I believe distance education has been on an uphill climb to change the public perception about the quality of distance learning. Fortunately, I think that distance learning is just about to crest the mountain.
More professionals are embracing distance education; it’s becoming an essential educational tool in corporate training. It is a tool that is fairly new given the true scope of time. Yes it does have its skeptics, within K12 education community, higher education and corporate training. Skepticism is an essential part of the quality and improvement process. Skepticism forces us to answer our critics by employing acceptance standards, using best practices in instructional design, and continuing course evaluation. (Siemens, n.d).
As a resident of Washington state, I’ve seen some amazing technical innovations. But I’ll admit (somewhat shamefully) to an early belief that the internet wasn’t going to be all that great, that a company like Amazon which did not release dividends back to investors was probably not going to be there for the long haul. Clearly, my technological insight is lacking. I find it difficult to address the issue of where will distance learning be in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years, in part because of the meteoric growth and changes to the industry. It’s obvious that the tools that were available ten years ago to instructional designers (email, video and audio conferences) have changed dramatically in the last 5 years (Web 2.0 tools, serious games, etc.) (Nash, 2005). We will certainly be using more mobile apps as training tools, and increasingly sophisticated gaming/simulation software
A number of factors have been suggested as a method for improving perceptions towards distance learning. Clear professional practices have been discussed earlier and by Leven & Wadmany, (2006). Another factor to explore is the quality of the web-based tools used in distance education and the focus of the educational experience as a learner-led instructional environment. (Shain & Shelly, 2008).
Some of my peers have expressed a feeling of dismissal when they mention they are working towards a degree with an emphasis in online learning. I’ve found that I have the exact opposite reaction, at least within the professional community. Most of my peers faces light up and the general perception is “good for you.” Ultimately, I think it comes down to familiarity with distance learning. Those that have some exposure to it are more likely to have a positive impression. Those that haven’t experienced it need time and experience to validate or change their perception.
As I commented in my weekly discussion, perception of distance learning can be changed most effectively through internal stakeholders. I was pleased to see the acceptance rate of college presidents to distance learning — found 51% of college presidents stating that online courses provide the same value as traditional environments. (Allen & Seaman, 2010). Slowly but surely the perceptions of distance learning are changing, as rapidly as the tools used to create distance learning evolves. I plan to be an active participant and use strong instructional design principles to be part of the process.
Allen,E. & Seaman, J. (2010). Class Differences: Online Education in the United States. 2010; Babson Survey Research Group: Sloan Consortium.
Educational Technology & Society, 11(3), 216–223.Siemens, G. (n.d.). The future of distance education [online video]. Retrieved August 18, 2013 from http:/waldenu.edu
Levin, T., & Wadmany, R. (2006). Listening to students’ voices on learning with information technologies in a rich technology-based classroom. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 34 (3), 281-317.
Nash, Susan, S. (2005) Learning objects, learning object repositories and learning theory: Preliminary best practices for online courses. Interdisciplinary Journal of Knowledge and Learning Objects. (1), 217-228.
Sahin, I., & Shelley, M. (2008). Considering Students’ Perceptions: The Distance Education Student Satisfaction Model. Educational Technology & Society, 11(3), 216–223.