Distance education programs are quickly gaining popularity among students because of the many benefits they offer. The benefits of distance learning programs include individualized programs, self pace learning, flexibility, and interactive lessons. Distance learning programs tend to incorporate more learner centered activities versus teacher centered activities. Moller, Foshay, and Huett (2008) discuss the possibility of offering a variety of courses that would not normally be available due to teacher shortage or the lack of qualified teachers in the subject area.
As technology continues to evolve, people are beginning to see the online environment as more than a place to find information. Through online sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and Skype the internet is now able to provide a social environment as well. People are becoming more comfortable using the technology and have a desire to connect with others socially online. Professional learning communities have developed and flourished online enabling people to meet others in their field from all over the world. Because of this evolving perception of the online environment, information gathering to social, people are becoming more accepting of distance learning / e-learning (Laureate Education, 2011).
Distance learning will continue to spread through schools, government agencies, and corporations because of its growing acceptance. In the future all courses will provide some content to the learner through a distance learning format (Laureate Education, 2011). Some courses will be hybrid formats where part of the course is taught online and part is taught face-to-face. While other courses will completely online (Ritter, Polnick, Fink, and Oescher, 2010).
Instructional designers improve the field of distance education one course at a time working to build a reputation of quality education that encourages students to enroll. Gambescia and Paolucci (2009) discuss the importance of academic fidelity which can be shown through faculty performance, curriculum resources, and quality. Since the learners are interacting with the content independently, course design is of utmost importance. Developing a delivery system that provides methods of communication, storage for course resources, and a method for submitting and grading assignments as well as designing learner centered activities focused on the learning outcomes of the course helps to insure the course’s academic fidelity. Instructional designers play a key role in changing people’s perceptions of distance education.
Gambescia, S., & Paolucci, R. (2009). Academic fidelity and integrity as attributes of university online degree program offerings. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 12(1). Retrieved from http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/spring121/gambescia121.html.
Huett, J., Moller, L., Foshay, W., & Coleman, C. (2008). The evolution of distance education: Implications for instructional design on the potential of the web (Part 3: K12). TechTrends, 52(5), 63–67.
Laureate Education. (2011). The future of distance education. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4894951&Survey=1&47=6923808&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.
Ritter, C., Polnick, B., Fink, R., & Oescher, J. (2010). Classroom learning communities in educational leadership: a comparison study of three delivery options. Internet and higher education, 13(1-2), 96-100. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.