Reflection: Perceptions of Distance Education and the Instructunal Designer Role

IntroductionThe horizon

Simonson (1999) explained “if distance education to be widely accepted and routinely available it must be high quality, easily obtained, and familiar to those in need” (p. 7-8). As there is constant change in economics, technology, society, politics, and theories of learning, we will need to continuously examine the practice of distance education, the definitions, and the theories (Simonson, et al., 2012). In this blog, I will examine: what will the perception of distance learning be in the future, what is my role as an instructional designer in improving societal perceptions of distance learning, and how this role would improve the societal perceptions of distance learning.

The Perception of Distance Education

Globe on a laptopThe demand for distance learning is growing in almost all regions, nationally and internationally (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b). Dr. Siemens in his video about the future in distance education explained that there is a growing acceptance of distance education; this growth is stimulated by the increase in online communication tools and the ability to communicate globally with diverse groups (Laureate Education Inc., 2010).  Furthermore, there is more acceptance for distance education from the people who explored online learning (Laureate Education Inc., 2010). Many factors are going to affect the way distance education is going; in particular, the development of new technology and communication tools, the contributions from experts around the world, and the increased use of multimedia and simulations (Laureate Education Inc., 2010).

All these factors will support the growth of distance education for the coming 5 to 10 years; certainly, this growth will have a global impact. For example, massive online open courses (MOOCs), which are taught by many experts, are offered to learners from around the world for free.

After examining the answers to interview questions about how various people perceive distance education and why, it became apparent that people have conflicted perceptions about distance education. People who had distance teaching or learning experiences were more positive in their perceptions; they indicated that they could continue learning at a distance. On the other hand, people who had no experience with online learning were skeptical about it effectiveness and its future benefits. They had concerns about the role of the instructor, academic integrity and its competence (Moller, Foshay, & Huett 2008a). For the future, it is important to note the role of the institution in presenting distance education; institutions should focus on emphasizing the quality, curriculum and the role of faculty in their distance education programs (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009). This could help reduce concerns about distance learning and I believe that the skeptical about distance learning will disappear in 10 to 20 years; many learners and instructors will experience distance learning and there will be more learning experiences through the distance learning environment. As indicated by Dr. Simonson, distance learning will not replace face-to-face learning (Luareate Education Inc., n.d.).

The Role of the Instructional Designer in Improving the Perception of Distance Learning

Laptop with on screen files and images

I believe that, as an instructional designer, I should have a role in improving the social perceptions of distance learning. Quality is a vital factor that I will consider when designing or recommending teaching strategies. Moller et al. (2008a) explained that, with the accelerated growth of online learning, many institutions will be rushing to implement distance learning programs. It is then my responsibility to ensure that the programs are built on reasonable quality standards, participate in the policy development of distance learning, and develop competences (Moller et al., 2008a). An example of a quality standard is the Quality Matter Program Rubric; the rubric includes 41 performance standards that could be used to assess the quality of online courses (MarylandOnline, 2011).

Equally important, as an instructional designer, I need to conduct a thorough needs assessment before planning, designing or recommending training solutions (Moller et al., 2008a). In higher education, some faculty members may have some concerns which could affect their perception on distance education. For example, they may be concerned about the effort needed to design and plan distance learning courses which they perceive as more workload than the traditional face-to-face classroom (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008b). As an instructional designer, my role is to work closely with faculty members and “create a clear framework outlining the goals, delivery, and structure of the e-learning program with clear benchmarks for success” (Moller et al., 2008b, p. 69).

Students perceive distance education as a way to help them take more courses and reduce the overall workload (House, Weldon, & A women holding a baby and a laptop on her lapWysocki, 2007). Students who took online courses are more comfortable and have more understanding of the concerns associated with distance learning (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). Some of these concerns are about communicating with the instructor, integrity, and lack of organization (Schmidt & Gallegos, 2001). It is my role, as an instructional designer, to provide learning solutions that could enhance the students’ learning experience. This could be done by using research based perspectives on how learners learn (Huett, Moller, Foshay, & Coleman, 2008) and present the findings to administrators and subject matter experts. It is my role to help students to understand their role and responsibility in the learning process (Simonson et al., 2012) as well. For example, I could create tutorials to help them understand the various technology tool associated with the distance course; moreover, I could recommend and design online orientations on how to successfully communicate online and manage their time effectively (Simonson et al., 2012).

The Instructional Designer as a Positive Force for Continuous Improvement in the Field of Distance Education

 To continue improving the field of distance education, I need to keep informed with the best practices in the field through ongoing research.  In addition, I need to be a change agent and work closely with the subject matter experts to help them in recognizing the value of distance education (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). I believe that I should continually work on enhancing the teaching and learning aspects of distance learning through supported assessment and evaluation; additionally, I should contribute to the global academic growth through the educational social networks and communities. Finally, continue being a learner in my professional work and taking part of the global and inclusive learning communities.

In conclusion, I believe that distance education will continue to thrive in the coming  years along with the traditional face-to-face education. This could be in the form of both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments. The more people get familiar with distance education the more they accept distance learning as an alternative way of learning.

References:

Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html

House, L., Weldon, R., & Wysocki, A. (2007). Student perceptions of online distance education in undergraduate agricultural economic programs. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, 39(2), 275-284.

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), 63–6 7.

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (2010). The future of distance education [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: Higher Education, K–12, and the corporate world [Video webcast]. Retrieved from  https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D

MarylandOnline (2011). Quality Matter Rubric. Retrieved from http://www.qmprogram.org/files/QM_Standards_2011-2013.pdf

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.

