Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Next Generation of Distance Education

Simonson stated “if we look at past patterns in educational technology, we can expect exponential growth of distance education to continue” (2011).  Currently there is a larger presence of distance education within K-12, Higher Education and also within training for corporations.  As we move more in our technological society and see how it is continuing to evolve, we must accept that change is inevitable (Simonson, 2011). Moller, Huett, Foshay and Coleman understand the need for the change within K-12 education according to their findings.  In their third article, they mentioned that “distance education in the K-12 arena is often referred to as “virtual schooling” and learning through virtual schooling is one of the fastest growing areas for K-12 schools “ (Roblyer, 2006).

Another point that was made is that “we are better able to enlarge our own beliefs and more likely to take risks when supported by a community of learners” (Grabinger, 1996).  Though this may be true, we must consider how learners prefer to learn and their backgrounds.  “It seems plausible that, given the lack of collaborative learning background of many learners, our educational system is producing learners who prefer, or are able only to interact with the content and/or the instructor, but not each other” (Moller, Huett, Foshay and Coleman, 2008, page 74).  The type of learner who typically engages in web-based educational courses (adult, independent learners with higher internal loci of control) have goals and preferences when it comes to online learning that may not lend themselves well to learning communities” (Navarro & Shoe- maker, 2000; Reisetter & Boris, 2004).

Being someone who has worked in a distance education environment both as a student and as an employee, I understand and agree with these points.  As this trend continues to grow and move to the next level, it is necessary that distance education evolves because the way of doing things and also the type of learners has changed over time. One cannot stick to the old ways of doing things; they must be more innovative and effective.  I also understand that many students may not ideally work well within the traditional models that can be seen within the current spectrum of distance education. It’s important that those that are responsible for the implementation and who design the instruction create various methods for learning.  This could include both the use of learning communities and allow independent work.

Grabinger, R. S. (1996). Rich environments for active learning. In D. H. Jonassen (Ed.),The handbook of re- search for educational communications and technology (pp. 403-437). New York: McMillan.

Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W. & Coleman, C. (2008, September/October). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.

Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008, May/June). 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. (2008, July/August). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the Web (Part 2: Higher Education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70.  

Navarro, P. & Shoemaker, J. (2000). Performance and perception of distance learners in cyberspace. The American Journal of Distance Education14(2), 15-35. 

Roblyer, M. (2006). Virtually successful: Defeating the dropout problem through on- line school programs. Phi Delta Kappan, 88(1), 31-36.


  1. Hi Ashley,

    Great post! I agree that the learning environment must evolve and that some students just can not succeed within a tradition class setting. It seems that the students of our classrooms today are permanently attached to some sort of electronic device. Whether it is an iPod, cell phone, computer, or some sort of gaming system, it seems to be just second nature to them. They have grown up learning and using this technology which we did not have access to at such a young age. It would only make sense that the classroom environment follow suit.

    Belinda V:)

  2. Hi Ashely,

    You selected a great design for your blog!
    What I like most about distance learning was explained by Simonson when he explains how patterns are causing increased distance learning. For example, when I take an online class, I like the instructional design week by week or module by module. I know what format I can expect each time a class changes.

    A community of learners is an exceptional way to help us to collaborate with each other. It provides a more successful learning expereince for all of us. Additionally, I fully believe that there will always be a need for the traditional classroom setting. I like the face to face interaction with peers and instructor. Yet, I enjoy the distance learning as well.