Current and Future Perceptions of Distance Learning

The perception of distance learning has seen dramatic shifts in the last 10 years in how distance education is positioned within institutions (Shearer, 2015). Whether it has been relocated within the mainstream academic division of institutions or where outreach and extension divisions have gained new attention and support, it is clear there is now a major focus on distance education and online learning at almost every institution in the United States and in many other countries (Shearer, 2015). In addition, distance education is now seen as a predominantly online initiative, at least in the United States, and other delivery channels have taken a back seat (Shearer, 2015). Today people are able to see how they can have meaningful relationships online and the concept of interaction has changed (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). The concept of global separation is no longer significant and global diversity is now a common trend (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). In the next 5 – 10 years people will continue to embrace the new communication technology such as Skype and Google+ hangouts video chat. The acceptance of these trends continues to grow as people gain greater experience and comfort in using the technology.

With the significant changes in distance learning the Department of Education has increased their scrutiny and regulations are increasing with more to come (Shearer, 2015). In the past few years the emergence or re-emergence of educational models such as competency based programs, courses at scale (MOOCs the new version of independent study compiled with interaction features) and adaptive learning has taken place (Shearer, 2015).Shearer believes that we will can expect changes in the areas shown in the following table (Shearer, 2015).

Distance Education Trend Trend Features
Regulations ·         With the exponential growth of distance education enrollments we will likely see increased scrutiny and regulations.

·         Significant for many of the new regulations will be the upcoming reauthorization of the higher education act (likely to gain momentum in 2015 with a possible legislation in 2016).

Learning systems ·         Learning Management Systems (LMS) companies are morphing into education companies where LMS is just one of the many services they provide.

·         The overall education service ecosystem is far greater than the LMS and it is quite possible that the LMS will fade as we rethink the education experience in the classroom and online.

·         Our view of learning system environments may look very different in the future.

Pedagogy ·         The resources that technologies bring to the table will drive us to explore new approaches to pedagogical practices.

·         We will see a shift from lecturing to learning through storytelling and exploring content.

·         Set the stage for exploring concepts in a new way other than the traditional presentation of content.

·         Construct from a diversity of possible learning inputs —this relates to the idea of tinkering or hands-on building. In other words, real-life experiences.

Access and costs ·         Institutions will continue to have to find ways to cut or at least maintain current cost structures while continuing to provide a quality learning experience, and support faculty and research.

·         Cost reduction will depend greatly on how institutions shift from face-to-face to online and what it means for the current physical infrastructure.

These factors will push distance and online learning to continue to push institutions of higher education to re-examine their existing educational models and how they look at serving the post-traditional students who are now the majority (Shearer, 2015).

As an ID I perceive my role in the distance learning arena is not only to develop the field, but also to assure that the products of sound professional design practice steer the e-learning enterprise (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). In spite of the rapid growth and acceptance of the Internet I believe that distance learning is still somewhat of a mystery to many audiences. When I signed up for the ID and Technology program at Walden University and I shared that with my friends in my Facebook community the responses varied. The majority responded with a blank Like (approval). A few friends asked about the accreditation and cost of the university. While others said they would not be able to study online because they needed to sit in the classroom and be able to ask the instructor questions, and some also stated that they did not have the discipline to study on their own. I also discovered that most people have no knowledge of the field of Instructional Design. So when I tell them that I am studying Instructional Design and Technology I get a blank look or I am asked what that is. Distance learning is not for everyone and the distance learner must be self-motivated and have the desire to complete their own studies.

In an effort to be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning I will continue to communicate the positive experience that I have had as a student in online distance education programs not only at Walden University but with other distance learning settings such as webinars or online continuing education courses. I believe it is also essential to communicate the rigor and quality of the instruction that is received from a distance learning program. Studies have shown that students learning in some type of distance learning environment will learn as much and as effectively as students learning in traditional, face-to-face environments (Simonson, Smaldino, Zvacek, 2015 pg. 72).

As an ID I plan to be a positive force in the field of distance learning by effectively communicating the diversity of instructional settings that makes distance learning engaging and a growing preferred method to obtain a post-secondary education or any aspect of training. The instructional settings support an engaging and diverse experience for the learner. Some of the instructional settings are asynchronous learning which gives the learner the access to the course materials at any time, synchronous learning which promotes real-time collaboration, online, video and audio also support the variations of instructional delivery and engagement. I believe that I can support continuous improvement by serving as a professional consultant to learning institutions and organizations that provide training to their staff. As an ID it is essential to provide quality instruction and to conduct evaluations of the instruction to validate its effectiveness. Many ID professionals have observed that one result of this lack of evaluation is that most web-based training products lack effectiveness because they violate basic principles of instructional design (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). The ID must be firm in communicating the importance of delivering quality instruction and measuring performance. The ID must focus on the key benefits to the client and the client’s client irrespective of if the benefits can be plainly projected to the bottom line (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). For this to be effective one must build needs assessment and “return on investment” evaluations based on accomplishments which are meaningful beyond the boundaries of the company (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008). There also needs to be an improvement in the instructional models that are used by learners. In examining the potential of web-based learning, the focus must contain capabilities not possible or at least highly impractical in a traditional classroom. The ID must be able to develop learning models for distributed learning thereby evolving distance education from its current status to a delivery medium to a learning model. Technology will satisfy its potential by enlarging from simply carrying information or instruction to being a communication platform, expanding cognitive capabilities, and a context or laboratory for manipulating the learners’ internal and external environments (Moller, Foshay, & Huett, 2008) with the ID creating distributed learning models. So there are a lot of learning capabilities and strategy development that the ID can implement to gain the respect in the distance education arena.


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). The future of distance education [Video file]. Retrieved from

Moller, L., Foshay, W. R., & Huett, J. (2008). The Evolution od Distance Education: Implications for Instructional Design on the Potential of the Wed (Part 1: Training and development). TechTends, 52(3), 70-75.

Shearer, Rick (2015). Four Evolving Trends that May Shape the Future of Distance Education. The EvoLLLution. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education

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