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Simonson, M. (1999). Equivalency theory and distance education. TechTrends 43(5), 5-8.

[Untitled image of a globe on a laptop]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://horizoninternationalschools.com/about/who-we-are/

[Untitled image of a woman holding a baby and a laptop on her lap]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.gw.edu/academics/off/online/

[Untitled image of a laptop with images and files open in the screen]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.gw.edu/academics/off/online/

[Untitled image of the horizon]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from http://www.picassodreams.com/photos/sunsets/setting-sun-in-the-horizon.html

Best Practices Guide: Converting to a Distance Learning Format

This blog post provides best practices guide for trainers to help them in converting their face-to-face training to a hybrid model. The example given is based on the following scenario:

A training manager is planning to convert all current training modules to a blended learning environment. The trainer’s decisions is based the frustration with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions. The trainer gets his supervisor’s approval and hopes that converting to the blended environment will enhance student engagement through active participation and interactions. The trainer would like to put the course content on the Web, so learners could access the content at all times.

The guide provides best practices in the following areas:

  • Facilitating communication and learning
  • Pre-planning strategies
  • Converting the content
  • The trainer’s new role

A successful online or hybrid course should incorporate teaching strategies that enhance learner-learner interactions, learner-content interactions and learner-instructor interactions (Dashew & Lee, 2011). This guide will help trainers in planning and preparing materials for electronic delivery. In addition, the guide will explain the role of a distance educator, and provide best practices in enhancing student engagement through the effective use of various communication strategies.

View The complete trainer guide (PDF Format).

References:

Dashaw, B., & Lee, R. (2011). Designed learner interactions in blended course delivery. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. 15(1), 68-76.

[Untitled image for a hand and a digital hand representing hybrid courses]. Retrieved October 20, 2012 from http://www.collegeonline.com/uncategorized/hybrid-and-online-classes-from-traditional-colleges/

The Impact of Open Source: Evaluating an Open Course

The purpose of this blog post is to explain the pre-planning and designing approaches for an open course. The post will evaluate the open course in terms of following recommended learning instruction and including learning activities which promote students’ active learning. The open course that I selected is through UDACITY, the course is Introduction to Computer Science (CS101): Building a Search Engine ( http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs101/CourseRev/apr2012 ).

The Course is Carefully Pre-Planned and Designed Course Design Circle
Through the pre-planning phase of designing a course it is important to introduce a complete well designed syllabus that could serve as a road map to the learners and guide them through their learning journey (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.). Once you click on the course overview link you notice that there is a tremendous effort put into pre-planning and designing the course. The overview page lists clearly the objectives of the course, a complete syllabus with details about each unit, and small statement to encourage beginners to join the course, stating that there is no prior experience needed for the course (UDACITY, 2012). Instructors in online courses need to help learners to stay organized throughout the course; they need to list clear objectives for the course and provide a detailed syllabus to guide the learners (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012).

Going through the course module, the content is presented in multiple ways; the instructors used videos, animation, and text. In addition, the content is designed within a well defined structure; each unit has topics and activities that support the predefined objectives. Dr. Piskurich (n.d.) indicated that the first step to develop a carefully planned course is to develop clear objectives and choose tasks that support these objectives (Laureate Education Inc., n.d.).

The instructors in this open course used the Unit-Module-Topic (UMT) approach in designing the course content, which is an organizational approach recommended by Simonson et al. (2012). In addition, the content is delivered in a variety of ways; the instructors used video, animation and many graphical representations (Simonson et al., 2012) which kept me engaged throughout each topic. However, I believe that there are many topics listed under each module, and the labels for each topic do not clearly explain the content of each topic; this could raise questions by the learners (Kelly, 2012) and could be distracting. In terms of assessment, the instructors used one questions for each topic; Simonson et al. (2012) explained that there should be “at least one learning outcome for each course topic” (p.181).

Online ActivtiesCourse Activities

Active learning means that the learners need to be involved in their own learning (Simonson et al., 2012). The course incorporate tracking progress indicator; once completed each topic is marked as finished; moreover the course has a page that displays a list of the progress made. The access to the course content and activities is non-leaner; as this is a self-paced course this design of the content supports the purpose of the course as an open and self-paced course. The course designer incorporated interactive quizzes with feedback available through audio and interactive modules. The designer included two different ways for collaboration, a discussion area and a wiki. The discussion is designed to engage the students through questions and answers; the wiki is a collaborative tool which enables students to build resources as supplementary resources to the course; this kind of collaboration promotes flexibility and creates a dynamic learning community (Simonson et al., 2012).

In conclusion, the open course incorporated many successful design concepts. The course is very well structured with various visual and interactive modules. In addition, it included many activities to engage the learners using various concepts and learning strategies.

References

Kelly, B. (2012, September 17). Simplifying online course design [Blog message]. Retrieved from http://www.magnapubs.com/blog/teaching-and-learning/simplifying-online-course-design/
Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Planning and designing online courses [Video webcast]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_1373693_1%26url%3D
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
UDICITY. (2012). Introduction to computer science (CS101): Building a search engine. Retrieved from http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs101/CourseRev/apr2012
[Untitled image of a course design circle]. Retrieved from http://microteachingsecaramakro.blogspot.ca/
[Untitled image of the globe with three online learners connected]. Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~icy/resources/tutorial/activities.html