Prior to the beginning of my enrollment in the Instructional Design Technology (IDT) program, I never gave much thought to the subject of distance learning or education.  As a matter of fact, I thought this degree program was going to be more of a web design/graphic arts discipline.  Imagine my surprise when I learned it was an education degree!  I had made a sacred oath that I would never be a teacher.  But with age comes wisdom (even if I’ve only aged a few months) and I have relaxed my position.  I have actually enjoyed the coursework for the most part.  That leads me to the subject of this class ‘Distance Learning’.  How do we define it?

Can it be as simple as:

  1. Education in which students receive instruction over the Internet, from a video, etc., instead of going to school (Distance Learning, 2014).

I kind of like the simplicity of that definition.  There doesn’t appear to be any ambiguity.

DL Before

This would be my idea of what distance learning looked like prior to my first week in EDUC – 6135, but our readings have shown me otherwise.

Tracey and Richey define distance education (learning) as ‘a structured learning experience that can be engaged in away from an academic institution, at home or at a workplace and can lead to degrees or credentials (Tracey & Richey, 2005).  This is not too far removed from the dictionary.com definition.  The difference being the caveat of the learning can lead to acquiring credentials.  This definition may be too specific in that it does not include learning that is geared specifically to training of some sort.  (Possibly the acquisition of a skill that is not credentialed.)  The design of training modules for business concerns would constitute a large portion of the output created by Instructional Designers (IDs).

Simonson et al put forth several definitions that can be found in several sources, the most general being:

the 2009 Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year – summed up by four characteristics:  institutionally based; geographic (chronological) separation; interactive telecommunications and shared learning experiences (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012)

This appears to ne the definition that is most common, however; because of the ever-changing nature of distance learning and instructional design; this definition could be supplanted in the years to come.

After reading this week’s resources, I have expanded my definition of distance learning to embrace the four characteristics listed above.

 

DL After

 

While this definition may be satisfactory for now, we in the ID profession must not stop here as the field is evolving so must the parameters.  Moller et al states that ‘the challenge for ID professionals is not only to evolve the field, but also to assure that the products of sound professional design practice lead the e-learning enterprise (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web, 2008).

I think the ever-changing atmosphere of the IDT field is the reason why there hasn’t been a solid definition of distance learning.  As an accountant, there is a governing board of professionals who create the framework by which we practice our profession.  Maybe the IDT field would benefit from the creation of such an oversight organization.

This makes me excited.  I feel like I am at the forefront of a new frontier.  I have used the knowledge gained from previous courses and applied it to situations in my professional and volunteer life.  One of my goals for this is to create a training plan for my staff.  I hope I am able to do them justice.

References

Distance Learning. (2014). Retrieved January 9, 2014, from Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/distance%20learning?s=t

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008, July/Agust). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(4), 66-70.

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). The Evolution of distance education: Instructional design on the potential of the web. TechTrends, 52(3), 70-75.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA, United States of America: Pearson Education, Inc.

Tracey, M. W., & Richey, R. C. (2005, November). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17-21.