Technological advances have reorganized how we teach and how we learn (Laureate Education Inc., n. d. a). Learning is no longer confined to the local classroom; students can now learn in different geographical regions and at different times. This approach to learning has been termed distant learning, e-learning, virtual learning and other terms (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Simonson (Laureate Education Inc., n. d. b) defines distance education as formal education where “the learning group (teacher, students, resources) are separated by geography and, sometimes, by time” (2:20).
Dede (2005) suggests emerging educational technology is also reshaping the learning styles and characteristics of today’s learner. Technologies, such as social media, “blogs, wiki’s, and podcasts” (p. 140) can now be integrated in Learner Management (LMS) or Course Management systems (CMS) to facilitate student collaboration and interaction (Beldarrin, 2006). This has created a paradigm shift for distant learning. The one-size-fits-all, passive instruction, is being rejected by the millennial students, and a number of Generation X and baby boomers (Dede, 2005; Simonson et al., 2012).
Siemens suggests rapid advance in technological tools will continue to play a significant role in the growth and acceptance of distance learning (Laureate Education, Inc., n. d. b). As distance learning principles expand into business, education, and government, perceptions of distance education, the traditional educational model will be progressively changed. According to Simonson et al. (2012), in the near future, distance education will play a more significant role, “as technology-delivered curricula will be offered by educational institutions and private corporations on a global basis to anyone, anywhere, at anytime” (p. 313).
The Future of Distance Learning
While Web 2.0 technologies have been prevalent in developed countries, developing countries lag behind. I do think in the next five years this will change and distance education technology in developing countries will become universally available allowing developing countries to expand distance learning options. Siemens states the future of distance education will involve a shift toward the triple helix model of education (Laureate Education Inc., 2012). Education, business and government, will continue to integrate and meld together as one to produce individuals prepared for future online environments (Laureate Education Inc., n. d.).
Dew (2010) predicts the majority of next generation college students will “earn degrees that are accredited by international accrediting agencies. Once-valued library books and resources will become obsolete, having been replaced by semantic search engines, online book collections and electronic journals (Dew, 2010). Does this mean the college campus will seize to exist? No, it will be many decades before some programs can be completely online, specifically in some medical and science fields, performing arts, and sport medicine/therapy (Dew, 2012). Plus, there will still be the draw of ‘living’ on campus, away from home, and the benefit of socialization with like-minded people. Oh, and let’s not forget college athletics, if that turns virtual then I hope my time on this earth has passed!
This short video by CegosUK suggests the term “Distance Learning” will become obsolete as it becomes integral in everything we do. Thought it was a nice supplement to Siemens and Dew (CegoUK, 2013)!
Advocating For Distance Education
As an instructional designer, part of my responsibility will be as an advocate and proponent for continuous improvement in the field of distance learning. One of the best ways to accomplish that is by having the competence in “knowing, designing, managing, leading, and visioning distance education” (Simonson, 2005, p. vii). This includes being knowledgeable on learning styles and theories, strategies, and keeping up-to-date with technical advances. As mentioned earlier, non-developed countries lag behind in communication delivery. For example, according to the engagement theory, collaborative efforts, project-based learning, and non-academic interactions, lead to engagement and authentic learning (Kearsley & Shneiderman, as cited in Beldarrain, 2006). Having a solid foundation of both distance learning theories and models will help create effective learning experiences and serve to validate distance learning education.
As to the future, Betrancourt (2005) suggests learning environments have “evolved from sequential static text and picture frames to increasing sophisticated visualizations” (p. 2). Web 2.0 tools are common today, used in business, education and in our personal lives. Social media and social software are viable components used in distance learning and is changing the way we communicate (Laureate Education, Inc., n. d.). I believe the next generation of learners will be engaged in virtual interactions. Finally, I predict distance education is here to stay and will continue to expand well into future decades. Simonson et al. (2012) add, the tools of learning will continue to evolve and enhance the learning experience.
Beldarrain, Y. (2006). Distance Education Trends: Integrating new technologies to foster student interaction and collaboration. Distance Education, 27(2), 139-153. doi:10.1080/01587910600789498
Betrancourt, M. (2005). The animation and interactivity principles in multimedia learning. In Mayer, R. (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 287–296). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from http://tecfa.unige.ch/perso/mireille/papers/Betrancourt05.pdf
CegosUK. (2013, August 8). Take 10: What is the future of distance learning? Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtzna0fC8xM
Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/apps/eq/eqm05/eqm0511.asp?print=yes
Dew, J. (2010). Global, mobile, virtual, and social: The college campus of tomorrow. The Futurist, 44(2), 46-50. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/218584778?accountid=14872
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.a). Reflection. [Course Documents]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_4775279_1%26url%3D
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (n.d.b). The future of distance education. [Video webcast]. Siemens. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_4775279_1%26url%3D
Simonson, M. (2005). Distance education eight steps for transforming an organization. The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 6(1), vii–vii. Retrieved from http://www.infoagepub.com/products/journals/qrde/articles/6-2_txt.pdf
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com.