I have always been an advocate for distance learning. I believe it’s partially because I grew up in a house where getting an education wasn’t a question, but rather, it was an expectation. However, my parents also believed that “a degree is a degree.” As long as I was studying, it didn’t matter if it was online or in a face-to-face setting. I chose to get my undergraduate degree at a traditional university, but when it came time to get a graduate degree, I knew right away I would want to study online. I have a full-time job, hobbies, and other obligations that make attending a class a few times a week nearly impossible for me, and I know that many other adult learners face similar situations. I am someone who encourages online learning because I have experienced first-hand how effective, yet convenient, it can be.
While studying instructional design, I have not only become familiar with the ins-and-outs of creating online instruction, but also the general attitudes towards distance learning. It’s possible I am slightly biased because I grew up in an era when technology was used for everything, and also because I have taken many online courses, but it has been interesting for me to hear other people’s thoughts on the subject of distance learning. It has already come so far, with accredited universities offering online programs, and even ivy league schools offering extension programs online, and so I feel as though this is a trend that will continue to grow.
I think that within the next few years, we will not only see an increase in popularity when it comes to online degree programs, but also within the training and professional development community. I think more companies will realize that they can save valuable time and money by providing training online, and there will be a shift from presenter-based training to online training. According to the ASAE website, “The shift to online education is growing not only in the formal education system, but also in professional development and continuing education required for certification” (para. 5). The same website also notes that, “more than 96 percent of the very largest institutions have some online offerings—more than double the rate observed for the smallest institutions” (para. 2). Given that online learning is making strides like this, I think it’s safe to say that the perception of online learning will become more favorable as the years pass. Supervisors who may not be fans of online degrees will see the value and possibly see the two types of degrees as equal.
George Siemens (n.d.) mentions that the growing popularity of online learning can be attributed to the “ability to communicate with diverse and global groups” (Laureate Education). I think this will allow for a more supportive outlook on online learning because companies will see that they can collaborate with their global counterparts, and students will gain insight into other cultures by studying with others from all over the world. I have had these experiences, both in the corporate world and as a student, and I plan to speak highly of both experiences when asked for my opinion about distance learning. As long as those who have had positive experiences in the area of online learning continue to advocate for its validity, I know we can collectively -- slowly but surely -- change the view to a completely positive one. Specifically as a designer, I can share my knowledge about the work that goes in on the backend to make people understand that the instructors are qualified and the content is built especially for it to be effective in an online setting.
Given my own experiences and beliefs about online learning, I sincerely hope that it continues to be an area of education that grows and gains popularity. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 20 years almost all courses are offered online, or if many universities become entirely distance-education-based. In the past decade or so, technology has come such a long way, and curriculum has become more focused. On top of that, curriculum is being developed entirely for online learning instead of being adapted. These facts allude to a promising future for distance learning, and I will always be an advocate for a continued positive outcome.
Growing popularity of online education relative to that of classroom-based courses. (n.d.).
Retrieved from ASAE website:
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrievedfrom https://class.waldenu.edu