Distance Education

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Reflection on the Future Of Distance Education

      Distance education continues to evolve.  DE is at a significant turning point in the history of education, improvement in government operations, and in the corporate environment.  Siemens, (n.d.) “Claimed that online courses and degrees are acceptable and even better received than F2F courses because people are getting comfortable with online classes”.

What do you think the perceptions of distance learning will be in the future (in 5–10 years; 10–20 years)?
      The future is brighter. There is a higher level involvement at higher institution, K1-12, in conjunction with the government to standardize the operation   in distance learning community.  This is what will shape the future.  Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, (2009).  State that more and more research is proving that distance education provides equivalent or even superior education.
Distance education will continue to grow dramatically. Siemes (n.d.) discussed the growing acceptance of DE as fueled by:
·         Increase in online communication.
·         Practical experiences with new tools.
·         Growing sense of comfort with online discourse.
·         Ability to communicate with diverse and global groups.
     Currently, new technologies are unveiled at least, three to four times a year; the use of distance learning is expected to increase in the next decade.   Simonson, et. al., (2009), state that students of all ages are engaging in distance education. As more technology resources are becoming available to education settings, more students are becoming more involved in learning at a distance.”
     In addition, Siemes (n.d.) states that DE benefits corporation by allowing them to interact with different offices around the world.   Though a number of critics continue to challenge the validity and the benefits that DE claims, it is obvious that the benefits outweigh the challenges.  DE is here to stay.  The major challenge on the part of Instructional Designers in the field is to continue to establish the standard of practice across the board. Judging from what is happening now, organizations and institutions aspire to convert their traditional f2f curriculum to an online course to remain competitive in this era. That should not be the practice. There are a number of theories and practices that could guide organizations seeking to adopt distance learning.  Equivalency theory is practical in the design of distance learning experiences, and should be considered especially when “converting” traditional classroom experiences into distance experiences. As an instructional designer, we must consider the differences between traditional and distance learning, to develop learning experiences appropriate for the learner in their environment.

How can you as an instructional designer be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning?
Gambescia, & Paolucci (2009) discussed the fact that a student attending college level online courses has exceeded any other kind of distance learning. In addition, visibility, academic integrity, and proper marketing can determine the success of a learning program.
 As an instructional designer, my individual contribution to the best practices approach is crucial. We all live in a small world, where people are entitled to their opinion. Moving forward, providing  a real experience, a wow moment, based on facts, and the plight to  generate a thought provoking adventure to the world of distance learners is what I aspire to add.
How will you be a positive force for continuous improvement in the field of distance education?
I am one of the people that are more connected to the emerging technologies in all aspects of my live.  I think the first thing I will do  to maintain a positive force for the  continuous  improvement in DE,  is to become a member of various  organizations  that advocate for the future of Distance learning in my immediate environment.
I will commit to continuous review of the standard of practice, volunteering at Walden community of learners, and in communication with my predecessor, beyond my degree accomplishment.  I am enthusiastic to be a part of this program, knowing the benefits of the quality of information that is presented in the pursuit of learning.  
I will increase the awareness of my organization to the possibilities offered by online learning, such as using multimedia tools and other approaches that may not be accessible in a f2f learning environment.
I recognized the possibility for improvement with some of the DL offerings; I will consider how to influence the learner-learner, and learner-instructor interaction, which seems odd, to most unfamiliar with DL.  I will concentrate on the diversity of the learners, and how to use the information to improve their experience.
       In conclusion, there are still negative perceptions of distance learning, I may not be able to change that fact. Adults with multiple responsibilities are tuned to participate in distance learning more than other population.  As more learners adapt to newer technologies, and as information become more accessible at the finger-tip, the demands for distance learning will continue to gain greater acceptance in the future.
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.
Kaufman, R., Watkins, R.,   and Guerra, I.  (2001). The future of Distance learning: Defining and sustaining
                  Useful Results.   http://www.megaplanning.com/articles/FutureofDLinEdTech.pdf.
Siemens, G.  (2010). Facilitating Online Learning (Video). Retrieved from Laureate Inc.
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a
                    Distance: Foundations of distance education (4th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Best Practices Guide

Summary of Converting to a distance learning Format

As you start your new role as a facilitator in a blended learning environment, consider the best practices guide. Know the differences between f2f and a blended course. Devote time to improve your skills, and plan ahead of time to try out the technologies available to you.

Your content and the learning outcomes should be align with the f2f course requirements. Though, the choice of activities and communication will occur through the discussion board. Your role is to promote learners engagement, offer support and feedback as needed.  You are to facilitate learning, by going over the strategies presented in the guides, feel free to explore more information, and give your learners equal opportunity.

