Sunday, July 6, 2014

Defining Distance Education

In this fast paced and constant changing world, one thing remains certain - people want more bang for their buck. Businesses have to remain competitive to attract customers. The educational field is no different. Over the years, distance learning has become more popular as people search for efficient and productive ways to acquire knowledge. Distance learning, also referred to as e-learning, virtual, or remote learning, has different definitions based on who you ask. My definition of distance learning is - learning that allows the flexibility of being outside the traditional classroom. This type of learning takes place remotely, as you are not working directly with your classmates and teacher, in an effort to increase efficiency by reaching mass learners at one time.

Now, in reading through text resources and viewing videos in my Distance Learning class, I have found that my definition is not too far off from other documented responses. Dr. Michael Simonson, Professor of Instructional Technology and Distance Education, states that distance education is "formal education in which the learning group (teacher, students, resources) are separated by geography, and sometimes, by time." Dr. Simonson goes on to say that "technology and instructional media is used to link resources to the teacher and learner and we must adapt and adopt this new approach to learning." I like this definition because it incorporates the "how" which is the use of instructional media and technology which is the most important component of distance learning.

Technological advances have allowed distance learning environment to grow leaps and bounds over what it was centuries ago. I was unaware that the concept of distance education has been around for centuries. In my mind, it was still a fairly new concept but innovation has brought it to the forefront of the educational field. Technology allows for learners to connect and utilize resources at the same time but from different access points. Unlike traditional classrooms, learners have the flexibility to learn at their own pace and take more responsibility for what they learn. The two-way communication is still present; however, learners no longer have to rely on the teacher to provide the answer. The answers now reside in the instructional media, resources, classmates, and Internet.

Innovation is another component that drives the successful nature of distance education. More institutions are promoting and rewarding innovative ideas so the bar of excellence continues to be raised. Instructional Designers now have more freedom and options when designing content and the learner is the beneficiary. Each year brings a new technological resource that is more groundbreaking than the previous version, and allows you to do more with less.

I believe that distance learning will continue to evolve and attract an innumerable amount of individuals who seek personal and professional growth. If you think about it, the next generation of learners are born users of technological gadgets. I feel that they will be the next wave of innovators who take distance learning to the next groundbreaking level and possibly redefine distance education as we know it today.

References:


Laureate Education. (n.d.) Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu.

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