Online learning is a recent development in distance education, a method of instruction that has been around since the 1700’s. As methods of delivery have advanced and evolved with each new technology; the number of students have increased. In 1728 an ad in the Boston Gazette signaled the first distance course. At that time distance education consisted of written correspondence foe the better part of a century. In 1976, Coastline Community College became the first ‘virtual college’ to offer a wide variety of telecourses. Fast-forward to 1997 and Blackboard was founded and developed a CMS that enabled more institutions to go online. 2014 brought the first online-only public university with UF Online.   This is added to the multitude of offerings by traditional brick and mortar institutions (History of Distance Learning, 2015). There are endless possibilities from here.

Even through all these changes, online education has carried a stigma of not being a ‘real’ education. Like state universities and community colleges before, online learning suffered from preconceived notions that it was for those of a lesser socioeconomic status. There was the feeling that the curriculum was not as stringent and resulted in degrees/certification with lesser value. Due to the influx of graduates into the workforce that have made significant contributions to business and society, these old impressions are dyke g out (Lenson, 2012). Even with the lessening of the historical stigma, there are advancements that can be made.

Dr. George Siemens expounds on how online learning can gain wider acceptance and where it is headed in the future. He states that acceptance is fueled by:

  1. Increased online communication;
  2. Practical experience with new tools;
  3. Growing comfort with online discourse; and
  4. Communication with diverse and global groups.

Further, online education will be impacted by:

  1. New communication technologies;
  2. Contributions by experts around the world; and
  3. Increased use of multimedia, games and simulations.

Lastly, a significant driver of advancement will be bridging the gap of comfort that online students have with the online environment (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

As an Instructional Designer, I believe it part of our mission, for lack of a better term, to not only employ the latest and best technology available to deliver the learning content; but to include instruction on the use of that technology. We must be agents of change and continually stay on top of the latest advancement sin order to determine the best method of delivery for the content. As instructional design gains in improved content, the reputation of online learning also gains, thereby raising the bar for distance learning.

Twenty years from now, the student population for distance learning will include millennials, those students that are intimately familiar with all manner of technology. This will go far to remove any last vestiges of stigma that may remain about online learning. Additionally, the need to orient them with basic technology concepts may been gone, but there will always be someone who may not have access to the most advanced tools. This is where the ID has the onus to include varying delivery methods in order to ‘levels the playing’ field.

Earlier in this program we learned that the field of Instructional Design is a fairly new and unregulated field.   This allows anyone who decides to choose this vocation has the opportunity to shape the course of this industry. I find that very exciting and look forward to learning and contributing as much as I can towards the advancement of on line instruction.

References

History of Distance Learning. (2015). Retrieved March 1, 2015, from World Wide Learn: http://www.worldwidelearn.com/education-articles/history-of-distance-learning.html

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from https://class.waldenu.edu

Lenson, B. (2012, July 30). The online degree stigma is gone. Retrieved March 1, 2015, from Straightrline Blog: http://www.straighterline.com/blog/the-online-degree-stigma-is-gone/