Sunday, June 28, 2015

Distance Learning and the Future

            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

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Distance education: Higher education, K–12, and the corporate world [Video file]. Retrieved from

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Theory and distance learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Converting a Course to a Distance Learning Format

When an instructor, company or school is thinking about converting a traditional course to a distance learning format, the “process of planning and organizing is multifaceted” (Simonson, et al, 2015). Many times this involves restructuring the course so that the focus shifts to “visual presentations, engaging learners, providing opportunities for group work, etc.” (Simonson, et al, 2015). This also involves taking that old PowerPoint that you use and only using sections that contain quality demonstrations of the content (Laureate, n.d.).

Due to the fact that there are so many different areas to consider when deciding whether a course should be converted or not, I have created a manual on “Best Practices for Distance Learning” as well as a checklist that can be used to determine whether converting is the right decision or not. It also provides all of the areas that should be considered when converting a course. I hope that you will find these tips helpful so that the transition becomes seamless and full of great possibilities.



Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th Ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.


Best Practices for Converting to a Distance Learning Format

In this document, we will cover best practices for distance learning. They will focus on elements of best practices in distance education for instructors (Simonson, et al, 2015). They fall within three groups:
1.      Learners
2.      Faculty
3.      Administration


The learners should be the primary focus when moving a course online. Course should offer “engaging activities and provide opportunities to explore and enhance their learning experiences” (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015).


The instructors need to be assured that the “course management is easy to use and prepare and update [course content as well as] customizable” (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015).


The administration needs to be assured that there is “comparable rigor to non-distance courses, enrollment will increase” (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015) and the reputation of the institution will increase.
According to Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, when converting a traditional course to an online course, it is important to think about the following areas:
Ø  Ease of access and usability
Ø  Accurate instructions and guidelines
Ø  Learning tasks, instructional materials and teaching strategies
Ø  Intuitive navigation and well-integrated tools
Ø  Establishing a communication framework
Ø  Timeline for assignments
Ø  Technology tool integration
Ø  Interactive elements
Ø  Distribution of materials
Ø  Student handouts
Ø  Rubrics or guides on course requirements
Ø  Providing orientation to familiarize the students with the new environment
o   Discussion post requirements
o   Location of resources
Ø  Program evaluation

Aspects to Consider in Relation to Students

When moving from a traditional environment to an online environment, there are many ways that can enhance the original training program. These aspects start with changing the focus from teacher-centered to student-centered. Since the change focuses on the students, there are areas to consider about the students such as:
Ø  Attitudes
Ø  Motivation
Ø  Interests
Ø  Knowledge
Ø  Prior experiences
Ø  Cognitive abilities
Ø  Learning styles
Ø  Cultural perspectives
Ø  Technology abilities (Simonson, et al, 2015)

Technology Considerations

As a course is moved online, the ability for the students to access the information is more critical than ever before. New considerations become extremely important such as:
Ø  Providing student the technology tools to succeed i.e. computer, laptop, tablet, software programs, Internet accessibility, etc.
Ø  Student experience with tools and if additional training is necessary
Ø  Accessibility for students in relation to Internet access within their home environment
Ø  Network and IT manageability for the courses
Ø  Security and privacy containment

Material and Content Enhancements

Although there are many additional areas to consider, the ability to expand how the content is delivered increases within the online environment. Material and content can be enhanced in the following ways:
Ø  Learning activities are organizes around demonstrable learning outcomes embedded in the course components
Ø  The medium/media chosen to deliver the content will be pedagogically effectual, accessible to students and receptive to different learning (Simonson, et al, 2015)
Ø  Lectures can be enhanced through video presentation and demonstrations
Ø  Content can contain links to other sites to enhance the material
Ø  Content is focused on visuals instead of just words
Ø  Animation can be added to enhance the learning experience and demonstrate a point
Ø  Collaboration can be added to assignments
Ø  Assignments become demonstration of material content
Ø  Interaction can be blended into the learning through quizzes, polls and knowledge checks

