What will distance learning look like in the future? Will brick and mortar schools still exist? One can only imagine how technology will continue to shape the distance learning environment. There are many new and exciting inventions on their way that may impact how society learns, works and interacts with one another. We will be discussing the possible perceptions of distance learning in the future, how an instructional designer can be a proponent for improving societal perceptions of distance learning as well as in what way an individual can be a change agent for continuous improvement in the field of distance education.
If we look at recent data on online learning, we will find that there are 6.7 million students that took at least one online course in the fall of 2011 (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015, p. 301). Based on these statistics, the future of online learning will increase as technology becomes more available to everyone around the world and in remote villages. As more and more prominent universities develop and publicize their degree programs (Gambescia & Paolucci, 2009) more and more individuals will flock to the ease and availability of completing a degree online. Many countries are beginning to feel the pressure of dealing with the “fundamental shift and required skills to better manipulate knowledge and work in global virtual teams” (Cogburn & Levinson, 2009) within the corporate and educational environment. Brown & Mbati believe that mobile learning as well as “wearable and bio-technology will become more commercially viable for making a seamless integration of technologies for a true ubiquitous learning environment” (2015). As technology enriched generations continue to mature, the acceptability factor of distance learning will become higher and part of the mainstream of education.
As technology grows and expands, it is plays a huge role in the instructional designer’s job. ISD’s will need to become well versed in the new technology and determine if and how a particular technology can be incorporated to provide a rich learning experience. Dede states that “Napsterism – recombining of others’ designs to individual, personally tailored configuration” will increase in the learning environment as the neomillennial demand customized training to meet their needs. Due to this, instructional designers are able to use their knowledge of theories and design to construct the right online environment of learning. For example an “equivalency theory – distance education being equivalent to brick and mortar schools” (Laureate, n.d.) or other types of theories that may meet the standards in a given situation. In this same way instructional designers can help to guide companies and educational facilities on learner centered learning. It is also believed that instructional designers need to stand firm in using theories such as ADDIE to promote the right way to develop online learning so that it excels in the online environment.
Changing perception of society is always a challenge. A change agent is necessary as Simonson points out in order to meet professors of higher education where they are in order to help them see the value of distance learning (Laureate, n.d.) as its relates to their particular teaching model. It is believed that a change in their perspective will occur when educational institutions begin to see the ROI (return on investment) with their distance learning programs and the value that they bring to the learners. The change agent for education bears on the shoulders of instructional designers who design and develop highly enriched courses that contain elements of interactivity and collaboration.
In conclusion, technology is here to stay with growth and expansion beyond what many of us can only imagine. Instructional designers play an important role in guiding the process that is used to keep mobile learning expanding and growing. This begins with making sure that various types of pedagogical approaches are used. Brown and Mbati state that “emergent Pedagogical approaches [need to] embrace new ways of learning taking into cognizance the characteristics of current and future learning environments” (2015). Simonson, Smaldino and Zvacek believe that the “advances in high-speed delivery of technologies will continue to facilitate distance learning [and] the evolution of tools that enhance the learning experience” (2015). The future of learning is full of many possibilities and it is part of the instructional designer’s job to move those new technologies forward in such a way that learning is always focused on the learner no matter what the learning environment may be.
Cogburn, D. L., & Levinson, N. (2009). A Decade of Globally Distributed Collaborative Learning: Lessons Learned from Cross-National Virtual. Conference Papers -- American Political Science Association -- Teaching & Learning, 1.
Brown, H., & Mbati, L. S. (2015). Mobile Learning: Moving Past the Myths and Embracing the Opportunities. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 16(2), 115-135
Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillennial learning styles. Educause Quarterly, 28(1), 7–12.
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
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: Higher education, K–12, and the corporate world [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Theory and distance learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.