Archive for January, 2013

Selecting Distance Learning Technologies

Example 1: Collaborative Training Environment

A new automated staff information system was recently purchased by a major corporation and needs to be implemented in six regional offices. Unfortunately, the staff is located throughout all the different offices and cannot meet at the same time or in the same location. As an instructional designer for the corporation, you have been charged with implementing a training workshop for these offices. As part of the training, you were advised how imperative it is that the staff members share information, in the form of screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.

Proposed Solution:

Implementing a training workshop at different times and in different locations is a challenge for the instructional designer, but it is not an insurmountable challenge. I base my proposed solution on the following assumptions:

  • The automated staff information system is a major implementation for this corporation.
  • Employees in all six regional offices need to be equally proficient in using the system.
  • It is imperative staff members learn skills for sharing information through screen captures and documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration.
  • The instructional designer, while it is not stated in the scenario, has completed a thorough assessment in the instructional design process and identified one or two persons in each regional office having the skills and motivation to function as a team leader/instructor during the implementation process.

Given the challenge, I propose the instructional designer utilize a distance learning technology known as web conferencing to deliver virtual live synchronous training sessions, first to the team leaders/instructors then later to the remainder of the staff, with the instructional designer flexing his/her work hours to accommodate training times convenient for each regional office. Advantages for using a web conferencing solution are: 1) Lower internet bandwidth requirements; 2) No need to purchase expensive communication equipment; 3) Reliable in remote geographic locations; and 4) Able to provide audio and video in the same connection (Hudson, Knight, & Collins, 2012). In addition, this format enables teacher-student and student-student interactions for exchanging information and providing a “shared feeling of presence” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 178) among each other. Likewise, the same web conferencing solution may be utilized after the initial training workshops to facilitate ongoing sharing of information and collaboration.

The most widely known web conferencing providers include Cisco WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and MS LiveMeeting. If the corporation has a contract with one of these major providers, the instructional designer will need to use it. Free web conferencing solutions are available, though they may vary in available features, quality, and reliability. I am particularly impressed by Vyew, a web conferencing solution which offers an ad supported, free version forever with unlimited use for up to 10 people. Costs for adding up to 100 participants or an advertisement-free interface are very reasonable. Vyew does not require installations, is compatible with PC, Mac, Linux, PowerPoints, documents, images, videos, mp3’s, and flash files. Features of Vyew (View, 2013) which the instructional designer may utilize for this collaborative training environment are listed in this table.

Conferencing Features Collaboration Features Content Management Features
Live conferencing – synchronous Persistent collaboration – asynchronous anytime Flexible, PowerPoint-like authoring
Desktop sharing Public and private chat Broad, file-type support (including audio and video)
Change presenters Whiteboarding Native upload of documents
Screen capturing Hand raising, slow down, and other buttons Printing
Session recording Polling/quizzing
Support for up to 100 participants (first 10 are free) Plug-ins such as graphing calculator

Prior to the training workshops, the instructional designer needs to become an expert at using the web conferencing tool. He/she also needs to allocate time for one or more practice sessions and conducting at least one pilot session. For the team leader/instructor sessions, skills for using the web conferencing tool should be included in addition to topics specific to the automated staff information system. When conducting the training workshops for the remainder of staff, it is recommended the instructional designer and the designated team leaders/instructors for each of the regional offices teach the sessions together. The instructional plan must include strategies for teaching all staff how to use the web conferencing tool to share information, obtain screen captures, upload documents, and participate in ongoing collaboration. Considering the need for these additional skills, it is recommended the training be divided into multiple sessions, one for web conferencing skills, and one or more sessions for skills specific to the new automated staff information system. If necessary, wiki sites, a Web 2.0 technology, may be utilized for additional collaboration.

Web conferencing technologies are also used for other distance learning activities, including those in higher education and K-12 education. The Harvard Extension School (Harvard Extension School, 2013), a division of Harvard University, uses web conferencing for continuing education non-credit courses and part-time bachelor and master’s degree classes. Alaska’s Learning Network (Alaska’s Learning Network, 2013) makes education more accessible to students and teachers in remote locations or without advanced resources by using web conferencing and other distance learning technologies. It is a coalition of all school districts in Alaska, providing instruction to high school students, professional development for teachers, and free online resources, lessons, and online courses.


Alaska’s Learning Network (2013, January 26). Making education more accessible. Retrieved from

Harvard Extension School (2013, January 26). Web conference course guidelines. Retrieved from


Hudson, T. M., Knight, V., & Collins, B. C. (2012). Perceived effectiveness of web conferencing software

in the digital environment to deliver a graduate course in applied behavior analysis. Rural   

Special Education Quarterly, 31(2), 27-39. 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: Pearson.


