Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Future of Distance Learning

Today we are living in the “digital age” also known as informational era. The proliferation of technology has given tools for everyone to have access to information at their hands. As individuals, the use of technology is part of our daily lives. Every company has at least a computer, a third part of our population uses the Internet in a daily basis, around 75% of the persons in the US have computers at home, the use of smart phone, television, tablets, handheld devices and video games is growing quickly. Technology is part of our lives. Every interaction with these new technologies facilitates learning. Many persons refuse to accept distance learning as valid compared to traditional learning due to lack of experience, past experience or ignorance about the learning environment design.

Our educational system is promoting the integration of technology in the learning process. Our students are experiencing how to learn from the use of technology; opening doors to evolve into distance learning. My first experience with distance learning required; learning the use of the technology, developing research skills, developing navigation skills and learning the subject being taught. Many students were scared of taking distance-learning courses due to these facts. Today, our students are developing technology literacy skills as part of their daily interaction with technology.

In five to ten years, distance education will be accepted as valid as the traditional model. “If we can bridge that gap of comfort so they experience the environment, they will naturally take in to it” (Siemens, 2010). Educators have the responsibility of integrating a variety of technologies. Communication tools such as Skype has provided practical uses that facilitate the adoption of these technologies as educational tools. In the future distance education will become an option for all learners depending on their circumstances and learning styles.

As an Instructional Designer I can design activities that equip the learners with the necessary tools to be successful in a distance-learning environment. The use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter can be used as a promotional space to provide orientation and support to those that are in the transition of adopting a distance-learning program. “While it is unlikely that social networking has great potential for teaching and learning, these sites are important cultural even recruiting resources for educational institutions. They are also important in expanding technological literacy of our students” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009, p. 246). Effective communication is vital to improve the perceptions of distance learning; being isolation, one of the primary myths about distance learning. I also believe that Instructional Designers should adopt the latest technologies and integrate them into the learning environment.

To teach; I have to model. As a participant, facilitator and designer I can continue to share and influence learners around me. As an elementary education teacher I plan to integrate distance-learning activities that will develop technology literacy skills to prepare my students for future courses. Developing technology literacy skills at early ages guide our students to communicate globally. Our world has become flat. Communication tools have minimized geographical separation. By positively influence others we can “prepare our students for global dimensions and jobs around the world” (Siemens, 2010).


Laureate Education. (Producer). (2010). “The Future of Distance Education”. [Online]. Retrieved from Walden University eCollege.

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, April 17, 2011

Converting to a Distance Learning Format

Consider the following scenario: A training manager has been frustrated with the quality of communication among trainees in his face-to-face training sessions and wants to try something new. With his supervisor’s permission, the trainer plans to convert all current training modules to a blended learning format, which would provide trainees and trainers the opportunity to interact with each other and learn the material in both a face-to-face and online environment. In addition, he is considering putting all of his training materials on a server so that the trainees have access to resources and assignments at all times.

Converting a traditional course to a blended model requires some consideration.  Identifying the need and the available resources facilitates tools for the instructor to integrate new tools into the learning experience.  There is a need for a pre-planning phase, a plan that should be developed and followed by the instructor, activities that will make the content alive and the need for evaluation of the learning process and the design of the course.  With this in mind, the following best practices guide has been develop.  This guide includes tips and aspects to consider.   There is also a checklist of aspects that should be considered before, during and after the implementation process.

Click on the image below to access the best practices guide.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Impact of Open Source

Open Yale Courses
MUSI 112 - Listening to Music

            Yale University shares an educational experience with the users through this website. There is a variety of courses that were presented in a face-to-face setting and are now presented for all visitors in the website. There is no cost involved and the user can learn at his pace.  The website offers orientation about the purpose of the website, the terms of use and additional help.  It also provides space for user to fill a feedback survey that helps them improve the learning experience.

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

While exploring the Yale University website, I felt attracted to participate of the Listening to Music course (MUSI 112).  It is interesting to observe how a traditional course becomes an online learning experience.  After selecting the link to the class the user finds information about the instructor, about the course and information on how the course was delivered in the traditional setting.  The side bar guides the user to interact with the content and access the materials provided.  A syllabus is provided which includes information about the text materials and the grading policy that was used in the face-to-face instruction.  Lessons are divided and presented in a sequence.  Each lesson includes a video, audio and transcript of the conference.  The video covers the lesson being taught and keeps the learner engaged since the instructor interacts with the audience in the video and presents examples of the lesson being taught.    

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

            Our textbook Teaching and Learning at a Distance, shares some advices for instructors that teach online.  The first one is to “Avoid dumping a face-to-face course into the web” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Albright, 2009, p. 248) this is exactly what Yale is doing.  They are recording a class and sharing it on the web.  Zemsky and Massy, 2004 share four cycles that may be operating in the campus.  I see cycle 1 which presents enhancements to traditional courses and cycle 3, which integrates course objects, in this example videos, flash files, audio and text. 

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

            The Listening to Music course, presented by Yale University was delivered in a traditional/conference delivery method.  “Adults are more self-directed and have specific reasons for taking the course.  They expect the instructor to help them achieve their goals” (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright & Albright, 2009, p. 251).  There are no tools to assess if students have prior knowledge prior to the course.  There is no space for interaction with the instructor or other learners.  “The presence of other learners can benefit the learning experiences” (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005).  Therefore, the use interactive tools such as discussion boards or blogs could enhance active learning.  No assessments are provided or follow up activities such as assignments and projects. 

            This online learning experience was just a copy of a traditional lesson in a digital format.  I consider this course a one-way communication, where the instructor has the information and the learners just listen and receive it.  There are no tools to measure learning.  Integrating interactive tools that will provide interaction with the content, the instructor and other learners could maximize valuable information presented.

              Simonson, M., Smaldiono, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2009). Teaching and Learning at a Distance.