First steps in Instructional Design!
For over 160 years, distance learning has filled the educational needs of non-traditional students. What defines a non-traditional student has changed throughout the years from educating women when this was not commonplace, to educating people in rural areas who do not have easy access to teachers (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The delivery methods of distance learning have also changed dramatically as technology has progressed. However, what has remained the same throughout this time is the need for a way to educate those who have “occupational, social, and family commitments” that otherwise prevent or discourage them from attending a traditional school (Simonson et al., 2012, p. 39).
Distance learning always had seemed to me like a fairly modern phenomenon. I had been aware of people studying via TV courses or by mail before the advent of the internet, but I did not know that correspondence courses had been around for more than a century. I had also incorrectly assumed that it was mostly of poor quality and reputation before the internet age, but William Rainey Harper, a Yale professor who supported correspondence courses in the late 1800’s, found that his correspondence students had greater understanding about the subjects covered than those who had learned in the classroom (Simonson et al., 2012). The advent of the internet certainly has made it easier and faster than ever to study by distance, but that advance in technology is not an automatic assurance of quality.
With more people changing jobs more often throughout their careers, the need for continuing education is greater than ever. Distance learning nicely fills this need by providing a way for non-traditional students to simultaneously fulfill their personal obligations with their needs for further education. My understanding of distance education has developed into a more complete model. I believe that distance education has been built upon a solid historical foundation with learning taking place while a student and teacher are separated through time or distance, and depending on the methods used to structure and prepare the class, differing levels of quality ensue.
This issue of quality in distance education is what naturally interests me as a future instructional designer. Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) warn in their article that the current dominant approach of distance learning is unfortunately not living up to its potential as a means for delivering consistent, high quality educational courses to the people who need them. In the future, I hope to deliver high quality, challenging courses that enable the increasing numbers of distance learners a way to further their career and better their lives. I plan to do this using sound instructional design and multimedia principles, along with the ADDIE model as the structure upon which to frame my courses.
Moller, L., Foshay, W., and Huett, J. (2008) 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.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Below is a mindmap that illustrates the preceeding entry: