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.


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

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

Laureate Education Inc. (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: Higher Education, K–12, and the corporate world [Video webcast]. Retrieved from

MarylandOnline (2011). Quality Matter Rubric. Retrieved from

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

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

[Untitled image of a woman holding a baby and a laptop on her lap]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from

[Untitled image of a laptop with images and files open in the screen]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from

[Untitled image of the horizon]. Retrieved October 28, 2012 from


One Response to Reflection: Perceptions of Distance Education and the Instructunal Designer Role

  1. Julie McDowell says:

    Dalia –
    Nice to see you in another class! Looking forward to reading your blog.
    Julie McDowell

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