Friday, June 24, 2016

The Future of Distance Education

      There is paradigm shift happening in today’s educational field. Globaliztion and the advance of technology are changing the landscape of modern day education. Rutherford and Kerr (2008) state that, “with the internationalization and globalization of education, and faced with rising needs for an increasingly educated and more adequately trained workforce, universities are offering more flexible programs, assisted by new educational and communications technologies” (p.65). This rise of distance education is forcing modern educators to examine new theories for learners in an online distance setting. The future of distance is constantly changing and in five or ten years it is going to look very different. 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 becoming more flexible to the learner in their given field of study.
         A change causing the paradigm shift in support of distance education is the flexibility it provides. Distance learning was formed in such a way as to facilitate this type of flexibility for adult learners. Distance education has also allowed learners to expand their skills and improve their career paths without having to leave their living room to acquire new knowledge. Distance education has also shaped the way education is structured and it is beginning to alter the way learning is perceived (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015). Moore and Kearsley (2005) note that one of main reasons people choose distance education is because is offers the “combination of education with work and family life” (p.8). 
          With this shift in mind the future instructional designer needs to be prepared and lead the change for what’s coming. Staying up to date with modern learning theories, distance learner needs, structure, and various technology tools will be paramount for the instructional designer. I also 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 objectives, but as technology advances in distance education it is going to be a challenge not to just adopt the latest new thing.  This is why the future instructional designer is going to be needed in each and every intersection where distance education is built.

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. 
Germain-Rutherford, A., & Kerr, B. (2008). An inclusive approach to online learning environments: Models and resources. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education TOJDE, 9(2). Retrieved from

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