Archive for the ‘Distance Learning’ Category

Reflecting on the Future of Distance Learning

As Walden University’s graduate course EDUC 6135 Distance Learning comes to a close, I will reflect upon the future of distance learning by answering the following questions:

  1. What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5-10 years; 10-20 years)?
  2. How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
  3. How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?

Perceptions of Distance Learning in the Future

When I started this course eight weeks ago, I was not aware of the impact distance learning has had on the history of education, both formal and informal, going back to its early beginnings as a correspondence study advertised through a Swedish newspaper in 1833 (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). Along the evolution time line, it is interesting how many of the advances in distance learning occurred in conjunction with advances in technology. This timeline includes the following milestones: mail order correspondence studies, educational radio, education via broadcast television, and then satellite instructional television (Simonson et al., 2012). Fiber-optic communication systems, introduced in the late 1980s, were the first of its kind to offer, live, two-way, audio and video communication between groups of students (Simonson et al., 2012).

Despite fiber-optics’ unique features, its impact on distance learning was quickly overshadowed by the creation of the World Wide Web in 1991 and as one resource describes it, the “internet changed everything” (Post University, 2012). The bond between distance learning and the internet has grown so strong in the last 22 years, I wonder if it will ever be broken. On the other hand, with the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies including blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, Flash, hosted services, and web applications (MindGrub Technologies, 2010), distance learning moved into a new era, not just for delivering content, but also for creating and sharing content in a global setting, irrespective of time and place.

Distance learning will continue to evolve as Web 3.0 technologies are implemented. Known as the “Intelligent Web with its portability and mobility” (MindGrub Technologies, 2010), distance learners will have access to better searches, ultra-high speed broadband networks, and fourth generation cellular wireless transmissions. Other Web 3.0 technologies anticipated to impact distance learning include: Cloud computing and storage options, Internet on TV, social media on Smart Phones and in motor vehicles, and location enabled social media (MindGrub Technologies, 2010).

In addition to the emerging Web 3.0 technologies, other forces will also impact distance learning in the coming years. As Dr. Siemens reflected in his video, the future for distance learning in the next 5 to 10 years includes a growing acceptance of online communication, practical experience with new technology tools, and a growing comfort with online learning programs. Also, distance learners will have the ability to communicate with a diverse group of global learners, in the corporate world, as well as in education (Laureate Education, 2010).

Distance learning in the future will be impacted by these additional advancements and changes: Continuous learning will be essential for the workers of tomorrow; the operation of traditional schools for K-12 education and higher education will evolve and meld together; and technical familiarity with distance learning skills will have increasing value for students (The International Association for Distance Learning (IADL), n.d.). According to the IADL, these changes are expected in the next decade: partnerships and mergers between learning institutions, publishers, technology companies and learning providers; an increasing percentage of learning will occur online; the instructor role will fade as specialized positions expand such as instructional design, content delivery, learning facilitator, and learner support. Likewise,  demand for top instructors will increase; fewer students will attend traditional on-campus degree programs, and most learners will get a portion of their formal education through online courses. The number of adult students is expected to continue increasing; cultural diversity will be more integrated into formal education; and learners will complete “degrees and certificates made up of courses and experiences from a wide range of private, public, traditional, and online learning providers” (IADL, n.d.).

In the next 10 to 20 years, I anticipate distance learning will look and function far differently than what it does today. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will expand exponentially; adult learners will be in complete control of their educational journeys; and distance learning courses will be fully interactive and realistic. Competency-based education where learners earn degrees by demonstrating competencies instead of completing required courses or credit hours (Western Governor’s University, 2013; as cited in Prometric, 2013) will experience growing acceptance and expansion. Additionally, K-12 online education will be fully integrated into school curricula while technology becomes the classroom instead of technology just being in the classroom (Post University, 2012). Higher education will experience a shift in that technology will be fully integrated into face-to-face programs as well as integrated into distance learning programs.

