly within the last few years. Going as far back as I can remember, my mother took shorthand classes through a correspondence by mail at a local business school. They would send her cassette tapes of dictation, and she would transcribe those words into short hand, and mail her work back to school. Then I worked at a hospital through the internet boom and watched our facility go through the growing pains of converting manual processes to electronic. They converted our normal means of communication, through a pneumatic tube system and telephone, to computer based. This lead way to my transition from healthcare to information technology and I began a new career as a training consultant that taught hospital employees about their new computer systems. These moments signified a technology turning point for me. To further propel my information technology transition, I took self study Microsoft classes and certification exams. I would correspond with the instructors via email, and then take the exam at a designated computer lab for official scoring.  Continuing in the information technology field, I began working for a software company who had a training facility at our headquarters, and our customers would travel to us to attend our training classes. This eventually changed, and we began sending our trainers to our customer’s to conduct training. Not until the last five years, have we been dedicated to converting all of our training to online self study, with the option of “on-live” or live online training.

My initial definition of distance learning, e-learning or online learning only considered the experiences of the learner. I thought that any class taken electronically, regardless of whether the instructor was readily available or not, was considered distance learning. I work for a software company, and we offer e-learning modules that are recorded modules which can be accessed at any time. I thought that this mode of learning could be classified as distance learning until listening to Dr. Simonson (n.d.). He helped me realize that this is not distance learning, but rather online self-study at a distance (Simonson, n.d.).   I understand that the current definition of distance learning includes emphasis on both teaching and learning. Dr. Simonson (n.d.) defines distance learning formal education in which the learning group (teacher, students and resources) are available but separated by geography and sometimes time. Instructional media or communication technology is what links the group members together. Dr. Simonson’s definition allows for the separation of distance learning from self-study at a distance, thus helping me to distinguish between the two modes of learning (Simonson, n.d.).   
Photo Credit

Three factors, in my opinion, drive the changing definition of distance learning: technology, need, and professional industry. It is obvious that the evolution of technology has caused a significant increase in distance learning and online learning in general. Also, as technology continues to evolve, so will the capabilities of learning in this capacity. As distance learning becomes more and more mainstream, different needs will emerge.  These needs will continue to drive changes in distance learning. Lastly, distance learning is a broad term that can be applied to learning in many different industries, such as military\government, education, and corporate\industry. I think that a person’s profession creates a perception of distance learning which can model their own interpretation of the term distance learning. As standards are developed, we will see that these broad standards will not apply to every industry; thus definition differentiations will begin to emerge based on individual industry standards. I do not think that distance learning will be the sole process of learning in the future, nor replace our brick and mortar education establishments.  I think that distance learning will continue to be integrated and hybridized in all areas of learning.  Learning styles will change as we begin integrating newer technologies such as multiuser virtual reality environments, augmented reality and mobile and wireless technology (Dede, 2005).  Learners will be more in control of structuring their own educational needs through these technology integrations. 

Mind Map of Distance Learning Definition

This is a visual representation of my original definition (blue) and my new definition (blue + yellow) of Distance Learning.  The additional node (purple) includes some of my ideas on the future of distance education.

A small interactive preview is below.  Click the nodes to expand the map.  To see the entire map in a full screen view,  please click here -Distance Learning Mind Map


Simonson, M. (Performer) (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Web]. Retrieved from

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Distance Learning

I am dusting off my blog, once again, and plan to begin posting assignments, observations and general information regarding my next course at Walden: Distance Learning.

Online education is becoming extremely popular today especially with the onset of globalization.  Through this class, I hope to understand new trends that are on the rise in the field of distance education, and their implications for designing and implementing distance-learning programs.