Thursday, June 30, 2016

Distance Learning or Distance Education

Before I started working in this Master’s Degree program, I would define distance education or distance learning “as a type of learning that is done from a distance away from a traditional classroom in a brick and mortar building.”  This week, we learned the official definition of distance education or distance learning.  Distance education is defined by Dr. Simonson in this week’s video as “formal education which the learning group (teacher, students, resources) are separated by geography and sometimes time (Laureate Productions, ND).”  My definition is fairly close to Dr. Simonson’s. 
My definition for distance education wouldn’t change much after reviewing this week’s resources.  I would make sure my definition talks about that there is a separation between the instructor and the student.  I really like Dr. Simonson’s definition because he talks about a separation of geography and sometimes time.  This makes it very clear that distance education means that you can be anywhere in the world and still participate in an educational course or module. 

During this same video, he made a very good point about how distance education has really increased in the past 10 years because of the invention of the internet.  “Distance Education had been really popularized, really important in the United States (Laureate Productions, ND).”  I would agree with Dr. Simonson on this statement.  About 8 years ago, I signed up to complete my teacher’s license certification in an online program through Western State College in Colorado.  At the time, there were very few online programs available.  This past year, I started looking into earning my Master’s Degree online and couldn’t believe the difference in the number of programs available online.  I was blown away at the difference in the sheer number of programs.  In just 8 short years, there was a dramatic increase in those numbers. 
I feel the program of distance learning is always changing because of the technology that has become available over the past 30-50 years.  Dr. Simonson talked in his video about how distance learning started with programs like correspondence studies, open universities in Europe and has evolved into what is distance learning today in the online environment (Laureate Production, ND).  I feel that there has always been the desire for people to continue their learning and education.  Technology has helped make this possible because it can allow people to learn when it is convenient for them and not have to enroll into a traditional brick and mortar classroom.  Technology does play a big role in the evolution of distance education.  But I don’t think it is the only role.
I think people’s professions also play a role in this evolution of distance learning.  There is an increased desire for people to continue their education these days because of the financial improvement that can result.  For me, the increase in my yearly salary because of the Master’s Degree helped convince me to sign up for the program.  There was also a desire to see if other doors open for me in my career in the education world.  As an Instructional Designer, there are multiple paths for me to take for the remainder of my career.  I don’t feel like I will have to spend the rest of my career in a classroom.  Speaking for me, having a backup plan can be nice in case they feel like their career becomes stagnant. 
The future of distance education is very bright in my opinion.  The use of technology and the internet has increased the desire so much for people to continue their education in the past 10-15 years.  If this innovation continues in the future, there will be some exciting things coming down the road.  There will also have to be some hard work done by the schools and universities to make sure the material that is out there is rigorous.  Sometimes people think that technology incorporated into a lesson makes a good lesson.  But, the structure and the design of the lesson make a good lesson and the technology can be the cherry on top of the Sunday.  Just technology alone doesn’t make a great lesson.  Thoughtful planning and integration of technology into distance learning will help make it become something great. 


Laureate Education (Producer), (n.d.). Distance education: The next generation [Video file]. Retrieved from