I used to take distance learning at face value. I never thought about what goes into it in order to create a learning experience that’s available to people wherever convenient for them. I searched for a formal definition of distance learning, and this is what I found: “a method of studying in which lectures are broadcast or classes are conducted by correspondence or over the Internet, without the student's needing to attend a school or college. Also called distance education.” I agree with this very basic definition of the phrase, but what stuck out most to me is that the definition clearly states that it can also be called distance education.
After reading through this week’s discussion posts, Marina reminded me that in a previous class we talked about the difference between learning and education. After some reflection, I feel that distance learning cannot be called distance education. Learning can take place anywhere (reading a book, watching television, listening to a lecture, etc), but education is something that the learner wants. The learner must be invested in his or her own education; they usually take it upon themselves to facilitate knowledge.
I believe a person’s view on what distance learning is can be impacted by many different factors. As an undergraduate student I saw it as something that allowed me to complete classes without actually sitting in class (and, honestly, still see it that way on occasion). I had no technical knowledge of what distance learning was – to me, it involved a computer, a textbook, and an Internet connection. As I’ve matured (in general and because of work experience), I’ve grown to have a better understanding of what distance learning is. Or, maybe I should say I’ve grown to learn a new, expanded definition. Since beginning a job where I work with a team of distance learning professionals, I’ve come to appreciate the amount of work that happens before a student can access a module online.
I did used to believe that distance learning was as simple as listening to lectures or completing assignments in the comfort of my own home (or dorm room), but after gaining more insight and studying this program, I realize it’s more than that. Distance learning is an instructor taking the time to put together a well informed lesson, it’s a student wanting to read the content so that they do well on the quiz, and it’s a new way of promoting topics to those who ordinarily may not have access to a classroom training.
Distance learning is constantly evolving. There will always be new, better ways to do something, and views will always change. Some people in the field might be of “old school” beliefs, which can lead to some pushback on revising delivery methods, while others in the field are fresh out of school with brand new ideas. These people are the innovators – without them, the field of instructional design and technology would never move forward. If we allow more of these types of people to come in and make improvements and try new things, the field can only improve. Some new ideas may fail, but we can learn from our mistakes and advance the field even more. When I imagine my future in instructional design and specifically distance learning, I see more use of technology, more of a sense of community, less laziness on the part of instructors, and a more effective way of delivering lessons to students who are actually interested in their education.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.