Improving Societal Perceptions of Distance Learning

As an instructional designer and a soon-to-be graduate of a distance learning program, I have a responsibility to be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning. This responsibility may be accomplished in several ways. On the local level, I can influence other adult learners to consider enrolling in distance learning programs to complete higher education degrees; advocate and play a major role in the design of and increased usage of distance learning in the work environment; and lobby my family and friends to consider enrolling in at least one or two distance learning courses while attaining their educational degrees. Mentoring other distance learners is another way I can improve the perceptions of distance learning. On an expanded level, I can work to improve society’s perception of distance learning by joining professional associations whose core purposes are directed to distance learning. Likewise, I can lobby my elected officials when laws and regulations regarding distance learning need to be enacted or changed.

Being a Positive Force for Continuous Improvement

It is possible to be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education. This can be accomplished by my commitment to maintain and improve my instructional design skills on a regular basis. Having up-to-date instructional design skills however is not enough. I must also be willing to learn how to use new technology for designing distance education as the technology becomes available. In addition, I must also be willing to update my knowledge and skills for the entire distance education process including assessment, design, development, implementation, and evaluation.

This distance learning course was extremely challenging and a huge commitment of my personal time to accomplish its goals and objectives, but the knowledge, skills, and dispositions I gained in the learning process far outweigh the inconveniences of long hours of study and preparation, and sleepless nights.


Laureate Education (2010). Dr. George Siemens: The future of distance education. [Video Program].

MindGrub Technologies (2010). Emerging web 3.0 technologies you need to know. Retrieved from

Post University (2012). The evolution of distance learning in higher education. [Interactive Timeline].  Retrieved from

Prometric (2013, March 2). The future of distance learning in practice. 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.

The International Association for Distance Learning (n.d.). What is the future of distance learning? Retrieved from


Converting to a Distance Learning Format

For the week seven course assignment in my graduate degree program, I created a Best Practices Guide for a training manager intending to convert his company’s face-to-face training sessions to a blended learning format. Typically, a blended format, also referred to as hybrid (Sands, 2002), combines online and face-to-face delivery with 30% to 79% of the content being delivered online (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). While blended courses reduce time in the classroom, “seat time”(Sands, 2002, p. 1) is not eliminated altogether.

The Best Practices Guide includes the following sections of content: Pre-planning Strategies, Choosing the Right Content for the Blended Course, Transitioning from Trainer to Facilitator, and Promoting Communication. This document includes bullet points and sub-headings of essential concepts, graphic illustrations, a table for making the most of each mode, and references.

Throughout the design of this guide, my aim was to provide the trainer with the tools and strategies to assist him with the conversion of his face-to-face courses to a blended format. The intent was not to overswhelm him with everything there is to know regarding blended learning, but instead to provide him with the essential information he needs to be successful during the conversion process.

A PDF version of the complete document is provided in this posting.


Sands, P. (2002). Inside outside, upside downside, strategies for connecting online and face-to-face instruction in hybrid courses. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 8(6), 1-4. 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.

Best Practices Guide: Converting to a Distance Learning Format

The Impact of Open Source

For this week’s blog, I am evaluating MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC, a Yale College course on the Open Yale Courses website. The URL is:


Yale College began offering free courses on the Internet in 2007 (Open Yale Courses, 2013). While it was not the first institution of higher learning to offer open courses, that award goes to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2002 (Feintuch, 2009), Yale College nevertheless joined a growing list of colleges and universities in providing free access to lectures and other course materials via the Internet. Like other educational institutions offering open courses, Open Yale Courses is supported by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Company. The foundation’s mission is to “equalize access to knowledge and educational opportunities across the world” (Open Yale Courses, 2013).

MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC is a face-to-face course about western classical music, taught on the Yale College campus by Professor Craig Wright. It was recorded in a large lecture hall for Open Yale Courses in 2008.

Pre-planned and Designed for Distance Learning:

This course appears to be carefully pre-planned and designed for distance learning as well as face-to-face instruction. On the course home page, learners have access to the course syllabus, links to 23 lecture sessions, a course survey, and an option to purchase the textbook. Unfortunately, the textbook link does not provide access to the Yale University Press though I confirmed, the text, written by the same professor, and its companion music CDs are available for purchase on

While the course is essentially a series of face-to-face lectures, each lecture has its own web page providing an introduction, overview, resources, and reading assignment. Media links are also available including a full transcript, audio mp3, low bandwidth video, and high bandwidth video. In addition, the lecture videos are divided into chapters, enabling learners to control the pace of the entire course and each lecture within the course.

