Distance education as defined by Simonson, Smaldino and Zvacek (2015) is “institution- based, formal education where the learning group is separated, and where interactive telecommunications systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors” (p.31). This definition is now molding my paradigm for distance education. Even though this definition may look to be in-depth, when you break it down it creates a clear definition. I define distance education as the process of institution-based education made accessible through technology where learners can interact with instructors and content at any time. As seen in my mind-map distance education involves many factors. It is institutional based, it is formed by a separated learning group and it is made possible through telecommunications (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015). Each of these factors plays a crucial role in its process.
The evolution of distance education is vastly changing in today’s modern era. Even though distance education has been around for decades in different forms, the recent rapid increase of technology has given rise to its growth (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015). Technology has been crucial in facilitating this evolving process of distance education and has provided an intersection for instructors, content and the learner to interact (Simonson, Smaldino and Zvacek, 2015). As technologies emerge and society begins to change distance education is going to have to become flexible to the learner in their given field of study. Moore and Kearsley (2005) note that one of main reasons people choose distance education is because it offers the “combination of education with work and family life” (p.8). This is where distance education is evolving and it is also going mobile and transferable to any device across various fields (Moller, Foshay & Huett, 2008).
I believe that the challenge facing distance education is not learning new technologies, but building a mental model for learners and then researching how these technologies can serve the learner. Distance education must constantly be backed with research and sound design principles. Tracey and Richey (2005) note that, “these innovations, however, must be matched by research and theoretical explorations of those distance education methods that promote not only student engagement in the learning process, but an inquisitive, skilled and intellectually-able population” (p.21). Technology must serve the learning objective, but as technology advances in distant education it is going to a challenge not to just adapt the latest new too this is why the future instructional designer is going to be need in each and every intersection where distance education is built.
Huett, Moller, Foshay and Coleman (2008) note that, “instructional designers should be at the forefront of creating cost-effective models and tools for distance education. Such instructional design initiatives would serve to improve training, course design, delivery, and evaluation. They would also function to improve instruction, to increase all manner of interactions, to provide for appropriate student activities and, consequently, to eliminate some of the course development and workload concerns” (p.67). The future of distance education is new to many, and as learning happens through it, the instructional designer needs to capture the process. A crucial area where distance education lacks is the proper evaluation tools. As this evolution of distance education evolves so must our evaluation tools to measure learning. When both evaluation and distance education occur and can measure knowledge and performance then this field of distance education will evolve in great ways.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education
Tracey, M., & Richey, R. (2005). The evolution of distance education. Distance Learning, 2(6), 17–21.
Moore, M., & Kearsley, G. (2005). Distance education: A systems view. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Huett, J. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 2: Higher education). TechTrends, 52(4), 66–70.