Defining Distance Learning

My personal definition of distance learning prior to enrolling in the Distance Learning graduate course was that it only applied to online collegiate and university credit courses administered via a course management system such as eCollege or Blackboard. Little did I know distance learning actually has a rich history dating back to the early 1800s when a Swedish newspaper published an advertisement for the first print-based correspondence study, enabling people from all levels of society, including women to study composition (Bratt, as cited in Verduin & Clark, 1991, p. 15, and cited again in Tracey & Richey, 2005, p. 17). From this week’s course readings, I also learned the satellite instructional television I experienced as a K-12 student in the 1960’s and early 1970s is considered one of the early technologies of distance education (Tracey & Richey, 2005, p. 18).

Through the course readings, multimedia and video programs, I learned the terms Distance Learning and Distance Education are used interchangeably. This concept is also referred to as “open learning, networked learning, distributed learning, independent study, and online learning” (Tracey & Richey, 2005, p. 17). There are almost as many definitions of distance learning as there are names for this concept. Let’s look at four of those definitions:

  1. “Distance Education is an institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012, p. 32). To simplify this definition, think of it as four distinct components; institutionally based; teacher and student are separated; data, voice, and video are shared learning experiences; and includes interactive telecommunications (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 33).
  2. “Distance education is a structured learning experience that can be engaged in away from an academic institution, at home or at a workplace, and can lead to degrees or credentials” (Gunawardena & McIsaac, 2004; Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2000, p. 17; as cited in Tracey & Richey, 2005, p. 17).
  3. Moore (2007, as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 34) defines distance education in this manner, “as a planned and systematic activity that comprises the choice, didactic preparation, and presentation of teaching materials as well as the supervision and support of student learning, which is achieved by bridging the physical distance between student and teach by means of at least one appropriate technical medium”.
  4. Keegan’s definition of distance education includes five elements: “The quasi-permanent separation of teacher and learner throughout the length of the learning process; the influence of an educational organization both in the planning and preparation of learning materials and in the provision of student support services”; the use of technical media – print, audio, video, or computer – to unite teacher and learner and carry the content of the course; the provision of two-way communication so that the student benefits from or initiates dialogue; and the quasi-permanent absence of the learning group throughout the length of the learning process” (as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 36).

While all four of the above definitions are good, my personal favorite is by Perraton (1988) which states, “distance education is an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone removed in space and/or time from the learner” (as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 34). By utilizing this definition and information contained in this week’s resources, I now understand distance learning has grown to include synchronous and asynchronous learning programs in all sectors of education including training and development, higher education, and K-12 education (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). I also learned the three learning management systems (LMS) I have managed for the last nine years of my professional career are components of distance learning. With 3200 employees scattered among multiple sites, working rotating shifts, and needing to complete a minimum of 13 ‘mandatory’ courses annually, e-learning which is available “anywhere, anytime” (Carnwell, 2000; Salmon, 2004; as cited in Lewis & Price, 2007, p. 139) is essential for a large healthcare organization where I am employed.

The evolution path for distance learning has often paralleled advances in technology, though its evolution has also been influenced by changing educational values and philosophies (Tracey & Richey, 2005, p. 17). According to the International Association for Distance Learning, the following advancements and changes will impact the future of distance learning (IADL, 2012, January 13):

  • Continuous learning will be essential.
  • International study will not be as dependent on travel.
  • Distance learning will impact the operations of traditional schools.
  • Technical familiarity will have increasing value.

In addition, to meet the learning needs in a changing world, distance learning will need to evolve by being (IDAL, 2012, January 13):

  • Time flexible
  • Free of geographical barriers
  • Competitive in cost and value
  • Learner-centered
  • Incorporating high-technology media and computer applications into instructor presentations and course work
  • Culturally diverse
  • Adaptable to the needs of the global marketplace
  • Growth oriented from the perspective of the individual and organization
  • Contemporary material, relevant to the times

My vision for the future of distance learning as depicted on my mind map includes a continuing expansion of virtual universities and the creation of global mega universities; increased number of cyber charter schools and home school charter schools; increased utilization of mobile devices for mobile learning; expanded variety of options for cloud storage, cloud computing, and cloud presentations; enhanced technology for open source applications and freeware; beginning use of massive open online courses (MOOCs) for certifications; increased use of virtual worlds, social networking, and social media in the promotion of distance learning. As these examples suggest, the future of distance learning is very bright.


International Association for Distance Learning (2012, January 13). What is the future of distance learning? Retrieved from

Lewis, P. A., & Price, S. (2007). Distance education and the integration of e-learning in a graduate program. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 38(3), 139-143. Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: implications for instructional design on the potential of the web, part 1. TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75. Retrieved from DOI: 10.1007/s11528-008-0158-5

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

Tracey, M. W., & Richey, R. C. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21. Retrieved from

Future of Distance Learning-BakerP

Distance Learning, Here I Come!

Welcome to Eruditio Propositium, a blog dedicated to instructional design. My name is Penelope. I am enrolled in Distance Learning, my seventh course in the Instructional Design and Technology graduate program at Walden University. This course is a great fit with my professional responsibilities as an instructional technology educator, system administrator of the learning management system, and developer of asynchronous e-learning content in a community hospital. In forthcoming weeks, I look forward to sharing my new knowledge of distance learning through periodic blog postings.