Welcome to Distance Learning!
There is only one thing that is constant in this world: change. Everything evolves, adapts and grows including distance learning. Many factors drive this change. New breakthroughs in technologies, better raw product to make equipment, young men and women bringing their knowledge and expertise, etc. Since technology is ever-changing, then anything and everything having to do with technology must evolve or perish.
Back in the 80’s, we had Atari and what we thought were “awesome” games with PONG and ASTEROIDS playing on an ATARI or Commodore 64. We graduated to Pac-Man and Tempest arcade games.Today, we have the capability to play games with excellent 2D and 3D images and fantastic “realistic” graphics on personal computers, laptops, iPads, and smart phones. It is possible to play with multiple players all over the world at the SAME time. I wonder what would have happened if the bright young minds back then had quit “creating”? Would secretaries still be typing on IBM Selectric typewriters? Would the government have the only computers, one that could take up an entire room for only one purpose? Would we still be sending ALL mail through the Post instead of instant messaging or email?
Many, if not most people are connected to some kind of technology these days. It could be as simple as a cell phone or as complex as a laptop. Many are still limited by the costs of the higher priced items like iPods, iPads, and iPhones as well as other higher priced items like Alienware Gaming PC’s. By the time a person can save the money to buy one of these items, they are already “obsolete” and one is in the works and waiting in the wings ready to replace it.It does not matter what profession a person is in or how much technical knowledge he/she has. Change is imminent.
Before coming into this class, I had already taken courses online. According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, distance learning is “education that takes place via electronic media linking instructors and students who are not together in a classroom”. For me distance learning is much more than that. It is having the capability of transferring knowledge from one person to another through the use of the internet, multimedia, books, online articles, etc. It is the interaction between students and professors via discussions, emails, phone calls, class time via BlackBoard Elluminate, blogs, etc. It is connecting with people from all parts of the world in one centralized place (Walden University) to learn and grow together as we proceed through our courses. Sometimes, our “classmates” become friends and keep in touch beyond the program. The old Nigerian proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is true. It is also true that it takes people connected through technology to make a better world. That is what distance learning is all about.
Before taking classes myself, I knew that there were mediums such as Blackboard to create a classroom and enhance the online learning experience. After having taken a dozen courses from French and Spanish for Healthcare Professionals to Foundations of Research and Distance Learning, it would be quite difficult for me to sit in a traditional brick and mortar setting. Geography would be the biggest hurdle if I wanted to attend Walden University. It is halfway across the US and I cannot leave my responsibilities. Having a smaller “classroom”, albeit online, is great! I am able interact with my classmates more often than I would have in a traditional setting. I also “chat” more with my “mates”. Wondering why? People are busy these days. Most folks work. Many “students” have spouses, children, or other family members to take care of. Some may even work a second job. The point is, people go to school, exchange a pleasantry or two and then leave as soon as possible. They really do not have, or take, the opportunity to interact on a level that is possible through distance learning. Online, there is a possibility of effecting change, whether it is on a social or global level, through such a medium.
As a former home school parent, even though it did not go as I had planned, it would have been a tremendous help to have access to K-12 online like it is offered today. One has a choice of free or paid K-12 online schooling. If you have children who are bright yet are bored with school, a K-12 online learning environment would be an option. Living in the rural mountain of North Carolina, my children had to travel around an hour and one half each way. It was only 6.5 miles to school. that is three hours out of their day that they could have been doing something other than sitting on a bus. They were the first ones on and the last ones off of the bus.
As technologies adapt and improve, our educational opportunities and the mediums with which they are presented will too. “The ID is placed in a situation of having to train a workforce so they will be ready to execute innovations that have not yet been identified” (Moeller, Foshay, Huett, 2013). As Instructional Designers at this point in time, we are in unique positions to help effect such a change. Nowadays, geography, the physical location of a school or student, does not matter. We have the capabilities to truly reach the world. In my opinion, regardless of location or methods, whatever is the “most effective strategy is the one learners will actually use” (Moeller, Foshay, Huett, 2013). For example, students who have physical limitations can now take their courses online through K-12 in the comfort of their own home environments. They can have access to a tutor, in person or online, as well as a teacher driven class or in an asynchronous environment. Whatever method suits their needs, they can truly create and tailor their own educational experience to their specific needs, schedules, etc.
Distance learning will continue to evolve. It has to. As newer innovations and technologies are developed, the capabilities of distance learning programs will have to evolve as well or they will also go the way of Megalodon and T-Rex. I look forward to seeing new technologies that have not been dreamt of yet. Maybe we will be able to have computers like the ones in AVATAR. They can move screens from a portable “hard frame” to “open air”. Maybe we will have computers like the ones in Demolition Man. Oh wait! We already do: we have cars with live voices from far away = GPS. We have video conferencing via a handheld device – can you say iPad? It may be that we have two-way tv’s like they did in one of the scenes. We have that too as long as each person has a webcam.
My opinion and definition of distance learning will evolve over this course. My opinion can only grow stronger in favor of online distance learning. As I learn more about it, I am sure I will be able to add more to defining my “definition”.
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5). 63-67.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008a). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 1: Training and development). TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008b). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.