Simonson, et al., (2009) states, “the keys to a successful distance education are in the design, development, and delivery of instruction, and are not related to geography or time.”

 Here is a link to my Best Practices Guide.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Application: Blog-The Impact of Open Source

     This blog discusses the impact of open source.  I chose to analyze an open source offering from Stanford University, one of the leading members in the open source community.
Open source refers to program in which the source code is available to the general public for use and/or modification from its original design free of charge, i.e., open. Open source code is typically created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.
Introduction to Databases. URL-  http://www.db-class.org/course/auth/welcome .
I chose this course to increase my knowledge about technology related courses. The review gave me an opportunity to access another CMS’ system, other than what I have been presented at Walden. 

Does the course appear to be carefully pre-planned and designed for a distance learning environment? How so? 

     Introduction to Databases in my opinion is thoughtfully prepared for DL environment. This is because the site outlook is clean, clear, organized, and highlights Course Information in bold readable text.  There was an introduction to the course, by the instructor, and why the course is scheduled to hold. The You-tube video describes the course content, expectation, and application and certification process.    Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek. (2009) State, ‘instructors of online courses must make the course organization, calendar of activities, and expectations as clear as possible.”

 Interestingly, the same course is offered to the traditional student. The video mentioned that this course has been modified for open source purposes. Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek. (2009) Cautioned that …” courses taught previously in a traditional classroom may need to be retooled. The focus of the instruction shifts to visual presentation, engaged learners and careful timing of presentation of information. ”p.127.
Introduction to databases requires a high speed internet connection, because the course content is based on videos and online exercises. The course is entirely asynchronous and offers multiple visual cues.  The course information includes a detailed syllabus, course schedule and what will be covered for the next 9 weeks. In addition, there are optional exercises for learners to get accustomed to the instruction.  This is not a credit based course, but a certificate of participation will be issued at the end of the course.  Course will use topic approach with about 9 topics total.  This course has weekly assignments, and one examination that will be posted later in the course. 

Though,   there are no prerequisites for this course, information pertaining to other materials, technology tools, lecture videos, textbooks (optional), communication and contacts were clearly posted on the main page as FAQ. This is helpful for anyone interested in the course before course registration.
A discussion forum is included as part of the course content. Questions not answered by other students will be answered by the teaching staff; top-ranked questions will be discussed by the instructor in a weekly video.

Does the course follow the recommendations for online instruction as listed in your course textbook? 

   During my review of “Introduction to Databases” I realized that the course is scheduled to start in October 10, 2011 and will run till the end of December, 2011. Course followed the standard of identifying the goals and objectives. Simonson et al. (2009) the absence of stated learning objectives makes observing and measuring learning outcomes impossible.

 Part of the introductory information highlights the different communication methods for this course. Already, there are multiple announcements about course offerings, and other pertinent information. There is a clear understanding of when and how the instructors will respond to questions or signs of difficulty.  This support what Simonson et al (2009) wrote” another important issue when teaching online is that of establishing the communication framework.”

All the requirements are complete and posted so that new distance learners can familiarize themselves with the layout of the site.  A crucial aspect is the schedule of assignment. When I signed for Introduction to database, all required assignments are posted with due dates, and expectation are clear. 

Course identified the technology, and how to access the selected software’s download.  The key here is” to ensure that whatever technology is accessible by learners and the facilitators” Piskurich (n.d). Technology should be engaging to all types of learners.  The course identified the basic requirements of the learners especially in the use of technology tools. There are optional exercises to work on before the beginning of the course. I consider those as warm up exercises. An introductory exercise discusses the learner’s context and experiences. I read some of the postings;  the environment is quite diverse. Morrison, Ross and Kemp (2004) as cited by Simonson et al. 2009 refer to the three types of context: Orienting, instructional and transfer context. Additional considerations posted identified the site coordinators and their roles.

Did the course designer implement course activities that maximize active learning for students?

     Introduction to Database defined the activities, the application, and planned to give learners access to a hands-on experience working with raw data   as an opportunity to build their skills. Consequently, there are a number of prerequisite topics to ease the learners to the new topic during the course. 

The discussion forum will be assessed weekly to monitor the level of interaction among the learners. Assignments will be completed via this method. Simonson et al (2009) cited Kanuka, Rourke, and Laflamme’s (2007) viewpoint that learner engagement comes from “well-structured” instruction with “clear learner’s responsibilities” that “provokes deeper levels of discussion” p. 166.  Finally, the site offers the opportunity for learners to evaluate the course, instructor, and ease of use of this site for future improvement. 

Piskurich, G. & Chaseur, J. (n.d.) Laureate Video Presentation. 

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and learning at a distance:        
        Foundations of distance education (4th Ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson

Webopedia, (2011) Open source. Retrieved  from