Monday, August 25, 2014

Distance Learning Reflection

As I reflect on the knowledge gained from this course and my experience with distance education, I can say that distance learning will only grow more popular with time. As the Generation Z learners begin to knowledge seek, I see distance education being a must, not a want. With a generation of learners born with the latest gadgets in their hands, it will be difficult to offer them anything less than this.

Although Charles Wedemeyer’s theory dates back to 1981, I feel that he was forward thinking in his approach. Charles Wedemeyer’s theory notes several components that I feel will be imperative to the new generation. Wedemeyer’s theory notes that distance education should do the following:

1.     Be capable of operation anyplace where there are students – or even only one student –whether or not there are teachers at the same place at the same time
2.     Place greater responsibility for learning on the student
3.     Offer students and adults wider choices (more opportunities) in courses, formats, and methodologies
4.     Use, as appropriate, all the teaching media and methods that have been proven effective
5.     Mix media and methods so that each subject or unit within a subject is taught in the best way known
6.     Preserve and enhance opportunities for adaptation to individual differences
7.     Permit students to start, stop, and learn at their own pace (Simonson, 2012, pp. 43-44)

This theory rings true to me because I have experienced it first hand as an Instructional Designer. In the last year, my organization has updated their technological tools, software and systems to new, efficient models. We are now using Articulate Storyline over Captivate, Adobe Connect over WebEx, and our new CMS has far more capacity than the last. As an ID, this lets me know that distance education is here to stay and there is a growing demand for it. Although there are a number of learners who still prefer traditional classroom style learning, “evidence suggests that students are increasingly demanding to be allowed to learn at a distance” (Simonson, p. 5). It’s all about options and not conforming to an outdated, rigid idea of what education used to be.

My role as an ID is to become a positive advocate for distance learning. I want to stay current with trends and technological tools so that I can educate others on the benefits of learning at a distance. I need to not only be an advocate but a catalyst of change, challenging my peers and organization to lead the charge in finding new and effective ways to deliver distance learning courses.

I think it starts with educating others and making them comfortable with the new trends of distance education. For example, providing personal testimonies from learners who found it difficult to embrace distant learning tools but later found that the new way made life easier. As an ID, it is powerful to know that I can shift a learner’s attitude about distant learning just by designing a course that intuitively speaks to them and ultimately motivates them to seek out distance learning.


Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Blended learning approaches are becoming more popular as learners desire to use the latest technology to develop personally and professionally. A blended learning approach gives learners the best of both worlds as they work with their peers and instructor(s) online and face-to-face. Designing a blended learning program is not easy. The process involves careful planning and strategic steps to implement the program effectively.

With a blended approach, you will cater to different learning styles. For example, learners who are not comfortable speaking in class may feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts in a written format virtually. Also, your role as a trainer will change because you will not have the visual cues of learner comprehension all the time. During the virtual components, you will have to rely on other cues such as silence, questioning, and other cues that indicate the learner is having trouble with the content. To encourage participation, set communication expectations early so learners know the level of participation that is required.

There is more to trainee development than just face-to-face training. Converting a face-to-face training session to a blended program will take hard work and dedication. This guide provides organized and systemic information on how to convert your face-to-face training to a blended distance-learning program. This guide includes helpful tools and tips to consider before, during, and after the conversion.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Impact of Open Source

Open source courses are becoming more popular amongst distance learners. The idea of accessing and sharing free content is what appeals to learners. “More than half the course management systems currently available are open source or otherwise made available to educational institutions without charge” (Simonson, 2012, p. 142).  This concept is still new to me so I chose to explore some of the open course sites available. As a distant learner, I am amazed at the number of free courses with a variety of topics.

My first experience with a few of the open courses was not a good one. I am in the financial services industry so I chose to explore a couple of Financial Planning & Money Management courses from the Open Culture site. I came to a string of courses instructed by Frank Paiano from Southwestern College. I started with a course on the Financial Aspects of Career Planning, which was basically a recorded PowerPoint presentation of the instructor. I can say that the course was designed for a distant learner because it was easily accessible; however, for a collegiate level course, I can’t say that there was a lot of planning involved in creating it. I say this because the visual cues in the PowerPoint were not pleasing to the eye. There were slides with too much content on them, no animation, and most of the content were just quotes from other authors or educators. Although there were no objectives, the content in the course did not match up with the title leaving me clueless about the subject matter.

In addition, the Instructors tone and inflection was not helpful. He was overly animated, which made it difficult for me to stay engaged in the presentation. “Teaching with technology to learners who are not physically located in the same site where instruction is taking place requires a different set of skills and competencies than traditional education” (Simonson, p. 142). This presentation seemed to be more of a chapter summary than a course. To add value, I would recommend designing each presentation to be independent of the book. The benefit of this design allows any individual, even those who have not read the book, to learn from the content.

After completing this course, I moved on to another topic within the series, An Introduction to Financial Planning. Again, the content left me questioning the title because there were no key concepts of financial planning covered. The beneficial aspect is the asynchronous nature of the course; however, the dynamics of the course content and facilitator enhance the learning experience. This was not the case here. There was a point in the recording where the Instructor started hacking and coughing in the middle of his thought. In a recorded online presentation, I felt that this was unprofessional and I was unable to stay engaged at that point.

Although my first open course experience was not optimal, I have a few takeaways. As an ID, it is extremely important to design content that caters to a variety of learning styles. An audio/visual presentation does not have to be boring. There are a variety of ways to implement interactivity and visual cues to engage the learner. “Teaching at a distance eliminates many of these cues. Alternative approaches to ongoing evaluation of instruction must be incorporated. Students may feel alienated and will begin to tune out the instructor” (Simonson, p. 154).  Also, the title and/or objectives need to reflect what is in the content. If there is a gap in the two, it will be difficult to evaluate the quality of the course and learner comprehension. Designing, teaching, and learning at a distance is not an easy task, but implementing these key practices will add context and enhance the learning experience.

Paiano, F. (2014). Financial planning & money management. Retrieved August 2, 2014, from Southwestern Community College iTunes U Website

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.