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 (www.skype.com). 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.