According to Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, and Zvacek (2012), issues to be addressed in the planning process should include analyzing the general abilities of the class, analyzing the potential for learner interactivity, understanding learner characteristics, and helping learners understand the context of the learning experience. There is evidence Professor Wright completed these activities at some point in the past. He is animated and personable. Despite the size of the lecture hall and probable large number of students, he interacts with them by asking questions, repeating their answers for the recording, and conducts informal polling with a show of hands.

Recommendations for Online Instruction:

As identified in our text, instructional goals and objectives are important to “match the content of the subject to the needs of the learners” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 158). Unfortunately the syllabus posted on the Open Yale Courses website is limited in scope, and missing essential information, including goals and objectives. It appears this syllabus may be different than the one given to students in the face-to-face course.

In the face-to-face course, it is evident Professor Wright utilized a “linear-designed instructional approach” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167). He gradually progresses from simple musical concepts to more complex concepts with each lecture in the series. While the distance learner has the option to navigate to the lectures in any order, the content is structured so that one lecture builds on the previous one. This distance course does not use any of these three instructional approaches: “branched- designed, hypercontent-designed, or learner-directed design” (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 167-170).

Regarding Bates’ “golden rules” for the use of technology in education (in Foley, 2003; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012), the professor demonstrates teamwork by utilizing media specialists to record the lecture, cue up the audio files, use audio equipment such as wireless hand-held and lapel microphones, and switch from the presentation software to other types of media during the lectures. Likewise, he balances variety with economy, by not using advanced forms of technology when a simpler form is all that is necessary. For example, this course is about classical music. The most effective strategy for learning about composers and their music is to listen to audio clips, followed by illustrations on the piano. Advanced technology is not necessary.

For the distance learner, completing this course in the online environment, learner interactivity is passive and limited to clicking the hyperlinks on the web pages. The learner sits at the computer, listening to the lecture with the use of a headset or ear buds. Learners purchasing the text book in advance of completing this distance course, have the option of writing in the text, underlining or highlighting key points. Also, the lectures are structured in a manner enabling learners to take handwritten notes, or printing the transcript and adding notes to it.

As part of the face-to-face course, Professor Wright includes a field trip to the Saybrook Youth Orchestra, which the students are required to attend. Students are also held accountable for attending the twice weekly lectures and once a week small-group sessions, though I am not exactly sure what is accomplished in the weekly sessions.

Implementation of Course Activities:

Regarding teaching strategies and media selection, examples of classical music, applicable to the course, are played during every lecture through the lecture hall’s sound system, cued up by a media assistant. Professor Wright frequently walks over to the piano to play musical phrases, illustrating musical concepts being discussed. For example, he illustrated the difference between major and minor chords by playing short portions of Beethoven’s 5th and 9th Symphonies. Then with a show of hands, he asked the students in an informal poll to indicate which Beethoven selection made them feel positive and which one made them feel more negative. In some of the lectures, he is seen using a laptop and advancing presentation slides, though most of the slides are not visible on the website due to copyright restrictions. To illustrate where music is processed in the brain, he used an image of the brain written in French because it was non-copyrighted. Since the majority of the presentation slides are not visible on the website, I am not able to access how well the professor complies with visualizing information when content is displayed through the projection system. A limited amount of information is written on a large blackboard attached to the wall and a large portable dry-erase board. Without knowing exactly how large the lecture hall is and the distance from the farthest students, I cannot judge whether these tools are effective.


Despite the limitations of interactivity and learner involvement, as a music lover and former choir director, and a former student in an undergraduate music appreciation face-to-face course, I enjoyed viewing Professor Wright’s lectures in the MUSI 112: LISTENING TO MUSIC course. Even though the basis of this distance course is a video recording of the professor’s face-to-face lectures, he does not behave in the manner typical of a “talking head” (Schlosser & Anderson, 1994; as cited in Simonson et al., 2012, p. 159), standing behind a podium and lecturing from one concept to another.  As previously stated, the professor is animated and personable, and interacts with students despite the size of the lecture hall. Likewise, he skillfully utilizes the piano as a key instructional strategy.


Feintuch, H. (2009). Knowledge at no cost. Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, 26(3), 16-18. 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.

Open Yale Courses (2008). MUSI 112: Listening to music. Retrieved from

Open Yale Courses (2013, February 9). Support OYC. Retrieved from

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.