Student Centered Focus Content

The content needs to be enhanced in the way that it is presented to the student by providing more instruction and control to the student. This can be accomplished in the following ways by providing:
Ø  Content that is relevant to the needs of the student
Ø  Clear directions for what they should do at every stage of the course
Ø  As much control of the pace of the learning as possible
Ø  A means of drawing attention to individual concerns
Ø  A way of testing their progress and getting feedback from instructor
Ø  Materials that are useful, active and interesting (Simonson, et al , 2015)

Changing the Dynamics

The course dynamics will change from a teacher-centered approach to a student-centered approach. With this comes the change in focus on how the content is delivered. This change in approach demands that the learning experience “students become engaged in the learning process” (Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, 2015). Interaction is extremely important between not only the instructor but also interaction between the other students within the course.

Facilitator Role

The instructor role changes to a facilitator role within the online environment. According to Simonson, Smaldino & Zvacek, it changes in the following ways from:
Ø  Lecture to coaching
Ø  Taking attendance to logging on
Ø  Distribution of requirements to connected learning
Ø  Credit hour “seat time” to performance standards
Ø  Competing to collaborating
Ø  Library building collections to networked connections
Ø  Passive to active learning
Ø  Textbooks to customized materials (2015)

Student Role

The students on the other hand assume more responsibility than the traditional classroom. The responsibility has shifted from the teacher to the student in the following ways.
Ø  Responsible for their own learning
Ø  Required to learn how to use the equipment and technology tools
Ø  Getting help for technical issues and resolving them through the appropriate channels
Ø  Communicating with instructor and other participants
Ø  Seeking out resources that will support their learning
Ø  Actively engaged in the learning experience
Ø  Meeting all course requirements and grade standards (Simonson, et al, 2015)

Steps to Encourage Communication

Unlike communication in a traditional classroom in which the instructor is able to monitor the students via their physical attributes, an instructor online does not have the same luxury. It becomes even more important for the instructor to encourage participation. There are steps that can be used to encourage participation.
Ø  Create communities of learners – this can be accomplished through the use of groups of learners on various projects
Ø  Provide scavenger hunt activities in which the students have to work with other students
Ø  Providing collaboration opportunities on assignments
Ø  Grading participation in active communication throughout the course
Ø  Providing an “open door” policy of communication during specific hours
Ø  Communicating with students when assignment are not turned in

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th Ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing. 

1.    Pre-Planning Strategies

CMS or LMS system has been chosen and meets the needs of the company
Ease of access and accessibility guidelines have been implemented
Instructions and guidelines are considered
Learning tasks, materials and teaching strategies have been considered and developed.
Navigation is intuitive and provides integrated tools
An communication framework is established
A timeline has been developed for the course.
Consideration of technology tools and interactive elements have been considered
Distribution of materials and handouts have been discussed and agreed upon (Simonson, et al 2015)

2.    Enhancing Original Training Program

Student attitudes, interests, prior experiences, cognitive abilities, learning styles, technology abilities and cultural perspective have been integrated into the classroom experience.
Technology tools such as computers and software are provided for all students
Internet accessibility has been integrated into the company as well as the students home environment
All learning activities are created around demonstrable outcomes and embedded in course components
Medium/Media is chosen based on pedagogical criteria and receptive to different learning styles
Content contains various forms of interaction through the use of quizzes, polls and knowledge checks
Lectures are enhanced through video presentation and demonstrations
Content contains links to resources
Animation is used to enhance the content
Collaboration is added to assignments
Assignments are focused on demonstration (Simonson, et al 2015)

3.    Role of Online Instructor

Connected learning
Setting performance standards
Creating a collaborative environment
Building a community of learners
Creating a network of resources
Providing an active learning environment
Customizing material to meet learners needs (Simonson, et al 2015)
Using PowerPoint sparingly to deliver content
Focusing content around activities and applications (Piskurich, n.d.)

4.    Encouraging Participation and Communication

Provide interactive activities such as scavenger hunts, scenarios, etc.
Provide collaboration opportunities within assignments
Add group projects throughout the course activities
Grade participation to encourage active participation
State communication policy and encourage students to communicate (Simonson, et al, 2015)
Follow up with students that fall behind and encourage participation (Piskurich, n.d.)


Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Facilitating Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from
Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (6th Ed.) Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.